KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
TV: CBS, Ian Eagle, Solomon Wilcots
SERIES: 22nd meeting. Steelers lead, 12-9. On Jan. 9, 1993, the Bills, playing without injured QB Jim Kelly and starting Frank Reich, defeated the Steelers 24-3 in an AFC divisional playoff game at Three Rivers Stadium. The victory kept alive Buffalo's quest for a third consecutive trip to the Super Bowl. Reich was 16 of 23 for 160 yards, two TDs and no interceptions.
PREDICTION: Steelers 26-13
KEYS TO THE GAME: Following an emotional week, the Bills need QB J.P. Losman to assert himself as a leader capable of winning a tough road game against a top conference contender. Yes, Buffalo must run the ball and control the clock to protect the defense. But to do more than simply keep the score respectable, Losman has to find WR Lee Evans downfield against CBs Ike Taylor and Deshea Townsend. ... The Steelers' various looks on offense -- four-receiver and two-tight end sets, for example -- will keep the Bills from overplaying the run. However, pass protection is still a concern and the Bills' defensive strength is on the end, so the Steelers want to use the run to set up the pass. RB Willie Parker should have success against a defense starting a third-stringer next to rookie MLB Paul Posluszny.
KEY INJURIES: Bills: Backup MLB John DiGiorgio is likely to start on the outside with Keith Ellison (ankle) and backup Coy Wire (knee sprain) out. Mario Haggan took over for Wire last Sunday but is a liability in coverage; CB Jason Webster (broken forearm) and FS Ko Simpson (broken ankle) were both placed on IR this week. Steelers: Townsend (groin) will play.
FAST FACTS: The Bills will travel just 9,972 miles this season, second-least in the NFL to the Jets (9,186). ... Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger threw four touchdowns in the opener. He didn't throw his fourth touchdown last season until the sixth game.
--QB J.P. Losman will be looking to throw downfield more this Sunday in Pittsburgh providing he has the time. The Steelers are coming off a six-sack performance against Cleveland. Losman completed 14 of 21 passes against Denver but for just 97 yards and only attacked deep a couple of times.
--RB Marshawn Lynch is battling an upset stomach but is expected to be fine for Sunday's game at Pittsburgh. The Bills need him to be their workhorse in a hostile road venue. His 90 yards rushing against Denver was a rookie debut record for Buffalo.
--WR Peerless Price needs a rebound game Sunday in Pittsburgh in order to keep critics off his back who feel he's not worthy of remaining the team's No. 2 receiver. Price caught just one pass for negative two yards against Denver and its tough cover tandem of Dre Bly and Champ Bailey and wasn't able to relieve pressure on Lee Evans (two catches, five yards).
--TE Robert Royal will need to shoulder a bigger load catching the ball with Kevin Everett out for the year with a spinal cord injury. Royal managed a 12-yard catch against Denver last week and has caught a pass in eight consecutive games dating to last season. The Bills coaching staff needs to utilize him more as he gets very few passes thrown his way.
--WR/PR Roscoe Parrish raised his career return average to 12.29 yards with last week's show against Denver, overtaking Clifford Hicks (12.0) for best in team history. Parrish had a 74-yard touchdown return in the first quarter, only the second time that's happened in a season opener in team history. Any time Buffalo's defense can force a team to punt from around its 30-yard line is "Roscoe time," providing a prime opportunity for a scoring return.
--FS Bryan Scott, a free agent who was added to the active roster this week, could find himself seeing immediate playing time. With 56 NFL games played with 35 starts, he's clearly the most experienced member of Buffalo's secondary and may become a better option for the coaching staff as time goes on. He started 13 games for Atlanta in 2005.
--CB Jason Webster was placed on injured reserve after suffering a broken forearm in last Sunday's loss to Denver. Webster, a free agent, was signed during the spring to replace Nate Clements in the starting lineup. He previously started in San Francisco and Atlanta but just as in those two stops, he couldn't avoid the injury bug in Buffalo and is out for the season.
