NFL Week 1: Bills to Beat Steelers in a Squeaker

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Our resident NFL writer Liz Bhandari from NFLGirlUK.com takes a look at the first Sunday game of the season on Sky Sports.

Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills holds off a defender from Pittsburgh.

It’s the opening weekend of the 2021 NFL regular season, and the Sky Sports 6pm game sees the Pittsburgh Steelers are squaring off with the Buffalo Bills. Both teams have elite squads all around and should match up with one another perfectly. We got to see them face off against each other last year and it was a pretty low scoring game, and being honest, this game shouldn’t be anything different.

The Steelers tried to fix their run game woes by drafting Najee Harris in the first round. Harris should give them some explosiveness that they haven’t had in the backfield since Le’Veon Bell was around. That run game could then relieve some of the pressure that is on Ben Roethlisberger’s shoulders right now.

Is Big Ben Back to His Best?

Big Ben struggled mightily towards the end of the 2020 season but is coming in with a ton of talented wideouts. Juju Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson are all names to watch in this contest. They may struggle to get some separation though against this insanely quick Buffalo secondary.

The Bills have been bolstering their defense with quickness and agility. Most notably, Micah Hyde, Tre’Davious White, Tremaine Edmunds and Jordan Poyer. Even their defensive line is fantastic with Jerry Hughes leading the charge.

Pittsburgh really struggled to drive the ball down the field against this unit last year and are going to have to come in with a different strategy this time. I would expect to see a ton of Najee Harris in the run game as they will try to establish ball dominance straight out of the gates. After all, they really can’t afford to let Josh Allen and company get into a rhythm early on.

Allen & Diggs: Dynamic Duo

Allen formed a dynamic duo with All-Pro wideout Stefon Diggs in their first season together, with Diggs leading the league in receiving yards. The organisation chose to pick up Emmanuel Sanders during the offseason to take some of the defensive focus away from Diggs and give Allen another dangerous speed demon in the passing game. Similar to Pittsburgh though, their rushing attack never got off the ground in 2020. Devin Singletary and Zach Moss flashed a lot of potential, but it just didn’t seem like the team wanted to run the football much.

Expect Allen to let this ball fly early and often in this game as they continue to hand the keys to this offense over to their franchise quarterback. It won’t be easy to air it out against this secondary though. Joe Haden and Minkah Fitzpatrick are just two of the talented players on this Pittsburgh defense. That isn’t even mentioning the likes of T.J. Watt and Devin Bush.

I would think that the team would try and match Haden up with Diggs, which probably won’t be very effective throughout the course of the game. However, it may be their best option as Diggs is a challenge that few cornerbacks can live up to without safety help.

Bills to Pinch a Tight Contest

I wouldn’t expect this game to go back and forth through the air. It isn’t going to be a 45-42 ending but should rather stay in the 24-21 range. Both of these defenses are fast with elite level talent while their offenses have two quarterbacks that have consistently gotten it done in the passing game. The end result could certainly stem from which team could run the football more effectively, which I believe will be Pittsburgh at the end of the day. Although, they did end the year very poorly while Buffalo made it into the AFC Championship game.

I feel like the Steelers will control the game throughout the first half with a strong run game but will eventually turn away from it, allowing Buffalo to take this one in front of their home crowd and live up to their tags of 4/13 favourites.

Liz is an American Football writer and podcast host. She is the host of the Cleats Off podcast and co-host of the End Zone Scoop. Liz has followed the sport since 2012 and has since featured on the BBC, Talk Sport, and other reputable outlets to discuss key events and news.

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