Niagara Gazette

Sports

November 9, 2013

Bills, Steelers seek second half traction

Niagara Gazette — PITTSBURGH — EJ Manuel. Thad Lewis. Jeff Tuel. To be honest, Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Steve McLendon doesn’t really care who the Buffalo Bills start on Sunday.

A week after the worst defensive performance in the franchise’s 81-year history in a 55-31 loss to New England, McLendon just wants to get back on the field and find a way to restore some sense of normalcy to a team getting pushed around in the midst of a 2-6 start.

“I’m not really thinking about the throwing,” McLendon said. “We gave up 55 points. People was running the ball on us. That’s what we’ve got to worry about, worry about stopping the run. Don’t worry about no quarterback, worry about who’s running the ball.”

That’s been one of the few constants for the Bills (3-6), who have one of the league’s better 1-2 punches in Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. They’ve helped keep Buffalo competitive even as a knee injury to Manuel forced Lewis and Tuel — an undrafted rookie free agent — onto the field.

“If someone told me it was going to happen I’d want it to happen now,” first-year coach Doug Marrone said. “I think that you can see the adversity that’s hit this team early on and the players are working hard and fighting through it.”

Here are five things to look for as two teams trying to either rebuild or reclaim their identities meet.

EJ DOES IT: Though Manuel returned to practice on Wednesday and took the majority of the snaps with the first team, Marrone declined to name him the starter, perhaps out of caution. Manuel, however, believes he’s good to go. That’s good news for Buffalo’s offense, which wasn’t nearly as dynamic with Manuel standing on the sideline. Though Lewis and Tuel weren’t terrible, they were sloppy. They combined for eight turnovers in four games. Manuel had just four turnovers over the same period before getting hurt.

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