Things continue to get tougher for the Pittsburgh Steelers as they travel to Orchard Park and face the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium in Week 5. The Steelers enter the game on a three-loss slump and might come out with a fourth straight defeat. Here are our Pittsburgh Steelers Week 5 predictions as they take on the Bills.
There’s little reason to expect the Steelers to upset the Bills based on their performance thus far in the 2022 NFL season. Keep in mind that the Bills rank among the top ten in both offense and defense. Meanwhile, the Steelers average just 18.5 points a game, which is tied for eighth-worst in the NFL.
Having Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback is to blame for many of the Steelers’ offensive problems, but now that time has passed. The Steelers have committed (whether coach Mike Tomlin explicitly says it or not) to Kenny Pickett as their starter. Though that may be beneficial, the rookie quarterback did throw three interceptions in his NFL debut. In other words, it’s difficult to imagine either quarterback succeeding against a Bills defense that is currently tied for most INTs this season (seven).
With that in mind, here are our four bold predictions for the Pittsburgh Steelers in their Week 5 game against the Bills.
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4. Alex Highsmith sacks Josh Allen
Steelers linebacker Alex Highsmith is currently second in the league with 5.5 sacks through four games. He was overtaken by San Francisco 49ers DE Nick Bosa on Monday night. According to Pro Football Reference, Highsmith has 24 total stops (15 solo), five tackles for loss, eight QB hits, and a forced fumble this season.
He has had to step up in T.J. Watt’s absence and has done his best to serve as Pittsburgh’s premier pass rusher without him. In Week 1, he appeared to be the ideal running partner opposite Watt, recording three sacks and a forced fumble as Pittsburgh’s defense besieged Joe Burrow for seven sacks. Since then, however, rival teams have been able to zero in on Highsmith. He failed to record a sack the following week against the Patriots but has since rebounded with sacks against the Browns and Jets.
Highsmith should also find home and sack Josh Allen in Week 5.
3. Pat Freiermuth puts up 70+ yards receiving
With a very high 23 percent target share, Steelers TE Pat Freiermuth is exhibiting some breakout potential. If this trend continues and rookie Kenny Pickett can help this offense find a new gear, Freiermuth may continue to see his numbers go on an uptrend.
Keep in mind that he is coming off a career-high 85 yards receiving on seven receptions on nine targets. It’s Freiermuth’s second career-high in receiving yards this season, following his 75 yards on five grabs on ten targets in Week 1.
This season has seen three of Freiermuth’s most targeted games, with his seven targets in Week 2 matching for the fifth-highest in his career. This week, though, Freiermuth has a difficult tight-end battle.
The Bills are an elite pass-defense team. They have allowed the fewest air yards after four weeks and are tied for first in interceptions with seven. They are also top five in terms of yards-per-reception allowed per game (5.3).
Having said that, the Bills will likely focus on George Pickens and Diontae Johnson, which opens things up for Freiermuth. We should still see Freiermuth receive between 70-80 yards again in Week 5.
2. Kenny Pickett finally starts and struggles
The Mitch Trubisky experiment is over in Pittsburgh, where hometown hero Kenny Pickett is now the starter. Steelers coach Tomlin pretty much confirmed what we all expected following Sunday’s Jets game: Kenny Pickett is the new starter at quarterback.
Kenny Pickett confident, ready for first-career start for Steelers Sunday in Buffalo.https://t.co/sfpyz638Ep
— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) October 5, 2022
Pickett appears as a breath of new air for a swarm of skill-position players who have grown tired of the hemmed-in air attack. Pickett’s first effort, a deep shot that bounced off Chase Claypool and into the arms of a Jets defender, indicates a welcome new strategy. Pickett’s message to his teammates is clear. If his receivers are in single coverage, he’ll find them.
Gotta love the guts on this kid, but that might also lead to some early struggles, especially against the solid Bills defense we discussed earlier. Again, Buffalo employs the league’s No. 1 pass defense and No. 3 rush defense. Pickett provided a spark to the offense last week, but the Buffalo defense is on another level.
He should tally around 180 total yards here along with a pair of INTs and two sacks. Not the best start to his career as an NFL starter, but that’s what you get against the Bills.
1. Steelers fold under Bills onslaught
This matchup against the Bills kicks off a very difficult four-game run for the Steelers. That’s saying a lot, too, since the season has been a succession of disappointments for the 1-3 Pittsburgh squad. After facing the Bills, the Steelers are set to play against the Buccaneers, the Dolphins, and the Eagles in succession. Ouch.
Yes, the Steelers appear to be turning to rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett, but the team’s troubles go far deeper. With T.J. Watt out, it’s difficult to see the Steelers defense having an answer for Bills quarterback Josh Allen. With Watt out, Pittsburgh is also not designed to compete in a shootout with any team.
The Steelers also won’t really have many answers for Stefon Diggs and Devin Singletary, and then they also have to worry about the Bills’ wicked defensive front.
There is no doubt the Bills are heavy favorites here. Buffalo should cruise to a two-score win over the hapless Steelers.