ORCHARD PARK – Another week, another spate of injuries that the Buffalo Bills will be dealing with as they get ready to host the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday afternoon at Highmark Stadium.
This wasn’t the wholesale decimation the Bills faced before and during their Week 3 loss in Miami. Instead, this was a targeted wipeout aimed at the wide receiver position during their 23-20 victory over Baltimore.
Buffalo went into the game without Jake Kumerow who is sidelined multiple weeks by a high ankle sprain. And then by midway through the third quarter, Jamison Crowder suffered an ankle injury that looks like it’s going to keep him out for a while, and Isaiah McKenzie suffered a head injury and he’ll be in concussion protocol this week.
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And while Gabe Davis has played almost every offensive snap the last two weeks, it’s clear that he’s not at full strength. Against Miami and Baltimore he had a combined four catches for 50 yards.
The only healthy receivers the Bills have right now are Stefon Diggs and rookie Khalil Shakir, so they may need to look at their practice squad this week where they have stashed Tavon Austin, Isaiah Hodgins and Tanner Gentry.
Austin seems like the logical choice to be activated because he is a true slot receiver. Shakir can line up on the outside.
Pittsburgh Steelers injuries piling up too
You won’t hear the Steelers crying about the Bills’ lack of wideouts because they have their own issues to deal with following their 24-20 loss to the Jets.
They are already without superstar edge rusher T.J. Watt, and against New York, safety Terrell Edmunds (Tremaine’s brother), safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, cornerback Cam Sutton were all hurt, so their status for the game will be something to watch this week.
Top players for Pittsburgh Steelers
▶ QB Kenny Pickett: Coach Mike Tomlin is playing it close to the vest on who will start against the Bills, but after he benched struggling ex-Bill Mitch Trubisky Sunday and inserted the team’s 2022 first-round pick, it seems like Pickett would be the choice because once that train has left the station, there’s no turning back.
▶ RB Najee Harris: The Steelers’ first-round pick in 2021 came on at the end of last season and finished with 1,200 rushing yards, though it took a whopping 307 carries to get there. This season, Harris hasn’t had a great start, though he’s coming off his best game as he gained 74 yards on 18 carries against the Jets.
▶ WR George Pickens: The 2022 second-round pick made one of the great catches of the season against the Browns in Week 3, and against the Jets, he had his first 100-yard game as a pro while making six catches. At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, he’s a tough matchup.
▶ WR: Diontae Johnson: He had double digit targets in the first three games and then had only four against the Jets, catching two for 11 yards. Still, he is a solid possession receiver.
▶ SS Minkah Fitzpatrick: He’s one of the best safeties in the league, a true ball hawk who has three interceptions this season, so if he can’t play, that’s a big loss for Pittsburgh.
▶ DE Alex Highsmith: An up and coming player off the edge who weighs only 242 pounds so speed is definitely his game. That can sometimes be a problem for Bills RT Spencer Brown.
▶ DT Cameron Heyward: He’s a beast in the middle of the line and probably the Steelers most disruptive player on their defensive line. If you remember last year’s season opener in Buffalo, Heyward destroyed the Bills line as he had 12 pressures, a sack, a forced fumble and two batted down passes. He was unblockable.
▶ CB Levi Wallace: The four-year Bills starter signed with the Steelers in the offseason and while he didn’t start the first three games, he did against the Jets because the Steelers lost CB Ahkello Witherspoon in Week 3. Wallace has played well, steady in coverage and very good in run support.
What the game means to Buffalo Bills, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers are in trouble. They just lost to the Jets and at 1-3 they are sitting at the bottom of the AFC North, though they’re only one game behind the three frontrunners who are all 2-2.
Still, this has the feel of being Tomlin’s first sub-.500 season since he became head coach in 2007. The Steelers offense is brutal – 24th in scoring and 30th in yards gained through four weeks – and now they may be training a rookie quarterback to play during the season, and that usually doesn’t bode well for the won-loss record.
The Bills are coming off a big win in Baltimore, but with tough games looming at Kansas City and then after their bye, home against the Packers, they need to take care of business.
Who is favored in Bills vs Steelers game?
The Bills have opened as a 14-point favorite which, even with Pittsburgh’s struggles, seems way too high, especially for a Buffalo offense that has scored only 42 points in its last two games and will be facing a Steelers defense that is still pretty solid.
The Steelers may have some injury issues which could be part of the reason for this big spread, but that number is curiously big.
The money line is Bills minus-850 (bet $850 to win $100) and Steelers plus-600 (bet $100 to win $140). The over-under for the game is 47.
What time does the Bills vs Steelers game start?
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at Highmark Stadium.
Bills vs Steelers: How to watch and listen to the game
Cable/Network: CBS. The game will be available locally via the following stations: WROC (Channel 8, Rochester), WIVB (Buffalo area), WTVH (Syracuse area), WKTV (Utica area), WENY (Elmira area), WRGB (Albany area), and WBNG (Binghamton area).
Online streaming services: NFL.com and the NFL mobile app. Also, the NFL has a new streaming service called NFL+ which replaces NFL Game Pass, though you can’t cast the games to your TV – you must watch on your phone or tablet. The cost is $5 a month or $30 for the season, and a premium tier costs $10/$80 which includes all-22 coaches film and condensed and full-game replays. With it, you’ll be able to watch every local game on Sunday and the national games on Monday and Thursday nights as well as the playoffs and the Super Bowl. You can also stream if you have subscriptions to DirecTV, fuboTV, NFL+, Sling, Vidgo, Hulu + Live TV, YouTube TV, and Paramount+.
How to listen: The Bills Radio Network has stations all across the state. They include Rochester (WCMF 96.5 and WROC 950 AM), Buffalo (WGR550, 550 AM), Syracuse (WTKW 99.5 and WTKV (105.5), Ithaca (WIII 99.9/100.3 FM), Bath (WVIN 98.3 FM), Newark (WACK 1420 AM), Dansville (WDNY 93.9 FM), Elmira (WNGZ 1490 AM), Auburn (WAUB 98.1 FM/1590 AM), and Geneva (WGVA 95.9 FM, 1240 AM). You can also listen on SiriusXM satellite radio on channel 225 (Bills) and channel 226 (Steelers).
Sal Maiorana can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana.To subscribe to Sal’s new twice-a-week newsletter, Bills Blast, please follow this link: https://profile.democratandchronicle.com/newsletters/bills-blast
This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Who do the Bills play next in Week 5? Both teams riddled with injuries