ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Steelers defense was instrumental in slowing down a Bills offense that is expected to be among the NFL’s best in 2021 in Pittsburgh’s come-from-behind 23-16 upset.
Even more key inside that macro view of the game was a few key fourth-down stops.
However, none were more essential than Cam Sutton’s key tackle on a 4-and-1 inside Steelers territory. After the stop, the Steelers went down the field to score their only offensive touchdown of the game. The massive stop shifted the momentum completely.
On the play, Josh Allen fakes the quarterback sneak in an attempt to pitch it out wide to Matt Breida. They were likely banking on Reggie Gilliam leading blocking with Breida, and then Brieda’s speed simply doing the rest. By motioning the receiver across the formation, however, they actually gave the Steelers a potential advantage. Sutton had a straight line to Breida and Gillam simply could not catch up to him as he slinked around the block. He talked about what he saw in the game and on this play specifically.
“They put some fullback belly on tape early in the year, and over the years,” Sutton said. “Just recognizing the play; trying to get a speed guy out in space, while everyone’s crashed down in the middle, and able to just read and react, and get to him before he gets started and make the play.”
Sutton was not lying. The Bills sure did run a fullback belly series. This is from this preseason, and eerily similar to the play Sutton made on Sunday. While the fullback pulled this time instead of heading up the middle, the same principle applies.
This is a fullback series, and the Bills are trying to get a speedy, elusive playmaker in space to make a play and catch the defense off guard. In the Chicago preseason game, they also gave the ball to Gilliam near the goal line for a touchdown. It would appear that the Steelers were heavily prepared for this series, and it paid off. Mike Tomlin certainly was not surprised by it.
“It was just something that we had anticipated,” Tomlin said. “They had gotten in that structure a bunch, four or five times in the preseason and just given the dive to the fullback. So we figured that would be the next phase of it, to fake that dive to the fullback and flip that ball out there to him… We talked about it, but you can’t take anything away from Cam Sutton. Just a really aware play and big-time football play.”
So, it appears the Steelers studied this fullback belly series the Bills used in short-yardage packages against the Bears in the preseason and came equipped to counter it. To say the least, they anticipated the next step in the package and made a huge play against it as a result. That is fantastic pre-game prep by the Steelers. Hats off to the coaching staff and Sutton on this one
Alan Saunders provided reporting from Orchard Park.