The Bills traveled down to Latrobe, PA to play in a series of combined practices at Steelers Camp before the Bills vs. Steelers preseason game.
The sight of a different uniform on the other side of the line of scrimmage raised the intensity level noticeably on the practice field at St. Vincent College as the first of two days of intersquad practices took place Wednesday afternoon in Latrobe. Here are the top three Bills playmakers from day one working with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
1. Speed & Power (Nigel Bradham)
The Bills linebacker looked very quick off the ball in 1-on-1 pass rush drills against the Steelers' backs and tight ends during the competition period of practice. He beat backs mainly by using quick, hard fakes without gearing down to do so. Before they knew it he was by them and tapping out the quarterback. He also showed good hand usage against tight ends to get them on the move before ripping past them on the edge.
Bradham also took good angles to the ball and was active in the run front during 11-on-11 work. There's no debating that Bradham is athletic, but by fully committing himself to the mental part of the game he's playing even faster. His reaction time on play diagnosis is quicker than ever.
2. Old reliable (Manny Lawson)
In 1-on-1s Lawson did a good job of keeping the hands of offensive linemen off him in pass rush drills, taking advantage of his length while bending the corner. He also showed a variety of moves not repeating any more than once on his reps.
Lawson, as is his M.O., was sound with his assignments during team segments. Though he didn't deliver eye-popping plays he was always in the right place executing his assignments, which was a big help in the run game during 11-on-11 Wednesday.
3. Middle man (EJ Manuel)
Buffalo's quarterback got a ton of team reps in both 7-on-7 and 11-on-11. He worked with the first and second units at times. His completion percentage wasn't ideal Wednesday, but the most encouraging thing about his play was the way he countered the approach the Steelers were taking in defending Buffalo's passing game.
The Steelers were shutting off the flats, where Manuel likes to go with check downs. The corners weren't giving much cushion and in addition Dick LeBeau's scheme uses their defensive ends as interference to discourage those high-percentage throws as well.
Manuel countered by working the middle of the field. He connected on passes down the seam and on crossing patterns. He may have had his best day this summer in terms of making use of his tight ends in the pass game, and only had a couple of tuck and run keepers.
Quarterbacks have to come up with their own solutions on the fly and Manuel did that Wednesday.