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Steelers looking for fourth straight win

A history lesson, tape review, prediction, complete breakdown and much more in this Steelers-Bills game day preview.

MEMORABLE SERIES MOMENT

Steelers 19, Bills 16 OT

Nov. 28, 2010 at Ralph Wilson Stadium

Mike Tomlin goes for regular-season win No. 100 today and it likely will be just as close as his 39th, but maybe a bit colder than this overtime win in 36-degree weather. The Steelers went to Buffalo six years ago with a 7-3 record while the Bills were a mere 2-8. The Steelers took a 13-0 halftime lead but a 68-yard Ryan Fitzpatrick touchdown pass to running back Fred Jackson and three field goals to one in favor of the Bills tied the game. Four key plays allowed the Steelers to win in OT: 1. Troy Polamalu intercepted Fitzpatrick at the goal line late in regulation; 2. wide open Stevie Johnson dropped a Fitzpatrick bomb in the end zone on the Bills' second possession in OT; 3. James Farrior sacked Fitzpatrick on third down from the Pittsburgh 36 to force an OT punt; and 4. Ben Roethlisberger threw a 17-yard pass to Mike Wallace on third-and-8 to kickstart the Steelers' winning OT field-goal drive.

TOP QUESTION

Can the Steelers stop Shady McCoy?

The former Pitt star is 51 yards from 1,000 for the season and he's done it 5.5 yards at a time. It's the best average per carry in the NFL. McCoy has a long of 75 yards, so he's a long-distance threat who finds a small crease and all of the sudden is in the secondary with the speed to take it the distance and the agility to literally dodge raindrops. He's also caught 35 passes this season.

TALE OF THE TAPE

"You hear everybody talking about stopping their run game, and they're accurate. But what makes them so tough to defend is you've got to stop two guys. Obviously, Shady McCoy is a home-run hitter. And the thing about Tyrod Taylor, he runs the ball so well as an option QB. He literally looks like he's still playing at Virginia Tech. It looks like a college offense. And they made it simple for him. He's not a progression quarterback throwing the ball. He's a primary-read guy. He looks for the matchup at the line of scrimmage and that's usually where he's going. If not, he'll either check it down or he'll run, and if you blitz him you had better come under control or he will make you miss. The big challenge is you've got to stop two really good ballcarriers who are on the field at the same time." -- Steelers Radio analyst Tunch Ilkin.

THREE QUESTIONS: With DL STEPHON TUITT

Q: Shady McCoy said you guys would be very busy this week preparing for their multi-faceted running game. Is he right?

ST: "They got a lot of stuff they do, and it's difficult because they've got playmakers. They have guys with speed who can go the distance. McCoy has almost a thousand yards rushing, then you've got Tyrod Taylor, who leads on quarterbacks in the NFL in rushing and touchdowns. Can't forget about Reggie Bush, either."

Q: Is it like getting ready to play Navy?

ST: "It's a little more like Air Force, to be honest. Navy runs that wing-T. Air Force runs it more like the Bills with the shotgun. When I watch the Bills, I see Air Force, a couple of Air Force plays, but with NFL players running it."

Q: What will be the key to stopping it?

ST: "Details. If everybody details their work like we've been doing the last couple of week, we'll be just fine. We've got guys who are going to play hard, and guys who are aggressive, guys who'll play fast. We've got all the tangibles. We've just got to go out there and play detailed, don't let the weather get to us and let's win an away game. That's what we have to do. We've got a streak to keep going. This is December football."

GAME BREAKDOWN

What to look for from the Steelers at 1 p.m. today at New Era Field:

ON OFFENSE

With Ladarius Green enjoying a career game last Sunday, the concern about Sammie Coates or Darrius Heyward-Bey getting healthy has eased a bit. Ben Roethlisberger now has a legitimate No. 3 option to go along with Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell. It will be interesting to see how defenses react to Green's coming-out party last week, whether it opens things up for Brown or Bell or both. The Bills have the eighth-ranked pass defense (thanks to 33 sacks) and 26th-ranked run defense with DL anchor Kyle Williams a late injury question mark.

