ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) – Even missing key players and being very banged up the past few weeks, the Bills did what they were supposed to do and that’s blow out the Steelers who were 14 point underdogs coming into the game.
The Bills won 38-3 and got some big contributions from their young players taking advantage of the opportunities with so many guys out dealing with injuries.
It was a big day for the 2022 rookie class as wide receiver Khalil Shakir and running back James Cook scored their first career touchdowns while cornerback Kaiir Elam caught his first career interception.
Offensively the Bills were without Dawson Knox, Isaiah McKenzie, Jamison Crowder and Jake Kumerow. That opened the door for Shakir to make an impact both on offensive and special teams. Shakir ended with three catches for 75 yards and a 24-yard touchdown with 1:02 left in the first half.
“I definitely had nerves going in, I mean the crowd, the environment but it’s good, it’s a good thing. Those vibes that I got going on and then when I ran out of the tunnel it was just crazy and I had to settle down, breathe a little bit,” Shakir said after the game.
Shakir also had a 34-yard kickoff return as well.
Cook’s 24-yard touchdown run came with 14:03 to go in the fourth quarter. He’s had a tough start to his time in the NFL struggling with drops and fumbling on his first career carry in the opener against the Rams so this had to be a big confidence booster moving forward.
“I think it was a good read by him, good cut, the o-line did a good job and it looked like he had some blocking down the field so those plays happen not just because of one person but because of the overall effort in that case on the offense but habits carry over from the way you practice to the game,” Sean McDermott said in his postgame press conference.
“So proud of the way he practiced, proud of the way he prepared.”
On Saturday the Bills signed Isaiah Hodgins to the 53-man roster and he ended with four catches for 41 yards. Tight end Quintin Morris, who had an impressive training camp, got involved as well with three catches for 39 yards. He did fumble at the goal line that Pittsburgh recovered with 5:29 to go in the third quarter. But overall it’s tough to find things to criticize offensively on a day when Josh Allen throws for 424 yards and four touchdowns.
The defense dominated as well only allowing three points and that field goal came in the first quarter. And that side of the ball was also missing a number of starters with Jordan Poyer and Tremaine Edmunds ruled out for this game on Friday. Plus Christian Benford is still recovering after having surgery on his broken hand.
Elam started opposite of Dane Jackson and as expected for a rookie cornerback, he was picked on and targeted a lot in this game. While he did give up some big plays, he also came up with an interception with 23 seconds to go in the first half. And after the game he was the first to point out he didn’t have his best game despite the pick.
“I didn’t play to my potential,” Elam said in the locker room following the game.
But he did acknowledge it feels good to get the first interception out of the way.
“It’s a blessing, I was so living in the past when I got it I didn’t know what to do but next one I’m definitely gonna celebrate some more with my teammates,” Elam said.
Damar Hamlin also started his third straight game and had a solid night with eight tackles, tied for third most on the team and one tackle for loss.