EJ Manuel finished 17-for-27 for 148 yards, equating to 5.5 yards per attempt. That would have ranked second-lowest among his games last season, behind only his 3.9 yards per attempt in his first tilt with the Steelers. After the game, Manuel explained that, "they were dropping seven [defenders], man. You gotta take what the defense gives you. They were dropping guys. There's no reason to necessarily force throws or anything. I think that's a sign of my maturity, knowing that if they want to drop guys, get the check down, let Fred [Jackson] take 18 yards." Jackson was the Bills' leading receiver in the first half, with seven catches for 28 yards, but it's debatable whether that's an ideal situation for the offense. Opposing defenses will be more than happy this season to take away Sammy Watkins and Mike Williams on the outside and let Manuel dump-off to Jackson and tight end Scott Chandler, who were Manuel's leading receivers Saturday night.
Manuel and the Bills' first-team offense went 5-for-9 on third downs, which was one of the few offensive bright spots on the night. Yet in four trips into Steelers' territory, they came away with just six points -- on two field goals. That has to be frustrating for coach Doug Marrone, who implemented an extra 7-on-7 red zone period into each training camp practice. "Just gotta go back to the drawing board," Manuel said. "Past two weeks now, or third week being that this is our third game, we just got to capitalize. Truly because we need to get that fixed obviously before we play Chicago."
Asked after the game if he was satisfied with his backup quarterback situation, Marrone simply responded, "No." With good reason. After some signs of promise last season, Thad Lewis has slipped considerably this preseason. He went 1-for-6 in the third quarter Saturday, was intercepted once and finished with a 0.0 quarterback rating. We're reaching a point with Lewis where his roster spot could be in jeopardy. Remember it was just before final cuts last season when the Bills traded for Lewis so the team has shown a willingness to add a quarterback late. Jeff Tuel went 5-for-9 for 48 yards in late-game action. If the season started today, I'd peg him as the backup.
Another player who's roster spot may not be secure: Alan Branch. After starting 13 games last season, Branch didn't see the field until the fourth quarter, a trend that has continued from the first two preseason games. Branch, who skipped voluntary OTAs and failed his conditioning test upon reporting to training camp, admitted he wasn't expecting to play at that point in the game. "Yeah, I was pretty surprised," Branch said. "That's coach's decision. That has nothing to do with me. I just have to keep on practicing and doing what I can to go ahead and try to make the team, I guess." Marrone didn't rule out the possibility of cutting ties with Branch, who signed a three-year extension last December, saying after the game that he'd meet with general manager Doug Whaley about Branch and other roster decisions.