Jairus Byrd read the eyes of Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and got his first interception of the season.
Byrd leaped in front of a deep pass down the right sideline and returned it 57 yards to the Pittsburgh 29. It set up a 20-yard field goal by Dan Carpenter.
It was the 19th interception of Byrd’s career.
Key plays: The Bills faced third and goal from the 1 and opted for a fade pattern for Stevie Johnson, but the throw by EJ Manuel was way too far.
Slow start: Pittsburgh had an interception and two punts on its first three possessions. The Steelers have been outscored, 64-19, in the first quarter.
Wind factor: The wind blowing from the closed end of the stadium toward the open end and the scoreboard was a major factor. Pittsburgh’s first punt, by Matt McBriar, floated in the gusts and went just 27 yards, giving the Bills possession at the Steelers’ 44.
Second-guess: The Bills came out running to the strong side of the formation but the Steelers were ready for it. The Bills managed just 18 yards on nine carries by running backs in the first quarter. Maybe weak side was the better direction.
Jerricho Cotchery is a 10-year NFL veteran who knows how to get open, as he showed against Stephon Gilmore in the second quarter.
Cotchery got just enough of a tug on Gilmore’s shirt at the line of scrimmage to create quick separation, and he caught a 5-yard fade pattern pass for a touchdown. It put the Steelers ahead, 10-3, with 1:55 left in the half.
Cotchery played his first seven seasons with the New York Jets and averaged 66 catches a season between 2006 and 2010. The TD grab was his 43rd career catch against the Bills.
Key plays: Pittsburgh got 34 yards on a dump-off pass over the middle from Ben Roethlisberger to Le’Veon Bell to help set up the Cotchery TD. … Kyle Williams had an 11-yard sack on Roethlisberger to force a Steeler field goal.
Second slump: The Bills have been outscored, 56-96, in the second quarter.
Misfires: EJ Manuel had three incomplete passes thrown far off target. Rookie Chris Gragg had a drop on a pass in the flat on what could have been a 10-yard gain.
Clock hogs: Pittsburgh held the ball for 11:42 to just 3:18 for Buffalo in the quarter.
Holding the line
The Pittsburgh Steelers did a good job keeping their offensive line out of bad situations, and they played to the line’s strengths in the third quarter.
The Steelers do not pass protect well. They entered the game fifth worst in the league in sacks allowed. They gave up four more sacks to the Bills, lifting their season total to 36.
Yet on the big play of the third quarter, the Steelers picked the right time to go to a maximum protection scheme, using eight men to block and giving Ben Roethlisberger enough time to hit Antonio Brown for a 40-yard pass.
Pittsburgh then went to straight-ahead, power blocking to get a 4-yard touchdown run from Le’Veon Bell to take a 17-3 lead.
Bell, a 6-foot-1, 244-pounder, kept his legs churning on the TD run, something he was known for during his career at Michigan State. The rookie second-round draft pick scored 33 TDs in three years for the Spartans.
Key plays: Lawrence Timmons put a big lick on EJ Manuel for a 5-yard sack to snuff out the one semi-threat by the Bills’ offense, which had penetrated to the Pittsburgh 43 on the first drive of the half.
Brown breaks away
The fact the Steelers have a losing record is not the fault of the passing game. Pittsburgh lost star wideout Mike Wallace in free agency but still entered the game eighth in passing yards.
Part of the reason is the Steelers have an underappreciated star wideout in Antonio Brown. He entered the game leading the NFL in catches with 61 and added six more grabs against the Bills.
Brown showed his play-making ability by returning a Brian Moorman punt 50 yards to the Buffalo 11 midway through the fourth quarter. It set up a field goal that put Pittsburgh ahead, 23-3.
Brown was a late-round steal of the Steelers. A sixth-round pick in 2010 out of Central Michigan, he caught 69 passes in 2011 and made the Pro Bowl that year. He followed up with 66 catches last season.
Key plays: EJ Manuel threw a 2-yard TD pass to Chris Gragg with 3 seconds left.
Second-guess: The Bills punted on fourth and 5 from the Steelers’ 36 early in the quarter. Why? Doug Marrone said there was enough time left to keep playing field position. If the Bills had stopped the Steelers three-and-out (they didn’t), Pittsburgh would have had to punt into the wind.