ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WROC) — The Bills were missing five starters on defense in this game and still kept the Steelers out of the end zone as the Bills rolled to a 38-3 victory.
On offense, rookie Khalil Shakir was the third receiver because of injuries. He was one of many rookies who stepped up totaling 75 yards and a touchdown on three catches.
In fact, the only time he acted like a rookie was after that first NFL touchdown
“I didn’t even know what to do,” said Shakir. “A lot of guys have planned celebrations, things like that. I always told myself I was going to keep the first football that I scored, obviously, I’d keep it. Then I threw it. Josh brought it to me and was like ‘what are you doing?’ I was like oof, my bad, appreciate it.”
With Tremaine Edmunds out with a hamstring injury, Tyrel Dodson got the start at linebacker and led the team with eleven total tackles.
“We always talk about it. Any guy can start on any other of the 31 NFL teams,” said Dodson. “I was just blessed to get my opportunity. Being undrafted, I just have to maximize my opportunity when I get it.”
“It’s not a fall-off at all,” said Dane Jackson “Even the other young guys that come in, there’s never a fall-off. We all play well together so I’m just super excited to see everybody get their chance.”
“We obviously have great veterans on our teams, when the young guys come in, you can see the rookies, the first and second-year players have that same confidence and that same swag as the older guys,” said Taron Johnson.
On offense, the team was without Dawson Knox and Isaiah McKenzie but thanks to Shakir and Gabe Davis stepping up, Josh Allen threw for a career-high 424 yards.
“It’s an attest to our team that we’re going to just keep crafting over and over and get those kids more touchdowns and let them keep learning,” said left tackle Dion Dawkins. “Because they’re going to learn from guys like Diggs and Gabe and Josh and it’s just going to keep getting better and better.
“This league is all about opportunity,” said DaQuan Jones. “You hear every week from the day that you enter this league to the day that you leave it. It’s all about opportunity. I think everyone who’s stepped up is taking advantage of that and they’re doing a great job and we just need it to continue.”
Shakir wasn’t the only rookie who had a first on Sunday. James Cook got his first rushing touchdown and Kaiir Elam snagged his first interception.
“To watch some of the guys get their touchdowns and Kaiir get that interception, you’re always cheering for your teammates, you’re cheering for the young guys,” said A.J. Epensa. “And then once they do it, it gives them the confidence that they can do it again. That’s what we expect from them as teammates and the coaches expect that but as long as they expect that from themselves and then they’ll be able to do it.”
As much as the veterans were excited to see their younger teammates make all those big plays there is a little bit of a need to keep the rookies in their place after the game. During the post-game press conference, Stefon Diggs got a question about his assessment of what guys like Shakir, Elam, and Cook did in this game.
Diggs with a big smirk on his face and Shakir sitting right next to him said “they did alright.”
The Bills will hope for and need another strong day next week from the rookies as they take on the Kansas City Chiefs.