With only 17 weeks left until the Pittsburgh Steelers officially return to the field, we are going to predict the outcome of all 17 games every Sunday until opening weekend in September. These predictions are clearly a “for fun” exercise as injuries and cuts/trades could clearly impact the trajectory of the 2021 season. However, what better way to pass the time until the NFL returns than to look in depth at each match up.
Week 1: @ Buffalo Bills, 1pm EST
For the seventh consecutive season, the Steelers will start the season on the road. The last time the Steelers played Week 1 at Heinz Field was in 2014 against the Cleveland Browns. Under head coach Mike Tomlin, the Steelers have a 4-4-1 record on the road in Week 1. Both teams will come into this match up with familiarity against one another as they will be playing for the third consecutive season.
The Bills have beaten Pittsburgh the last two seasons, but each game has been close. In 2019, the Bills bested the Steelers 17-10 at Heinz Field, but the Steelers started undrafted rookie free agent Devlin “Duck” Hodges who threw 4 interceptions that game. The Steelers were also without starting wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster in the 2019 match up which left the Steelers with major inexperience on offense. Combine 5 turnovers with 4 quarterback sacks, the Steelers were lucky they only lost by 7 to a much healthier Buffalo team.
In 2020, the Steelers were the better team in the first half. However, a 51-yard interception return for a touchdown by Buffalo with less than a minute left in the second quarter completely flipped the momentum and changed the outcome of the game. Buffalo went into halftime with a 9-7 lead and ended up winning 26-15 in a sloppy game that included four turnovers and underwhelming play all around by Pittsburgh.
So, yes. The Bills have owned the Steelers over the past couple seasons, but it’s a new era in Pittsburgh and greatness is on the horizon. The Steelers have revamped the offense by promoting their 2020 quarterback coach Matt Canada to offensive coordinator, adding first-round pick Najee Harris and collecting solid offensive line depth through free agency and the draft.
The new look Steelers will likely promote a balanced offense that takes a lot of pressure off quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Canada will also add some wrinkles into the offense that will hopefully free up playmakers like Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson to make plays in open space. The Steelers will likely look much different offensively than they did in 2020 which will make it tough on Buffalo to scout them prior to their Week 1 match up. Look for the Steelers to get out to a quick start in Week 1 as the Bills will have to adjust to a new offensive scheme by Pittsburgh.
The Bills are returning a majority of their starting offense and defense and they are a team that has drastically improved each year since drafting quarterback Josh Allen in 2017. Buffalo lost badly in the AFC Championship Game last year to Kansas City, so they likely will come out with a chip on their shoulder to start the 2021 season.
Unfortunately for Buffalo, Pittsburgh suffered an even tougher loss to end last season in the AFC Wild Card Game, so the Steelers are looking for a quick way to get the bitter taste out of their mouths. Look for the Steelers to slowly implement first-round running back Harris into the game plan and control the tempo of the game from the opening kick off. The Steelers will also force Allen into mistakes by blitzing heavily and playing solid defense on the back end.
Final Prediction: Pittsburgh 31, Buffalo 27