A mark of a championship team is finding ways to win in different situations. The Buffalo Bills came back from 17 points on Sunday to defeat the Baltimore Ravens despite having nearly 25 percent of the team on the injury report.
Injuries are a part of football and this is adversity that the Bills have not had to face over the past several years as one of the healthier teams in the league. Being without All-Pro Tre’Davious White, and losing Micah Hyde, Tommy Doyle, and Jamison Crowder to season-ending injuries have tested the depth of this Bills team greatly.
While the Pittsburgh Steelers are a lowly 1-3, they have one of the best coaches in the league in Mike Tomlin that manages to get more out of his teams. Despite the Bills being favored by -14, this game could be far from a blowout as the Steelers are the healthier team coming into this game despite their secondary all dealing with injuries.
Below are the full injury breakdowns for each team along with projected inactives and a new feature, Banged Up Bills Best Bet.
BUFFALO BILLS INJURY REPORT
WR Jamison Crowder (Left ankle fracture)
Crowder exited the game with a left ankle fracture with 14:00 left in the third quarter on a punt return. He was hit from the outside, suggesting initially a high-ankle sprain. Unfortunately, he suffered an ankle fracture that requires surgery to stabilize the area. The Bills reported that he would be placed on IR but they were waiting to complete a corresponding roster move.
CB Christian Benford (Right-hand fracture)
Benford is set to miss a second consecutive game following surgery for a right-hand fracture suffered in the second quarter of the Week 3 game against the Miami Dolphins. Based on the designation, it appears as though he suffered a metacarpal fracture. He was out at practice last week with a brace and bandaging on but has since been without anything on, assisting kids in the field house for an event.
While he could return to play with a club as soon as Week 6, I suspect that he will return in Week 8 against Green Bay without a club.
WR Jake Kumerow (Left high-ankle sprain)
Kumerow will miss his second consecutive game following a left high-ankle sprain against the Miami Dolphins in Week 3. Based on the timelines we see for a high-ankle regarding how the team is handling the Ed Oliver injury and Kumerow’s positional demands, I suspect he will return after the bye.
S Jordan Poyer (Ribs)
Poyer was limited during the week due to sore ribs following his interception in the endzone that led to the Bills eventually kicking the game-winning field goal on Sunday. He was assessed by training staff after the play and underwent x-rays immediately after the game.
At the time, he stated that he got the wind knocked out of him but this appears to be more significant than that. Hopefully, this is more soreness than anything else rather than a broken rib or cartilage. Considering where and how he hit, I suspect a contusion, supporting the rib soreness unless we get additional information.
Unfortunately, Poyer will be out for this game as he recovers to be fully healthy for Week 6 against the Kansas City Chiefs.
TE Dawson Knox (Right foot/hamstring)
Knox had yet another injury designation added to his list of injuries this week with a hamstring issue. He left early in the first quarter during the Bills’ first offensive series that led to a field goal, entering the blue medical tent.
Unfortunately, Knox has been dealing with a midfoot sprain since Week 2 and added a back and hip issue after the Week 3 game. It isn’t clear whether he went to the tent for one of his prior injuries or the hamstring issue, though he continued to play the remainder of the game.
With a hamstring designation, the hope is that this is truly a hamstring injury and not a progression of the back/hip issue we saw last week. The sciatic nerve starts in the low back at the spinal cord with several nerve roots combining together to innervate the muscles of the leg.
Back pain frequently starts in the low back and spreads down that nerve into the buttocks, hip, thigh, and beyond. The team knows whether the back/hip and hamstring issues are separate, but looking for patterns in injury reporting designation and understanding how pain/injuries are present is key in medicine. The progression of the back/hip issue is pure speculation, but patterns do exist in injuries and the presentation of pain which leads me to this thought.
If this is truly a hamstring and I hope it is, Knox dealt with a hamstring strain in his rookie year in 2019, missing a significant chunk of the preseason. He suffered a hamstring strain in Week 10 of the 2020 season but did not miss any games.
Considering the injuries he has dealt with already through the first month of the season, it is best that he sits out this game.
WR Isaiah McKenzie (Concussion)
McKenzie suffered a concussion going over the middle with 4:54 left in the third quarter, getting hit on the left side of his helmet before going down. He was able to get up after several moments and jog off to the locker room for further assessment.
He is currently in the concussion protocol and will need to pass through the five stages in order to be cleared to return. He was out on the practice field Thursday catching balls in a red non-contact jersey, signifying that he is in Stage 4 and in a regular jersey Friday.
I expect him to be cleared from the concussion protocol by Saturday. If there is no announcement, then he will not play Sunday and remain in the concussion protocol.
In a behind-the-scenes look, McKenzie details how he felt after the hit, including noting that he could not move after the hit. To hear more about his experience, check out the latest episode of the Isaiah McKenzie show over at GoLongTD.
