Key Match-ups: Steelers-Bills

Neal Coolong has labored for days over the match-ups in Sunday's game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills. The conclusion? Buffalo simply does not match up.

QB Ben Roethlisberger vs. Buffalo's secondary

Big Ben is coming off a career-high four TDs against a less-than-spectacular Browns secondary. The Bills will be without starting FS Ko Simpson (broken ankle) and starting CB Jason Webster (broken forearm). Broncos QB Jay Cutler carved the maligned Buffalo secondary for 299 yards in their Week 1 win.

The Steelers receivers dropped a few passes, tainting an otherwise brilliant game from Roethlisberger against Cleveland. Look for Pittsburgh to attack through the air, and as evidenced by his 40-yard strike to WR Santonio Holmes following a turnover in the first quarter. They will go for the deep ball if they see either SS Donte Whitner or FS Jim Leonhard (13 tackles and one INT against Denver) inching toward the box to provide run support.

NT Casey Hampton vs. LG Derrick Dockery

The former University of Texas teammates square off in the critical matchup for the Bills offense. Dockery is the big-money guard the Bills brought in to ramp up a bland ground attack this offseason. They spent the 12th overall pick on Cal RB Marshawn Lynch, and he had a respectable 90 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown in his debut.

Hampton is the anchor of a suffocating Steelers run defense that hasn't allowed a 100 yard rusher in close to three seasons. If the Steelers are going to shut down the run as per usual, Hampton will again be asked to control the line of scrimmage. The best way for Buffalo to protect their injured defense will be to control the clock on offense and grind the game out on the ground. Dockery will be instrumental in that, along with C Melvin Fowler.

C Sean Mahan vs. LB Paul Pozluszny

Pozluszny, a rookie from Penn State, won the starting MLB job this pre-season, but was dominated at times on the second level by veteran C Tom Nalen. The Broncos went off for 171 yards on the ground against the Bills. Pozluszny's main job in Dick Jauron's defense is to fill running lanes, and either beating Mahan to the hole, or shedding his block, will affect the way the Steelers are able to attack with RB Willie Parker.

Mahan won the starting center job largely because he was simply quicker than veteran Chukky Okobi (now with Arizona). With the Bills front line consisting of two 3-technique DTs, Mahan will be asked to seal off the lane behind the tackles when the Steelers bring the heat straight up the middle. All-Pro LG Alan Faneca can handle any tackle the Bills have one-on-one, and if Mahan can reach Pozluszny, it will create a wide crease for Parker to exploit.

LB James Farrior and FS Ryan Clark vs. J.P. Losman

When Farrior was at his best - 2004 - the Steelers pass rush did enough to leave Farrior to patrol the flats and the deeper middle of the field in passing situations. Against Cleveland, that was a lot of what he did, and despite the INT that bounced off his chest, he was dominant in coverage. His ability to be left free will again depend on how much the Steelers front six are able to control the line of scrimmage. If they provide enough pressure without the need to bring either Farrior or Clark for run support, Farrior will eventually make a play on Losman.

Losman's key read is going to be Clark. Reading the safety is pivotal for a quarterback given today's complex defensive schemes. Clark, as opposed to SS Troy Polamalu, has more structured assignments, and in most sets, Clark is responsible for deep help. Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is known to bring Clark and drop Polamalu back here and there, so if Clark can disguise his true intentions, Losman won't have a pure read off which to identify the hot route. The confusion created could spell an early end for the Bills.

The Coolong Scorecard
Steelers Unit Bills
x Offensive line  
x Quarterback  
x Running backs  
x Wide receivers  
x Tight ends  
x Defensive line  
x Linebackers  
x Defensive backs  
x Special teams  

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