Outside linebacker Alex Highsmith sidelined from Steelers practice with groin injury

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TribLIVE 09 September, 2021 - 03:21pm 10 views

Did the Steelers sign TJ Watt?

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers have finally inked All-Pro edge rusher T.J. Watt to a contract extension, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The extension includes a four-year deal worth more than $112 million with $80 million fully guaranteed. He'll receive roughly $28 million annually. si.comReport: Steelers Sign T.J. Watt to Record-Breaking Contract Extension

Is TJ Watt holding out?

Technically, T.J. Watt hasn't held out at all. He has been at Pittsburgh Steelers camp the whole time. Yahoo SportsNFL Preview Week: Suspensions, holdouts for Week 1

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The Pittsburgh Steelers could be without one of their starting outside linebackers Sunday when they open the season at the Buffalo Bills.

The thing is, it’s not T.J. Watt.

While Watt practiced Thursday for the second day in a row while negotiations continue on a long-term contract extension, second-year outside linebacker Alex Highsmith missed practice with a groin injury. It’s a step back for Highsmith, who was a limited participant Wednesday.

The Steelers have one more practice for Highsmith to get on the field before the opener.

Free agent pickup Melvin Ingram III would start if Highsmith is unable to play. Undrafted free agent Jamir Jones is the only other outside linebacker on the 53-man roster.

“I think 56 will be all right,” defensive coordinator Keith Butler said of Highsmith. “We will see though.”

Nose tackle Tyson Alualu returned to practice after missing Wednesday with an elbow injury. Center Kendrick Green also was a full participant after being limited Wednesday with a thumb injury.

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at jrutter@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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Gerry Dulac's 2021 NFL picks: Week 1

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 09 September, 2021 - 10:12am

Last season: 171-98 (.635)

Dallas Cowboys (6-10) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5), 8:20 p.m. — The Buccaneers will begin defense of their Super Bowl title in the same venue where they became the first team to win the Vince Lombardi trophy in their home stadium. And, if they can hold the Chiefs to one touchdown in that resounding victory, there is no reason they can’t do the same to the Cowboys, even with Dak Prescott back at quarterback. Prescott missed the final 11 games of last season with a fractured ankle and didn’t play at all in the preseason. Heck, even Tom Brady played a series or two.

Prediction: Buccaneers, 31-9

Steelers (12-4) at Buffalo Bills (13-3), 1 p.m. — The Steelers get to try out their new offense against the defending AFC East champions, and they might need it. The Bills led the AFC in scoring last season, scoring 30 or more points nine times. Reminder to Steelers defense: Don’t forget to cover Stefon Diggs.

Prediction: Bills, 24-19

Minnesota Vikings (7-9) at Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1), 1 p.m. — The Bengals are glad to have quarterback Joe Burrow back after the sensational start to his rookie season was ended after 10 games because of a knee injury. The Vikings gave up 40-plus points three times last season, including 120 in the final three games.

Prediction: Bengals, 26-23

Philadelphia Eagles (4-11-1) at Atlanta Falcons (4-12), 1 p.m. — The Eagles have given up on Carson Wentz and are handing over the offense to Jalen Hurts, even though they are not sure if he is the answer. Is this another year of the Falcons being over-hyped because of Matt Ryan, who has the fifth-largest contract among NFL QBs?

Prediction: Falcons, 28-24

New York Jets (2-14) at Carolina Panthers (5-11), 1 p.m. — Sam Darnold, once the messiah for Jets fans, faces his former team as the new quarterback for the Panthers. The Jets have a new savior — rookie QB Zach Wilson, the second overall pick in the draft. Give him another three or four years and we’ll see where he ends up.

Prediction: Panthers, 21-15

San Francisco 49ers (6-10) at Detroit Lions (5-11), 1 p.m. — Well, the Lions had one major victory in the offseason — snookering the Rams to get two No. 1 picks, a third-round pick (DT Alim McNeill) and Jared Goff for Matthew Stafford. But they will need more than that to better last year’s win total. Not sure where they will find it.

Prediction: 49ers, 26-18

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15) at Houston Texans (4-12), 1 p.m. — The Jaguars won only one game last year, and it was the season opener against the Colts. They are hoping to end their 15-game losing streak by starting this season the same way with their star rookie Trevor Lawrence. They just might against the disheveled Texans.

