June 15, 2024

Bills vs. Steelers snap counts: Next man up!

The Buffalo Bills defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers during NFL Super Wild Card Weekend, and are now onto the AFC Divisional Round to host Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in his first-ever road playoff game. Quarterback Josh Allen did his usual superhero-like things and most importantly, did not turn the ball over once!

Bills vs. Steelers snap counts: Next man up! - Buffalo Rumblings

Buffalo won and we have at least one more week of Bills football but even more injuries piled up for the defense, particularly breakout linebacker Terrel Bernard, who was carted off with an ankle injury. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Bernard has an ankle sprain.

#Bills star LB Terrel Bernard, who has emerged as one of their top defenders, has what is believed to be an ankle sprain, source said. X-Rays were negative, MRI tomorrow.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 16, 2024
Prior to the game, wide receiver Gabe Davis, linebacker Tyrel Dodson, cornerback Rasul Douglas and safety Taylor Rapp were all declared inactive. Following the game, Bernard, linebacker Baylon Spector and cornerbacks Christian Benford and Taron Johnson all picked up injuries. Even punter Sam Martin, running back James Cook, and wide receiver Stefon Diggs picked up injuries during the game. As for practice squad call-up’s, wide receiver Andy Isabella and linebacker A.J. Klein received nods.

It’s a lot to take in and probably even more to overcome for this Buffalo squad, but let’s dive into the snap counts and talk about the position battles on both sides of the ball.

Bills offensive snap counts (67 snaps)

Where to start? Guard Connor McGovern (99%) broke the offensive line snap count streak when he was forced to sit out a snap during the Bills’ injury frenzy in the second half. Other than Diggs (84%) going down once with what looked like a painful injury, the offense stayed healthy during the game. Allen (100%) was lights out — rushing for 74 yards and throwing for 203 all en route to four total touchdowns, zero turnovers and the win.

Running back Leonard Fournette aka “Playoff Lenny” wasn’t elevated from the practice squad before the game, resulting in Latavius Murray (15%) returning to the lineup. He logged just 10 snaps, though, as running back Ty Johnson (22%) out-snapped him and James Cook (61%) led the way with 41 snaps, 18 carries and 79 rushing yards. For all the Steelers’ fans who claimed their team had the advantage on the ground, the Bills totaled 73 more rushing yards and Cook had more yards combined than both of the Steelers’ top two running backs. So, what now?

While Diggs’ yardage total wasn’t high again (52), he still caught seven balls and made some key plays when his name was called, per usual. The other rising pass catchers Dalton Kincaid (55%) and Khalil Shakir (67%) each caught touchdowns and continue to build their trust and chemistry with Allen. Even wide receiver Deonte Harty (21%) turned a routine 3rd & Medium conversion into a 34-yard gain, suggesting this Bills offense certainly has the play makers with big-play ability.

Depending on Gabe Davis’ availability moving forward, there’s a good chance we see wide receiver Andy Isabella (10%) elevated from the practice squad again.

Bills defensive snap counts (65 snaps)

The offense was fun to write about because there weren’t a ton of really serious injuries. As I mentioned above, Benford (20%), Spector (26%), Bernard (49%) and even Johnson (62%) all picked up injuries and didn’t return. With Douglas and Rapp already ruled out ahead of the game, cornerbacks Cam Lewis (43%) and Dane Jackson (100%) received increased playing time. In fact, Jackson — along with the safety duo of Micah Hyde (100%) and Jordan Poyer (100%) — was the only defensive player to log every snap.

Once Benford went down, cornerback Kaiir Elam (80%) found himself at the CB2 position for the rest of the game. Pittsburgh targeted him often but he came away with a redemption interception just one play after committing a pass-interference penalty. Once Johnson left the game, Lewis slid over to the nickel cornerback position and safety Damar Hamlin (20%) logged some snaps in dime personnel late in the game.

The linebacker position was already Buffalo’s very clear weakness heading into this game because Dodson’s run-stuffing abilities cannot be replicated by either A.J. Klein (66%) or Dorian Williams (32%). Spector has had limited playing time since entering the league but his injury followed by Bernard’s potentially season-ending injury, the Bills found themselves rolling with Klein and Williams at linebacker. Klein stepped up and provided enough help to force the Steelers to make mistakes and miss easy opportunities, however this defense is going to badly miss Bernard’s presence.

The defensive line remained healthy (somehow) despite Bills’ players dropping left and right in the third quarter. Buffalo struggled at times to force constant pressure on quarterback Mason Rudolph and totaled just one sack, but the run defense held up against a physical Pittsburgh offensive line and running back duo. It’s worth noting that defensive tackle Linval Joseph (26%) was active over Poona Ford for this matchup, likely to deal with the physicality in the middle of the line. Both defensive end A.J. Epenesa (37%) and defensive tackle Ed Oliver (71%) caused havoc, particularly at the line of scrimmage with each totaling a pass deflection. Defensive end Greg Rousseau (65%) looks to be back in full-go after logging fewer snaps than usual, likely due to his nagging foot injury.

Bills special teams snap counts (27 snaps)
24 snaps (83%): Reggie Gilliam, Quintin Morris
20 snaps (74%): Cam Lewis, Siran Neal, Tyler Matakevich
19 snaps (70%): Dorian Williams
17 snaps (63%): Damar Hamlin
14 snaps (52%): Ty Johnson, Andy Isabella
13 snaps (48%): Tyler Bass
10 snaps (37%): A.J. Klein, Reid Ferguson, Sam Martin
8 snaps (30%): Deonte Harty
7 snaps (26%): Dion Dawkins, Spencer Brown, O’Cyrus Torrence, David Edwards, Ryan Bates
6 snaps (22%): Kaiir Elam
5 snaps (19%): Connor McGovern
4 snaps (15%): Khalil Shakir
3 snaps (11%): Shaq Lawson, Tim Settle, DaQuan Jones, Greg Rousseau, Jordan Poyer, Micah Hyde
2 snaps (7%): Ryan Van Demark, Baylon Spector
1 snap (4%): Terrel Bernard, A.J. Epenesa
There isn’t much to say about the special teams other than punter Sam Martin’s hamstring injury. Kicker Tyler Bass’ first field-goal attempt was blocked and while running to the ball, Martin clearly pulled or tweaked his hamstring. He was still able to punt and hold for Bass on extra point/field goal attempts but this is certainly an important situation to monitor as the Bills already deal with poor starting field position to begin with and they cannot afford any more special teams issues at this point in the season.

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