1. Stefon Diggs does No. 1 receiver things
In a game that was largely an offensive struggle for both teams in the first half, Buffalo turned to its top wideout to change their fortunes and he had the answers.
Josh Allen went to Stefon Diggs on the first play from scrimmage in the second half and kept looking for him. Not surprisingly, Diggs was open almost every time.
Diggs made four receptions on the first drive of the third quarter for 42 yards including a 19-yard touchdown reception to put Buffalo up 16-7 to widen a lead they would never relinquish.
"I started completing it to the right guys and my guys did a good job of getting open," said Josh Allen. "But I think you saw right when we came out that I started getting it to 1-4. We liked our matchup out there and I can say with a lot of confidence, I think I like any matchup with 1-4. He's one of the best, if not the best guy in the league, but I have supreme confidence in him."
Allen continued to lean on Diggs on the ensuing drive hitting him over the middle for a 22-yard catch and run. It was followed by a 19-yard reception as Diggs capably beat a zone coverage from the Steelers for another first down moving the Bills deep into the red zone.
"All he wants to do is help his team win football games. He's a competitor and we have very similar mindsets. I love the guy," Allen said. "He goes out there and competes his tail off and I'm just super blessed that we traded for him."
Two plays later Buffalo was in the end zone to establish the largest lead of the game 23-7 midway through the third quarter.
"We weren't being us in the first half, and it was evident," said Diggs. "We weren't moving the ball efficiently and receivers we weren't doing our job good enough. And in the second half, Coach Daboll came in and said everybody just needed to do their job and hone in on winning your one-on-ones and that's how we started getting the ball rolling a little bit getting some first downs."
Diggs finished the game with 130 yards on 10 receptions and a touchdown helping him set a single-season career high with 1,167 yards. His previous high was his 1,130-yard season last year.
He now holds the mark for the ninth-most prolific single-season receiving yardage season in Bills history.
His 10 receptions Sunday night also put him in a tie with former Bills WR Eric Moulds for the single-season record for receptions (100) and gave him back the league lead in catches so far this season as he moved past the Chargers' Keenan Allen (99).
"Diggs is so special that as I see him play I just want to rip off my captain's 'C' and put it on his chest," said offensive tackle Dion Dawkins. "He's a stud man. He grinds and just continues to outperform and outshine everyone and prove that he's the guy. Stefon Diggs, he's gritty. That's our teammate and we love him and we're blessed to have him here."
Scroll through to see photos of all the action as the Bills take on the Steelers at Bills Stadium, presented by Imagine Staffing.
2. Taron Johnson provides lift
When it came to matchups in the Sunday night game against the Steelers, Bills slot corner Taron Johnson arguably had the toughest matchup with WR JuJu Smith-Schuster. Pittsburgh's leading receiver was the most targeted wideout on their roster in the first half, which is why Johnson was ready on a 2nd-and-5 near midfield with a minute left in the second quarter.
Johnson slipped underneath the route and took his interception 51 yards in the other direction for Buffalo's first touchdown of the game. It was also the first defensive touchdown of the season for the Bills.
"That was big," said head coach Sean McDermott. "I thought our defense was playing well up to that point but, Ben (Roethlisberger) is Ben, and he's seen a lot of defenses and he has not turned the ball over a lot this year and he's hard to get to when you rush him. So I thought that that was a pivotal moment in the game."
But Johnson's contributions in this game went well beyond his scoring play. Used frequently in run front, Johnson was Buffalo's leading tackler after two quarters of play. He was also deployed as a blitzer off the edge and was effective at times in hurrying throws from Ben Roethlisberger.
Just two months ago, Johnson had lost his starting slot corner role to Cam Lewis, who started in his place against the Chiefs in Week 6. Lewis however, suffered a wrist injury in the first half of that game and Johnson had a chance to redeem himself.
Steadily, Johnson built his game back up to one of the most consistent defenders in the back seven. Sunday night's performance was just the latest example of the defensive back's effort to make the most of a second chance.
"I think it's a great example of perseverance and him being resilient," said McDermott. "And then the coaches too just doing a great job of developing him and getting him to a place where he's comfortable and clear on what's expected and how it's how it's supposed to look and I think he's playing really confident football."
Johnson's interception return for a score was the first since Jordan Poyer's pick six off Tom Brady in Week 16 of the 2017 season.
Unfortunately, Johnson sustained a concussion with 10 minutes left in the third quarter and did not return.
3. Gabriel Davis contributions set marks
"He finds the paint."
That was Josh Allen's latest description of the team leader in touchdown catches. No, not Stefon Diggs.
Rookie Gabriel Davis.
Sunday night proved to be no different as Davis added another scoring play to his rookie resume in the Bills' 26-15 victory.
"It was very similar to one last week," said Josh Allen referencing Davis' touchdown catch against San Francisco six days prior. "He broke in, broke out, got the corner to stop his feet just for one second and I put it where only he can get it and he came down with it. He did his job. That's a great play by him."
Davis, who has taken on a more consistent role in Buffalo's receiving corps since John Brown went on injured reserve with an ankle injury, pulled in his sixth touchdown reception when Josh Allen found him in the back left corner of the end zone for a 13-yard scoring play in the third quarter.
"For him to be our fourth-round pick, the way that he approaches the game… it's not rookie-like," Allen said. "He is the ultimate team player. He's asked to block. He's asked to run routes where he knows he's not going to get the ball. All he does is does his job. As a quarterback to have a young guy who just consistently does his job and doesn't complain, it's awesome.
"And he just find the paint. That's what he does and he doesn't get a whole lot of targets, but what he does is he makes the play more often than not. He's a guy that I have supreme confidence in. We have a really good relationship and it makes you want to keep throwing him the ball."
It was Davis' third straight game with a touchdown reception making him the first rookie to have a three-game TD streak since WR David Nelson in 2010. Nelson, Lee Evans (five games, 2004) and now Davis are the only rookies since the AFL-NFL merger with three consecutive games with a receiving touchdown.
Davis currently leads the team with six receiving touchdowns on the season, doing so on just 28 receptions, giving him a touchdown percentage of better than 21 percent.
He was called wise beyond his years in training camp. His coaching staff entrusted him with learning all four receiver positions so he could fill in anywhere at any time. And more often than not, when called upon Gabriel Davis has delivered.
"He's stepped in and stepped up as a young player," said Stefon Diggs. "His maturation process is beautiful to watch from a different perspective, just to see his approach, and he's been doing all the right things, so I'm not surprised he's scoring touchdowns. He's supposed to have like 10 touchdowns, but he's had some called back (on penalty). He's going to get back in the lab, get back grinding. He's a guy that wants to grind, and just get better all the time so I'm looking forward to his success."