Prediction: Jaguars, 22-20

Seattle Seahawks (12-4) at Indianapolis Colts (11-5), 1 p.m. — Since the start of the 2012 season, the Seahawks have not had a losing season. And, with few exceptions, they have been renowned fast-starters. The Colts’ attempt to start anew with Carson Wentz has been derailed with another Wentz injury. Shocking.

Prediction: Seahawks, 26-21

Arizona Cardinals (8-8) at Tennessee Titans (11-5), 1 p.m. — After being stuck on four consecutive 9-7 seasons, the Titans endured all their COVID-19 issues in 2020 to win the division with an 11-5 record. They are a good bet to do it again. The Cardinals gave Kyler Murray another receiver after the retirement of Larry Fitzgerald, adding A.J. Green to DeAndre Hopkins.

Prediction: Titans, 34-23

Los Angeles Chargers (7-9) at Washington Football Team (7-9), 1 p.m. — The Chargers have some exceptional individual talents and are hoping the hiring of Brandon Staley as head coach will get them to challenge the Chiefs in the AFC West. Washington has turned its offense over to the bearded Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is with his fifth team in the past nine years.

Prediction: Washington, 27-24

Cleveland Browns (11-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (14-2), 4:25 p.m. — This is a rematch of last year’s divisional playoff game, won by the Chiefs. But can the Browns make it that far again this year? They have a chance to make a quick statement that they are good enough to win the AFC North by beating the Chiefs at home.

Prediction: Browns, 30-27

Miami Dolphins (10-6) at New England Patriots (7-9), 4:25 p.m. — The Patriots are prepared to start a new chapter with rookie Mac Jones, their No. 1 pick and a Tom Brady-type quarterback. The Dolphins are going to continue to ride with Tua Tagovailoa, even though there is already skepticism whether he is the franchise’s long-term answer.

Prediction: Dolphins, 16-13

Green Bay Packers (13-3) at New Orleans Saints (12-4), 4:25 p.m. — Drew Brees is gone, but Aaron Rodgers is still around, and that should be enough for the Packers. The Saints are moving on with Jameis Winston at quarterback, which is about all you need to know about their chances of returning to the postseason.

Prediction: Packers, 28-20

Denver Broncos (5-11) at New York Giants (6-10), 4:25 p.m. — The Broncos are trying another quarterback this season, Teddy Bridgewater, the latest in a series of failed attempts to find a replacement since Peyton Manning retired. The Giants are still hoping to see Daniel Jones step up as Eli Manning’s replacement.

Prediction: Giants, 17-16

Chicago Bears (8-8) at Los Angeles Rams (10-6), 8:20 p.m. — The Bears won’t have any difficult getting a read on the Rams’ new quarterback, Matthew Stafford, whom they faced twice a year when he was with the Lions. The Rams gave up an awful lot to get Stafford. He better show why right away.

Prediction: Rams, 20-16

Baltimore Ravens (11-5) at Las Vegas Raiders (8-8), 8:15 p.m. — Will the Ravens be the same team that led the league in rushing in 2020 without J.K. Dobbins, who is out for the season? As much as that injury hurts the Ravens, it’s still better than losing Lamar Jackson. Wonder what odds Las Vegas has — the casinos, not the team — of stopping him?

Prediction: Ravens, 23-17

First Published September 9, 2021, 3:12pm

Buffalo Bills 2021 season preview: Can the defense do enough for a title run?

Tip of the Tower 09 September, 2021 - 08:59am

Aug 28, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills outside linebacker A.J. Klein (54) in action against the Green Bay Packers during the first half at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The old saying that “defense wins championships” has become a thing of the past in the pass-happy NFL. While it may not be prudent to pin your hopes on the defensive side of the ball in today’s league, it is important that a team is at least passable there.

The Buffalo Bills will be looking for a solid performance from their defense as they hope to make it back to the AFC Championship, and beyond. The team will no doubt be led by an electrifying offense, but someone needs to slow the Patrick Mahomes of the world too. The Bills 2021 season preview continues with a look at the team’s defense.

The 2020 defense ranked 16th in the league in points allowed, giving up 375. They were 14th in the league in total yards allowed, including 13th versus the pass and 17th against the run. The team was 12th in defensive DVOA last season. As a reminder, DVOA is a Football Outsiders metric that measures a team’s efficiency by comparing success on every single play to a league average based on situation and opponent.

By traditional and advanced statistics, the Bills defense was somewhere between average and slightly above average in 2020. The team could not slow down Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC title game, losing 38-24. That is not the whole story of the game, of course, and keeping the Chiefs off the scoreboard is much easier said than done.