LB Tremaine Edmunds (Hamstring)
Edmunds popped up on the injury report with a hamstring designation, side not specified. He played in 100 percent of snaps and at no point did he require medical attention on the field. This makes it difficult to identify the side and severity. The last Bills defensive series lasted most of the fourth quarter, starting at 13:38 and ending at 4:15 with the Jordan Poyer interception.
There wasn’t any instance where he came up grabbing his leg or limping, but the extended defensive series may have led to him tweaking something. Edmunds has had two instances where he suffered hamstring injuries, one in the Wild Card round in 2020 where he missed zero games. The other instance was in Week 9, forcing him to miss the next two games.
Considering he did not practice at all this week, I don’t see how he plays in Week 5, especially against a lowly Steelers team. Give him the rest to get right for Week 6 against the Kansas City Chiefs.
DT Ed Oliver (Right high-ankle sprain)
Oliver is set to return to the starting lineup after missing three games due to a right high-ankle sprain in the Week 1 win over the Los Angeles Rams. This was the result of pivoting hard on the right foot to change directions in tackling Rams WR Cooper Kupp. It initially appeared as though it was a medial ankle sprain, but I’ve learned that if it looks like a medial ankle, it’s more likely a high ankle.
The injury still is not 100 percent, but having a month off will have allowed Oliver to regain stability to push off the ankle when driving forward and running without compensation. I expect he plays and if he does not, then there is information that we do not have that went into the decision.
DT Jordan Phillips (Left hamstring)
Phillips has missed the past two games since suffering what appeared to be a left hamstring strain during Matt Milano’s pick-six to ice the game 41-7 in Week 2. For him to miss the past two weeks isn’t uncommon for a hamstring injury when it comes to the Bills’ management of soft tissue injuries.
He was able to return to practice this week in a limited role but I don’t anticipate that he suits up, set to miss his third game. He looks to be on track to play in Week 6 against the Kansas City Chiefs and be closer to full health.
OL Justin Murray (Foot)
Murray continues to be limited with a foot injury that appeared immediately after signing with the team last week. It’s unclear whether this is related to his ankle injury from the preseason with the Cardinals, but the recent foot injury led to him being inactive last week. He finally does not have a designation and has the potential to play this week.
WR Gabe Davis (Right ankle)
Davis has been working through a right ankle injury suffered in practice on the Friday prior to Week 2 against the Tennessee Titans. This is his third injury to the ankle in three years, though only missed one game total because of it.
He has struggled at times in practice with slowing down and cutting to the right side which has limited his play, getting 4 receptions for 50 yards over the past two games. This is in comparison to 4 receptions for 88 yards and 1 TD in Week 1. Davis has also been forced to play the majority of snaps due to injuries at the wide receiver position, especially in Week 3 when Jake Kumerow went down with a high-ankle sprain.
Davis had a similar trend last year regarding his ankle injury. He suffered an ankle sprain in Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers and struggled through the injury for several weeks. He went 4 receptions for 64 yards and 0 TD’s over the next five games heading into the bye. Following the week off, he started to see the ball more consistently and appeared to be healthier, getting 27 receptions for 456 yards and 5 TD beginning in Week 8.
So while each injury is different, I do expect Davis to get healthier after the bye and increase his production as he did last year. He’s getting the targets, just needs to get the receptions. Practicing in full this week leaves no room for interpretation regarding his status for Sunday.
CB Cam Lewis (Right forearm/knee)
Lewis remains on the injury report with a right forearm issue and a knee designation. The forearm brace continues to be needed to a chronic bone infection from college and there are no specifics on the knee injury at this point.
C Mitch Morse (Right elbow)
Morse is working through a right elbow contusion suffered in Week 2 against the Tennessee Titans. Considering he is still on the injury report, there may be underlying damage due to the beating his elbows have taken over the years snapping and blocking.
He has moved well in practice and played last week against Baltimore, but hopefully, the elbow continues to improve and he falls off the injury report shortly.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS INJURY REPORT
CB Akhello Witherspoon (Hamstring)
Witherspoon suffered the hamstring strain late in Week 3 against the Cleveland Browns, missed Week 4, and was already ruled out for Week 5 on Tuesday.
S Terrell Edmunds (Concussion)
Edmunds suffered a concussion with 1:56 left in the second quarter, colliding with Jets RB Michael Carter in a helmet-to-helmet hit going out of bounds. He stayed down on the ground for several moments before getting up and going into the locker room for further evaluation.
He did not practice Wednesday followed by a limited designation Thursday and Friday, leaving him questionable for the game. He will need to be cleared by a neurologist before the team travels on Saturday, making whether he plays a true question.
