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Gameday Tipsheet - Week 12

Posted Nov 26, 2010

Top 3 Individual Matchups
1. Demetrius Bell vs. James Harrison –
The Steelers sack leader might be the most formidable assignment since Bell faced Julius Peppers in Week 9. Harrison is a handful and Bell is expected to get help with this matchup through the course of the game from tight ends, backs and slide protection.

2. Stevie Johnson vs. Ike Taylor – Taylor might be one of the more underrated corners in the league. Good at jamming receivers at the line, the Steelers sometimes have him follow the opponent's best receiver. Whether they ask Taylor to do that Sunday with Johnson remains to seen as Johnson has been moved into the slot more since Roscoe Parrish's season-ending wrist injury.

3. Kyle Williams vs. Maurkice Pouncey – The rookie pivot man has quickly established himself as an anchor of Pittsburgh’s offensive line. His athleticism will be tested however, by Kyle Williams who is putting together a Pro Bowl type season. Pouncey is likely to get some guard assistance with this inside matchup.

Bills Top 2 Advantages
Good advantage –
Passing offense – Buffalo’s receiving corps has been having their way with opposing secondaries. After a slow start the Bills passing game is in a groove and Ryan Fitzpatrick organizes protections pre-snap as effectively as any signal caller in the league. Against Pittsburgh’s 22nd ranked pass defense they stand a good chance of making a few big plays.

Best advantage - Red zone offense – Chan Gailey’s attack has been very opportunistic inside their opponent’s 20-yard line this season converting on better than 68 percent of their red zone possessions this season (15-22). Pittsburgh’s defense ranks a surprising 13th in the AFC in keeping opponents out of the end zone once they cross their 20.

Bills Number 1 Must
Ball security –
Buffalo has struggled protecting the football the past few weeks and cannot afford to lose the turnover battle to a team the caliber of Pittsburgh. The Steelers rank first in the AFC in takeaways with 24.

Scouting Eye
Ground to a halt
Pittsburgh’s defense is up to their old tricks again in 2010 neutralizing the run game of opponents week in and week out. Ranked number one in the league in run defense the Steelers are allowing just 63 rushing yards per game. Last week they faced the number two rushing team in football in the Oakland Raiders and held them more than 100 yards below their season average of 162.2 per game allowing just 61 rushing yards. Darren McFadden had only 14 yards on 10 carries.

Danger deep
The Steelers aren’t typically known for having dynamic speed wideouts on the outside through the course of their history. Mike Wallace is changing that history. The second-year Ole Miss product is having a breakout season similar to Buffalo’s Stevie Johnson. Wallace ranks fifth in the AFC in receiving yards, third in touchdowns with eight and leads the league in yards per reception with an eye-popping 23. More than a third of Wallace’s 33 catches this season have gone for 25 yards or more (12). He comes into Sunday’s game hot with three consecutive 100-yard receiving performances.

Third down dominance
While the Steelers offense this season ranks a pedestrian 20th in third down conversion percentage, not much of the blame falls on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Since returning to the lineup after serving his league-imposed suspension, third down has arguably been his best down all season. Roethlisberger currently leads the league in third down passing. Completing almost 60 percent of his passes while averaging almost nine yards per attempt, Roethlisberger has thrown six touchdowns against one interception on third down this season good for a passer rating of 119.6.

Takeaway troop
Pittsburgh’s pressure defense has always been able to force turnovers, but their physical style of play is just as responsible in forcing opponents to cough up the football. The Steelers lead the AFC in takeaways with 24 and a plus-10 turnover margin. They had an impressive seven takeaways in one game against Tennessee earlier this season. While they have the third highest interception total in the conference, they rank second in the league in forced fumbles with 15, 11 of which they have recovered.

Dynamic duo
Dick LeBeau’s top two pass-rushing linebackers are at it again this season. After setting a team record in 2008 for most sacks in a single season by a duo with 27.5, James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley are on a solid pace again this season. Through 10 games Harrison (9) and Woodley (6.5) have combined for 15.5 sacks. It puts them slightly off the pace to match their 2008 total, but it’s not likely to make Buffalo’s pass protectors feel any better about their assignments.

Fresh leg
For the third straight week the Bills are facing an opponent with a new place kicker. This time however, the change at the position was made due to ineffectiveness rather than injury. Pittsburgh waived veteran kicker Jeff Reed two weeks ago largely due to his 2-8 mark on field goals of 40-yards plus this season. The Steelers signed Shaun Suisham to replace him, but he has yet to attempt a field goal for Pittsburgh after kicking five extra points last Sunday.

Buffalo Chips
Quote of the Week
“They’re a good team. Obviously their record shows how good they are. It’ll be a good test for us. I think a lot of people on this team are looking forward to the challenge and looking forward to going out and see where we stand up against a team like this.”
--RB Fred Jackson

Stat of the Week
Fred Jackson is averaging five yards per carry in home games this season (52-262 yds).

Milestones in reach
Ryan Fitzpatrick needs one touchdown pass to mark the 12th straight game with a scoring toss, which would match the longest streak in franchise history since Doug Flutie in 1999.

Fred Jackson needs 34 receiving yards for 1,000 in his career.

Steve Johnson (9) needs three touchdown receptions to set the franchise record for most TD catches in a season (11 Bill Brooks – 1995).

Final Note
If the Bills win Sunday if would be their first three-game winning streak since Week 4 of the 2008 season.