PITTSBURGH (AP)—The Buffalo Bills were desperate to honor injured teammate Kevin Everett by giving him an unexpected get-well present, a road victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Emotion, heart and enthusiasm took them only so far on a day their offense went nowhere.
Willie Parker ran for a touchdown and 126 yards and Ben Roethlisberger threw for a score as the Steelers controlled the clock and the tempo while pulling away from Buffalo for a 26-3 victory Sunday. It was the Bills’ first game since Everett badly injured his spinal cord on a hit against Denver. He watched parts of the game from his hospital room.
The Bills, wearing Everett No. 85 T-shirts under their jerseys that will be sold for charity, stood up physically to the favored Steelers in a game reminiscent of the teams’ tough matchups of the mid-1970s, when Hall of Fame running backs O.J. Simpson and Franco Harris matched difficult yards.
A quarter-century later, quarterback J.P. Losman couldn’t generate any offense, as Buffalo was outgained 421-223 and Pittsburgh held the ball nearly 70 percent of the time. The Steelers, whose first four scores came on Jeff Reed field goals, finally took control with the only two touchdowns in the final quarter and a half.
“Everyone had their hearts filled with love for Kevin—we just have to go out and play better than we did,” safety Jim Leonhard said. “We played real hard that first half, we didn’t give up touchdowns. But you have to get off the field on third downs or that starts to wear on you.”
Parker, whose first career 100-yard game helped eliminate Buffalo from the playoffs to end the 2004 regular season, got the tough yards when the Steelers (2-0) couldn’t throw effectively early. He has three consecutive 100-yard games dating to last season.
“Their defensive ends pass rush 100 percent all the time, so I knew it was going to leave a hole in the gap (to the outside), and that’s where I ran,” Parker said.
Mike Tomlin won his home opener as the Steelers’ coach, just as Bill Cowher (1992) and Chuck Noll (1969) did. Tomlin also matched Cowher by winning his first two games. The Bills (0-2) lost their fourth in a row dating to last season.
It was an emotionally draining week for the Bills, who initially feared Everett might be paralyzed and then rejoiced as better news arrived each day. Everett was moving his legs, his hips and, by the end of the week, several fingers.
Still, it made for a difficult and distracting week of preparation to play a Steelers team that appears determined to make up for its post-Super Bowl 8-8 season of last year.
“I don’t want to use it as an excuse,” wide receiver Lee Evans said. “We didn’t play very well, especially on the offensive side of the ball. It really didn’t take a toll on us. We just didn’t play well.”
Pittsburgh outgained Buffalo 239-50—including 155-9 on passing yards—in the first half. The Bills were without injured defensive regulars Ko Simpson, Coy Wire and Jason Webster. But the Steelers couldn’t get into the end zone until late in the third quarter on Roethlisberger’s second TD pass in as many games to rookie tight end Matt Spaeth. Roethlisberger was 21-of-34 for 242 yards and one interception.
“We kept putting 3s on the board, but at least we were doing that while we ran the clock off,” guard Alan Faneca said. “We definitely would have liked to get in the end zone a couple of times. It stings a little bit when you’re only putting 3s up.”
Through two Steelers victories, Roethlisberger has five TD passes and an interception. A year ago, following a motorcycle crash and an appendectomy, he had five interceptions and no TD passes while losing his two starts.
Losman had only two completions for 5 yards until late in the third quarter. He finished 15-of-25 for 154 yards.
A week after Everett was hurt, the Steelers got a scare of their own when outside linebacker James Harrison lay motionless on the field with a neck injury for several minutes at halftime. But he was back on the sideline, walking freely, midway through the third quarter, and tests showed no serious problems.
“It made you a little nervous after what happened last week,” defensive end Aaron Smith said.
Pittsburgh has allowed 10 points in two games. The defense has 10 sacks. … Of Roethlisberger’s first 11 completions, nine were to different receivers. … The Steelers wore throwback uniforms modeled after those worn in the 1950s and 1960s, with gold helmets and white pants. … The Bills haven’t won a regular season game in Pittsburgh since 1975, though they knocked Cowher’s first team out of the playoffs in 1992. … Buffalo has allowed 890 yards in two games. … The Steelers won their 500th game, the most among AFC teams. They are 500-474-20 in 75 seasons.