The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Buffalo Bills face off in a huge Week 1 matchup to start the 2021 season. Both teams are expecting to be in the playoff conversation at the end of the season, so starting off on the right foot is important. Buffalo took down the Steelers last season, 23-15.
The kick-off for Sunday’s season opener is at 1 p.m. EST inside Highmark Stadium in Orchard Pak, N.Y. According to oddsmakers, the Bills are a 6.5-point favorite, and the total point over-under is at 48.
What to Know – Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh enters the 2021 season after a 12-4 mark and winning the AFC North. The Steelers bowed out of the playoffs early, losing 48-37 to the Cleveland Browns in the Wild Card round. Head coach Mike Tomlin enters his 15th year as head coach of the Steelers.
Ben Roethlisberger returns for his 18th season under center for the Steelers. The 39-year old was able to stay healthy last season, throwing for 3,803 yards and 33 touchdowns with ten interceptions. Roethlisberger ended the season, completing a record 47-of-68 pass for 501 yards and four touchdowns in the playoff loss to the Browns.
While the passing game was a strength of the Steelers last year, the ground game was not. Pittsburgh was unable to ever get the rushing attack going, averaging only 3.6 yards per carry in 2020. The Steelers went out and drafted Alabama running back Najee Harris to help boast the ground attack.
On the other side of the ball, the Steelers continued their tradition of a stout defensive unit and return a majority of the starters from last season. Pittsburgh held opponents to 19.5 points and 329.8 yards of offense per game.
What to Know – Buffalo Bills
The Bills put together a historic season in 2020 with a 13-3 victory and the first playoff win of the 21st century. Buffalo won the AFC East crown for the first time since 1995. After a pair of playoff victories over the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens, the Bills lost to the Kansas City Chiefs, 38-24, in the AFC Championship.
Josh Allen blossomed in his third season at quarterback, leading the Bills offense that scored a franchise-record 501 points. Allen threw for 4,544 yards and added 421 yards on the ground, accounting for 45 touchdowns.
With a strong air attack, the Bills’ emphasis on the ground game wasn’t there last season. Devin Singletary led the way with 687 yards and is expected to split carries with Zack Moss, who returns after tallying 481 yards on the ground.
Buffalo’s defense surrendered 23.4 points and allowed 366.3 yards of total offense per game. Like the Steelers, the Bills bring back the bulk of its defensive starters and should have another strong unit in 2021.
The Pick is In
Pittsburgh’s inability to produce a ground game last season is concerning as we enter a new season. The Bills’ defense will make it difficult for the Steelers to move the ball. Expect a back-and-forth contest with a late touchdown by Buffalo to cover the spread.
Betting Pick: Buffalo Bills -6.5