ON DEFENSE

The Bills running game is a trap-first game. The two personnel groupings they utilize the most are three WRs and then just regular people with WRs/TE/FB. Out of the regular people, they love the counter-trap game. Off trap-action, they'll run the zone read and Tyrod Taylor will read the edge rusher. If the end is crashing on McCoy, Taylor will pull it and run. They'll also use a Pony backfield with Reggie Bush and McCoy and they'll run a triple-option off that, with McCoy as the fullback. Taylor will also run the speed option with McCoy. The key for the Steelers will be retaining both their aggressiveness and their discipline.

PREDICTION

There's something reassuring about Stephon Tuitt -- who kibitzed through the season about the discipline his old Notre Dame team needed to play against the triple-option teams on its schedule -- being in a position of leadership to stop the Bills running game. Not that it will be easy. It might help that Bills wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods aren't yet back to 100 percent health. The Steelers should be able to score just enough points in the 19-degree wind chill and light snow that's being forecast. Steelers, 24-21.

BY THE NUMBERS

3: Number of first-half Steelers shutouts this season after they led the Giants 14-0 at halftime Sunday.

11: Passes defensed by Ross Cockrell to lead the Steelers. Ron Darby and Stephon Gilmore lead the Bills with 10.

99: Number of regular-season wins by Mike Tomlin in his career. He's the third active coach with 99 wins with a winning percentage of .600 (.635). The others are Bill Belichick and Mike McCarthy. Tomlin is also the eighth coach to reach 99 wins within 10 seasons. The others are McCarthy, Mike Ditka, Joe Gibbs, Tony Dungy, Don Shula, John Madden and George Seifert.

100: Number of NFL starts by Shady McCoy when he starts today. His next touchdown will be his 70th. And he needs 51 rushing yards for his fifth career 1,000-yard season.

110: Receiving yards last Sunday by TE Ladarius Green, the first 100-yard game of his five-year career. His previous high was 81 yards on four catches as a rookie in 2013. His six catches Sunday were also a career best.

205: Number of passing yards needed by Roethlisberger to pass Vinny Testaverde (46,234) for the 10th-most in NFL history.

300: Number of touchdown passes thrown by John Elway to rank ninth in NFL history. Roethlisberger has 297 and needs only three to tie one of his idols and one of the reasons he wears No. 7.

DOWNLOADS

* The Steelers are looking to sweep New York for the first time since 2004, when they beat the Jets (17-6), the Giants (33-30) and the Bills (29-24) in the final month of the season.

* At the quarter pole, the following statistical projections (personal ranking in parenthesis): Ben Roethlisberger 4,179 yards (fourth), 33 touchdown passes (first), 21 sacks (one more than last season); Antonio Brown 117-1,870-15 (fourth-first-first); Le'Veon Bell 1,180 rushing yards (second), 91 receptions (first), 1,904 yards from scrimmage (second); and Lawrence Timmons 119 tackles (same number as last year, fifth consecutive 100-tackle season, sixth in last seven seasons).

* Bell has rushed for three consecutive 100-yard games, the first Steeler since Willie Parker (2006-07). The last with four consecutive 100-yard games was Jerome Bettis in November, 2004.

* James Harrison is riding a three-game sacks streak for the fifth time in his career. Today he's hoping to extend it for his first four-game streak. Harrison leads the Steelers with five sacks, all in the last five games.

* With the forecast calling for snow and 19-degree wind chill at game time, it should be noted that Roethlisberger is 13-3 in games along the Great Lakes. He's 10-2 at Cleveland, has won at Green Bay, Buffalo and Detroit, and lost at Chicago. He's 5-1 outdoors in December along the GL, with the lone loss at Cleveland in 2009.

PARTING SHOT

"They always make you feel like more is coming than really is coming, and especially playing up there in Buffalo. They take advantage of the noise. It starts up front again." -- Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley on Rex Ryan's defense.


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