Pittsburgh — Stephon Gilmore slumped over the stool in front of his locker Sunday afternoon, very much the picture of a man alone with his thoughts.
Gilmore had plenty to think about following his team’s 23-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.
He took a holding penalty on the Steelers’ opening possession, and his day only got worse from there.
Much worse, in fact. Gilmore was beaten by Jerricho Cotchery for a 5-yard touchdown, and was also in coverage on gains of 26 yards by Cotchery and 40 yards by Antonio Brown.
“It’s obviously disappointing,” said a dispirited Gilmore. “I mean, I’m just trying to fight for my team.”
This entire season can be accurately described as a battle for Gilmore. He’s played in five games after coming back from surgery on a broken wrist suffered in the preseason. The first two of those were played with a large club, protecting his left wrist. The club’s been off for the last three, but it’s clear there is still a high level of discomfort. Just removing the tape from his shoes looked to be a chore for Gilmore after the game.
“It’s not 100 percent. I wouldn’t say that,” Gilmore said. “It’s sore after every practice, after every game.”
It’s jarring how much teams are throwing at Buffalo’s No. 1 cornerback.
Last week against Kansas City, Gilmore was matched up almost exclusively against Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe, who caught a season-high seven passes for 67 yards. The Steelers followed the blueprint and threw at Gilmore early and often.
“Sometimes you have to give credit where credit is due. Sometimes they are going to make a play. He made a nice move back there,” Bills coach Doug Marrone said of the touchdown catch by Cotchery. “Ben Roethlisberger threw that ball exactly where it was supposed to be.”
Cotchery said the play on which he scored is called a “fall asleep” fade. On the snap, he approached Gilmore like he was blocking for a run play, before releasing to the end zone.
“We just try to lull the guy to sleep and once he peeks into the backfield, it’s a touchdown,” Cotchery said.
So what was Gilmore’s view of the play?
“He actually came up and blocked me, then went out for a pass. He kind of lured me to sleep a little bit on that play,” he said.
Brown’s 40-yard gain in the third quarter set the Steelers up inside the red zone at the Bills’ 18-yard line. Five plays later, rookie running back Le’Veon Bell rushed in from 4 yards out to give his team a 17-3 lead.
“The one over the middle was a double move. When the quarterback has that time to throw and can fake him going up and then coming across, it’s a tough play,” Marrone said. “We were trying to stay on top of those guys most of the game. They do have very good receivers that are very quick.”
Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s scheme calls for Gilmore and cornerback Leodis McKelvin to be in man coverage frequently.
“That’s what we like to do. That’s what I like to do,” Gilmore said.
For the time being, however, that’s a matchup other teams are winning too frequently for the Bills’ liking.