Game Day Matchups

Neal Coolong breaks down the top matchups in today's Steelers-Bills game.

CB Ike Taylor vs. WR Steve Johnson

Johnson asked Cincinnati "Why So Serious," a reference to "The Dark Knight" character The Joker after one of his three touchdown catches in Week 11. The Bengals defense looked far from serious in the second half of the loss, allowing all three of Johnson's touchdown catches while blowing a 31-14 halftime lead. For however serious Johnson may be, he's super talented and the league is only just now finding that out.

Taylor could be shadowing the multi-faceted Johnson, due to his size (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) and big-play ability. He's a monster in the open field, and can turn a 6-yard completion into a 26-yard gain at any time.

RB Rashard Mendenhall vs. LB Paul Posluszny

The Bills struggle to stop the run. So Pittsburgh's offensive game-plan will likely be to attack them in all gaps and keep up the tough mentality they had in their 35-3 massacre of Oakland in Week 11. Mendenhall sparked a beautiful 14-play, 85 yard drive that chewed 8:06 off the clock in the first half of that win. It was reminiscent of another long drive the Steelers had against Cincinnati in Week 9. It shows the Steelers have the ability to strap on the pads and bang out momentum-shifting drives on the back of their featured runner.

Posluszny missed three weeks with a knee injury, but still leads the team with 88 tackles. The Hopewell High product has battled injuries in his four pro seasons, but he's a tackling machine when he's on the field. Buffalo puts him in position to produce, as evidenced by the fact he plays multiple positions in the two Bills alignments. The Steelers' offensive line needs to account for him on off-tackle and inside runs because Posluszny defends both well, despite the fact the Bills give up an average of 163 yards per game (most in the league).

DE Brett Keisel vs. LT Demetrius Bell

Keisel might return at right defensive end after a hamstring injury kept him out of all or parts of the last six games. The Steelers' defensive line play has been up and down in his absence. They've locked down the run for most of that time, but pass rush hasn't been as dominant as it was when he was healthy. His return should help the Steelers own a dominant advantage off the edge in Buffalo.

It's a good match-up for him to shake off the rust, too. Bell struggled against Chiefs RE Glen Dorsey and ROLB Tamba Hali in Kansas City's 13-10 win over Buffalo in Week 8. Buffalo will keep TE David Martin in to help with Harrison, but Keisel is the focus because his athleticism will require Bell to make a lot of adjustments on the move. It plays right into the Steelers defensive philosophy to have Keisel occupy Bell while Harrison can work in space against Martin or RB Fred Jackson.

NT Casey Hampton vs. RB Fred Jackson

The Steelers' dominance against the run isn't much of a secret. They emphasize eliminating a team's ability to run the ball, thus making them one-dimensional offensively. Opposing offenses can respond to that by banging their heads against the wall in efforts to establish the run, or they can simply abandon it and spread the field with three or more receivers. That forces Pittsburgh to add another defensive back and work with their nickel package, a package that features Hampton more often these days.

Buffalo has a reasonably effective running game, but won't have much success running against Pittsburgh's base defense. If they stretch the field and force the Steelers to play out of their nickel with Hampton on the field, his main objective will be to stop Jackson, who has rushed for 249 yards and three touchdowns in Buffalo's last two games (2-0).

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