PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers spent three hours making Buffalo quarterback EJ Manuel look very much like the rookie he is.
Old times for a defense that has looked just plain old recently?
“No,” safety Ryan Clark said. “We used to be much better than that.
“It was a good day, though.”
A welcome one, too, in a 23-10 romp Sunday.
A week after a historic blowout at the hands of the New England Patriots, the Steelers went back to basics, ones that rarely change for a franchise that rarely changes.
Run the ball. Get after the quarterback. Play with some menace. The result was Pittsburgh’s most complete performance this season, one the Steelers (3-6) insist still contains some cause for optimism.
“I think we went out there and answered the call today,” linebacker LaMarr Woodley said. “We played like we’re always supposed to.”
The Bills managed just 227 total yards, nearly 400 less than the Patriots gained in a 55-31 whipping of Pittsburgh a week ago. That led to one of the more uncomfortable weeks in recent memory for a team accustomed to being near the top of the AFC North, not stuck at the bottom. The Steelers sacked Manuel three times and allowed Buffalo (3-7) to convert just 3 of 14 third downs.
Manuel completed 22 of 39 passes for 155 yards with a touchdown and an interception in his return after missing a month with a sprained right knee. He declined to blame his issues on rust, though he hardly looked like the dynamic playmaker that made Buffalo look so intriguing in September.
Battling a stiff breeze much of the day, Manuel struggled to find any rhythm against a defense smarting after giving up a franchise record for points and yards a week ago.
“I felt good throughout the game,” Manuel said. “Obviously, there were plays that I missed, but I have to get better from there. The wind wasn’t a problem.”