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Steelers Bills barely give Steelers respect after loss

Monday, October 01, 2001

By Dejan Kovacevic, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- A week ago, the Buffalo Bills were picked apart by Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, 42-26. And when the game ended, they gave credit where it was due.

Called Manning the NFL's best and brightest quarterback.

Praised the Colts' robotic efficiency on both sides of the ball.

Dubbed them a contender for the Super Bowl.

But the Bills offered no such raves for their opponent yesterday, even though the Steelers walked off with a 20-3 victory at Ralph Wilson Stadium which never seemed in doubt.

"Our team is way better than theirs, so I just didn't see us losing this game," defensive tackle Pat Williams said. "They don't impress me. Not at all."

That sentiment didn't appear to be a minority view in the Buffalo locker room. Although the Bills are 0-3 and facing the possibility of one of the worst seasons in franchise history, they sounded off in near unison that they had no business losing to these Steelers.

"There are a couple of teams already that we've played and felt we had a good chance of beating," tight end Jay Riemersma said, referring also to the New Orleans Saints, who beat the Bills, 24-6, in their opener. "But having a chance and going out there and kicking somebody's butt are two different things."

"Their defense was good, but I wasn't all that impressed with their offense," linebacker Keith Newman said. "I don't think they did anything that was all that great. But you have to give them credit for winning. Was I impressed with the offense? No. But did they do enough to win the game? Yeah."

Quarterback Rob Johnson wasn't blown away by the Steelers' defense, either.

"I think it was more a matter of what we're not doing," he said. "I don't think they did anything different than what we expected. They have a good defense but not a dominating one."

If Buffalo Coach Gregg Williams felt the same way as his players, he wasn't sharing those sentiments with reporters after the game. But some elements of his strategy yesterday made it clear that he wasn't exactly frightened by certain aspects of his opponent's game, notably Kordell Stewart's passing ability.

As he did against the Steelers during his tenure as the defensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans, Williams regularly employed defensive fronts of eight or nine men yesterday. His linemen and linebackers essentially were instructed to key on running back Jerome Bettis and all but dare Stewart to throw the ball.

"I knew he wasn't throwing good balls, so I wasn't worried about it," Pat Williams said of Stewart. "He was throwing bad balls the whole game, so the passing doesn't matter. I was focused on Bettis ... and that was it. That's all they have, just Bettis, really. You don't worry about the receivers when the quarterback isn't throwing good balls."

The Bills' plan panned out in one regard, as Stewart was limited to 15-of-22 passing for 107 yards, including several throws well off target. But Bettis made Buffalo pay on the turf, bowling through the line for 114 yards on 22 runs.

And the Bills were far less effective on offense. A line missing three of its starters failed to give Johnson time, leaving him 13 of 22 for 104 yards with four sacks. Star wide receiver Eric Moulds had trouble clinging to the ball, prompting the coaches to try to distribute passes elsewhere. And running back Travis Henry seldom found room to maneuver beyond the line of scrimmage, finishing with 30 yards on 17 carries.

All of that prompted Gregg Williams to express public displeasure with his team's work for the first time in his rookie year as a head coach.

"We did not play well enough to win this football game," he said. "We did not play well enough in all areas. We had the opportunities, but we did not make the plays when we had those chances."

Asked if he was disappointed, he replied, "It's not disappointed, but ticked. Not discouraged, but ticked."

The players received that message in vocal fashion in the locker room after the game.

"The coaches should be frustrated," Riemersma said. "Everyone's frustrated. Everyone's embarrassed by what we've done. And if it takes us getting ticked off to get a win around here, then so be it. But clearly, with the kind of performance we just had out there, we're not going to get it done. Pittsburgh made some mistakes, but we didn't capitalize. In this league, if you don't capitalize on what the other team gives you, you don't win. We didn't win."

Henry was one of few Buffalo players to give the Steelers their due for winning.

"They did a good job," he said. "It seemed like they had an answer for everything we tried."

As for the Bills?

"We stunk up the field."

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