The team has shown that they are committed to employing as many resources as possible to slow down the league’s best offenses. General manager Brandon Beane knows that the Bills offense is poised to be spectacular, and hopes additions to the defense will balance out the team.

“Continuity is probably the thing that’s gotten better and better, being able to keep so many guys that some of them we thought we were going to lose last year,” Beane said to reporters. “Offensively, I think we’ve kind of built it similar to how we did last season. And then defensively, the biggest difference is up front. We’ve really focused on retaining the back end, the back seven, and then strengthening this front four, and being able to rush in waves.

The idea of pressuring Mahomes, in particular, comes from anyone watching what the Bucs did to him in the Super Bowl last season. Last year was a massive success for Buffalo, but now the pressure is on to rise to even greater heights. It seems the offense can only ascend so much further in 2021. It is incumbent on the defense to go to the next level.

The Bills draft strategy was clear early on – get rushers to harass Mahomes and other elite quarterbacks in the league. The team selected Gregory Rousseau out of the University of Miami with its first-round pick. The defensive end was the 30th overall selection and is expected to slide into the defensive line rotation immediately. Rousseau had a number of disruptive plays during the Bills pre-season and appears ready to wreak havoc on opposing offenses.

— PFF College (@PFF_College) August 21, 2021

The Bills doubled down in the second round by selecting Carlos Basham out of Wake Forest. Another defensive end, “Boogie” may not be a contributor immediately but is seen as someone who could help as the season goes on. The team’s depth chart lists him behind a number of veterans.

Among those are returning ends Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison. At defensive tackle, the team is expecting to have Ed Oliver and Star Lotulelei start. Both are former first-round selections, giving Buffalo a ton of pedigree along the line. Former second-round pick A.J. Epenesa rounds out a suddenly deep position group for the Bills.

The linebacking group will be led by fourth-year player Tremaine Edmunds. The former first-round pick made the Pro Bowl in 2020 after piling up 117 tackles and two sacks. Matt Milano and Taron Johnson will join Edmunds in the starting lineup. There is some depth at linebacker with A.J. Klein figuring to be seeing a lot of snaps. He registered 75 tackles in 11 starts last year.

The secondary remains intact from 2020 when Tre’Davious White, Jordan Poyer, Levi Wallace, and Micah Hyde combined to start 57 games. White is widely considered one of the league’s best playmaking corners. The former LSU Tiger picked off three passes a year ago, en route to a Pro Bowl selection. White came in at number 95 on the NFL Network’s Top 100 players countdown.

Leslie Frazier will return for his fifth season as the Bills defensive coordinator. He does not need to produce a reproduction of the 1985 Bears to be successful. Buffalo will need to improve on defense to take the final step. With some returning stars, fresh pass-rushing options, and a lot of depth, the Bills defense may just do that.

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Steelers vs. Bills: Who the experts are taking in Week 1

Buffalo Rumblings 08 September, 2021 - 12:32pm

Dec 13, 2020; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) throws a pass as Buffalo Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes (55) rushes in the second quarter at Bills Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Dion Dawkins #73 of the Buffalo Bills looks to make a block against the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)

The Pittsburgh Steelers begin their 2021 season against the Buffalo Bills. It will be an away game for the black and gold as they hope to start the season on the right foot.

It is an immediate test for this team as the Bills are one of the top squads in the AFC heading into the year. They have a strong offense led by quarterback Josh Allen, and their defense is a strong unit as well. This is a nice team that has been rebuilt to contending status. It is the first time this franchise has been promising since those 1990s teams with quarterback Jim Kelly and Co.

That contention status has not allowed for Pittsburgh to be the majority when it comes to who the experts are favoring in this game. The Bills are expected to win this game even though some had trouble choosing them over the away club.

The Steelers have some question marks across their team and that has prompted questions of what kind of team they are. It seems likely they will still be playoff contenders even though they have some issues currently. Their offensive line is suspect and unproven at the moment, but if that can be solved, then this will be a solid offense going forward.

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Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has come under scrutiny yet again, but he has proven that this offense can still move with him under center during the preseason. The defense should still be a good group despite them losing some key contributors this past offseason.

If the Steel City team can show these issues are irrelevant or none existent, then this club will secure a lot more predictions in their favor soon.

But for now, let’s dive into this crucial Week 1 matchup that’ll set the tone.

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