--LB Leon Joe, who played the past two seasons for the Chicago Bears, was signed to the active roster. The 6-2, 235-pound fourth-year pro has played in 28 NFL games and has 22 career tackles. He will add depth and play on special teams. The Bills have seen five key players on defense suffer injuries.
--CB Deshea Townsend, who left last week's game with a groin injury, practiced for the first time this week on Thursday and is expected to play against the Bills.
--FB Carey Davis remains the starter but veteran Dan Kreider also will suit up as the Steelers go back and forth between their more versatile fullback in Davis and their pure blocker in Kreider.
--WR Cedrick Wilson did not catch a pass for the second straight opener, only the third game he's been shutout as a Steeler. But he ran once on an end-around for 37 yards, the second-longest gain of the game.
--K Jeff Reed had three kickoffs (of seven) go for touchbacks in the opener. All last season, he had only four and his high for a season was seven. --RB Najeh Davenport will serve as the third-down back again this week. Davenport caught one pass for 17 yards in the opener and ran eight times for 43 yards.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
After what truly can be labeled an injury epidemic, the Bills will have three new starters on defense when they play at Pittsburgh on Sunday.
Serious injuries to strong-side linebacker Coy Wire (sprained knee), cornerback Jason Webster (broken forearm) and free safety Ko Simpson (broken ankle) means a first career NFL start for John DiGiorgio and second career starts for Ashton Youboty and Jim Leonhard, respectively.
Five-year veteran Mario Haggan is another option at outside linebacker for Wire as DiGiorgio normally plays middle linebacker. But the Bills like his athleticism in their scheme.
Buffalo was already without starting strong-side linebacker Keith Ellison (high ankle sprain) and key backup up defensive end Ryan Denney (broken foot) before last Sunday's unlucky afternoon against Denver, which also saw tight end Kevin Everett suffer a cervical spinal injury that has ended his career.
Not many teams -- if any -- could sustain the loss of five players on defense and expect to maintain its competitive level.
The Steelers are coming off a 34-7 romp over the rival Cleveland Browns, a game in which Ben Roethlisberger tossed four touchdown passes and Pittsburgh rolled up 365 yards, including 206 rushing on 42 attempts. The Steelers will be quite content to pound the ball again and again against this depleted Bills team.
"We're definitely concerned about our level of play. We played well enough last week -- just well enough to lose," said coach Dick Jauron, whose team lost 15-14 on a last-second field goal. "We need to play well enough to win. We clearly have to improve no matter who is on the field."
Jauron lamented that injuries to starters have a trickle-down effect, weakening depth as players get promoted.
"It hurts you everywhere. A guy steps up from his backup role and then he also gets loaded on special teams and so that changes," he said. "The dynamics of all that changes and it's not in the best interest of your team. But there's no way around it. You just get ready and go play."
Willie Parker got his first 100-yard rushing game in the NFL against Buffalo in a meaningless game to end the 2004 season for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Fourteen 100-yard games, two 1,000-yard seasons and one Super Bowl victory and Pro Bowl later, Parker plays the Buffalo Bills again. The Bills haven't done much to shore up their run defense since then either. They ranked 28th against the run last season and allowed 171 yards by the Denver Broncos in their opener.
"They have some good defensive ends and they bring a lot of energy to the table but yes I think we can run on them," Parker said.
Parker represents a whole new style of ground game for the Steelers, who defined it more as "smash-mouth football" in the days of Franco Harris, Barry Foster and Jerome Bettis. Parker is their first home-run hitter and he's done plenty of that, including his record 75-yard touchdown run in Super Bowl XL.
Parker ran for 109 yards in the opener in Cleveland that included two scoots of 25 and 22 yards. Parker wasn't necessarily happy with his production, which came on 27 carries and included one lost fumble. He said he should have had more and promises to play better this Sunday.
"A lot of people are talking about 100 yards but that doesn't mean too much to me," Parker said. "I have to bounce back."