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Pollock column: Bills couldn’t have looked much worse; Portville connection shines for Steelers



Bills couldn’t have looked much worse


That’s the only word to describe the Bills’ performance in their second preseason game, a 27-15 mistake-fest embarrassment at the hands of the Steelers Saturday night at Pittsburgh’s Acrisure Stadium.

If football success is the product of all three units — offense, defense and special teams — so is unmitigated disaster.

Each of those Buffalo platoons added many dirty hands to last night’s deplorable effort.

When it was over, the Bills had committed a numbing 13 penalties, 12 of them in the first half when the starters and second stringers were playing.

And don’t be fooled by that final score. Buffalo’s two touchdowns were oh-by-the-way fourth-quarter scores after Pittsburgh was up 27-0.

The Bills’ offense didn’t score when the top two units were on the field mostly because it committed seven infractions: four false starts, an unnecessary roughness, a hold and an illegal block. Twice that crew started plays with only 10 players on the field.

Buffalo’s ‘D’ was called for three pass interference infractions and a low block before intermission.

The special teams? They endured a partially-blocked punt, a muffed kickoff return and surrendered a 54-yard punt return plus having a lousy night returning kickoffs.

And, oh yeah, backup quarterback Matt Barkley, who followed last week’s glittering performance against the Colts by throwing three interceptions and losing a fumble, collided with running back Latavius Murray on a routine handoff.

AFTERWARD, a clearly frustrated Sean McDermott recounted his aggravation.

“Absolutely unacceptable,” the seventh-year head coach said of his team’s performance. “I thought we addressed it last week when we started pulling guys out of the play at training camp, but obviously that didn’t get the job done … guys have got to take ownership and responsibility (for their mistakes).

“It’s not like we don’t talk about discipline … that’s a part of our environment but there’s more work to do there.”

He added, “It’s got to start in practice. Sometimes you don’t play like you practice, but in this case it happens in practice. We’re pulling guys out and it’s still not getting done. So I’ve got to figure out something there … it’s my responsibility.

“They outcoached us, they outplayed us, they wanted it more than we did and that was evident from the way that they played.”

McDermott concluded, “On top of that we were beating ourselves with penalties, getting off the field (on third down), three-and-out on offense… This is something we have to get an education from, take that out of this, learn from it and keep our eyes and ears open.”

One thing he did not address was whether starters will play next Saturday’s preseason finale at Chicago. Normally, the first stringers sit out the last exhibition game, but it’s doubtful McDermott wants his starters’ last memory of a game to be Saturday night’s fiasco.

SOME OTHER observations from one of Buffalo’s worst preseason defeats in recent memory as the Bills trailed 14-0, almost entirely due to mistakes,  less than five minutes into the game.

•  The silent hope of teams is that they don’t lose a key player in an exhibition game, but that might have happened to the Bills against the Steelers. Backup offensive tackle Tommy Doyle suffered a left knee injury that was serious enough he was carted off the field. Worse, he had just recovered from a right knee problem that kept him out of most of last season.

If Doyle is out, it merely exacerbates Buffalo’s problem at tackle where Spencer Brown, the starter on the right side, had an awful night with a hold and illegal block in a span of three snaps and left tackle Dion Dawkins hardly distinguished himself against the Steelers’ defensive front.

Just this week, Brandon Shell, counted on to be the No. 3 tackle, unexpectedly retired. Doyle was supposed to be No. 4. Now Buffalo is short at the position with David Quessenberry and Ryan Van Demark the current survivors if Doyle’s injury is long-term.

•  A familiar name was trotted out by the Steelers. Cole Holcomb got a start at inside linebacker for Pittsburgh. Holcomb’s parents are Portville natives and moved to Florida before Cole was born. He starred at North Carolina and was drafted by the then-Redskins in the fifth round. When his rookie contract expired this past offseason, he left Washington and signed a three-year contract with the Steelers.

Holcomb tipped a Barkley pass that was intercepted and was also credited with three tackles, one for a loss.

(Chuck Pollock, a Wellsville Sun senior sports columnist, can be reached at

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