CB Cam Sutton (Groin/hamstring)
Sutton has been working through a groin and hamstring issue this week after not receiving an in-game designation against the Jets in Week 4. A cornerback that has trouble with accelerating forward and moving side to side will be a ripe matchup if they can get him in man coverage. With zone, he could position himself to stay in the play, but if he’s forced to keep up with his assignment, this is where he could get burned.
He was limited in practice all week but expects to play.
S Minkah Fitzpatrick (Right knee)
Fitzpatrick suffered a right knee injury with 2:00 left in the fourth quarter while tackling Jets TE Tyler Conklin. He squared up with Conklin, dove for the tackle, and was swung around due to his momentum as Conklin was running forward. Fitzpatrick’s lower body collided with teammate Robert Spillane with Fitzpatrick landing hard, requiring medical attention.
By video, it is difficult to determine what he did to the right knee. My first thought is an MCL sprain due to how he had to cut to the left, pushing off his right to square up Conklin, but the right knee hitting the ground on the tackle may have done it as well.
He was unable to return to the game which ended with a Jets game-winning touchdown. The team has come out and stated that the knee injury has to be “managed.” Whether this means it is a previously known chronic issue or something that will take some time to heal but he can play through it remains to be seen.
Fitzpatrick’s practice participation improved throughout the week going from DNP to LP, leaving him questionable for the game. He may struggle to line up his tackles and push off the right leg along with lateral movement moving across the field. Even injured, Fitzpatrick is still better than other options the team has, but he may be vulnerable on the right side of the field or if he can be moved out of position to create space or a lane to move the ball into the secondary.
DT Cam Heyward (Elbow/right ankle)
Heyward is on the injury report with an elbow and right ankle designation. While the specifics of the elbow injury are not clear as he wears wraps on both arms, he suffered a right ankle injury with 1:44 left in the fourth quarter.
The broadcast view panned away from Heyward as he was getting injured, but there was a Jets offensive player falling to the ground near his right ankle. That same ankle was assessed on the field before he was able to walk off under his own power. He was able to return several plays later suggesting that the ankle got hit or rolled up on. This appears to be minor and the elbow injury also appears to be a non-factor, leaving Heyward ready to play Sunday.
WR Diontae Johnson (Hip)
Johnson showed up on the injury report with a hip designation Thursday that he said was lingering soreness from the Jets game Sunday. He was limited Thursday and practiced in full on Friday, further cementing that it is indeed a minor issue.
OL Mason Cole (Foot)
Cole showed up on the injury report with a foot injury Thursday, limited in practice before returning to full designation Friday.
DL Chris Wormley (Ankle)
Wormley appeared on the injury report with an ankle injury on Thursday, getting in limited practices for the remainder of the week.
CB Levi Wallace (Foot)
Wallace, the former Bills cornerback, appeared on the injury report with a foot injury Thursday. It’s not clear what he is dealing with, but Wallace suffered an ankle injury in Week 1 after colliding with teammate Devin Bush.
He has had his share of mostly ankle injuries during his time with the Bills but the exact details of this latest injury are not known. I do expect that Wallace does try to play and exact some revenge on a Bills team that was not willing to pay him what he felt he was worth.
BUFFALO BILLS PROJECTED INACTIVES
WR Jake Kumerow
CB Christian Benford
LB Tremaine Edmunds
DT Jordan Phillips
S Jordan Poyer
TE Dawson Knox
OL Justin Murray
WR Jamison Crowder (Will be moved to IR Saturday)
PITTSBURGH STEELERS PROJECTED INACTIVES
QB Mason Rudolph
G Kendrick Green
CB Akhello Witherspoon
WR Steven Sims
LB David Anenih
Banged Up Bills Best Bet
The Buffalo Bills are favored by -14 which appears to be a slam dunk pick on the Moneyline but keep in mind at -900, that will barely payout at $1. Taking the Pittsburgh Steelers at +14 on the off chance they win or cover at -110 is a better bet, but a $10 bet will only win you $9.
The best bet here is for the Buffalo Bills to win by 7-12 points going off at +400 at BetMGM. This covers you for a Bills win and if they fail to cover. On a $10 bet, this will pay out $40.
The weather will be perfect, both teams have injury issues, and have had several exciting games over the past several years despite being in different divisions.
Two variables that will factor into the outcome of this game will be injuries and the game plan. Key injuries on either side can quickly change the outcome of the game, but we saw last year in Week 1 how the Steelers upset the Bills in a 23-16 defeat.
Mike Tomlin and Sean McDermott know each other well dating back to college which is a played-out narrative by now. But the Steelers have historically played to the level of their opponent which can be a good and bad thing depending on the week. The Bills have the ability to boat race a team, but if key players are accounted for, they can struggle as we have seen the last two weeks.
While the line appears to heavily favor the Bills, I expect the Steelers to keep it close and give Buffalo a fight until the end.
Top Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)