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It worked in sleet one day last January. A week later, it worked in snow. Twice this month it has worked in steamy heat rising off artificial turf. It works with a gimpy starting quarterback, or with a healthy backup under center. It works with stars at the receiver spots, or with subs spread wide—as the famous Don Beebe (you know, the Don Beebe from Chadron State) proved on Sunday. The Bills' no-huddle offense is the most startling innovation on the field since Buddy Ryan, then of the Bears, sicced his 46 defense on the NFL seven years ago.
"Our offense is like a runaway train," said Beebe after Buffalo routed the Steelers 52-34 at Rich Stadium. A third-round draft pick in 1989, Beebe had a modest 28 catches after two years with the Bills and was almost cut in the preseason this year. So, naturally, he caught four touchdown passes against Pittsburgh. It's so nuts, this offense, that you wouldn't raise an eyebrow even if Buffalo's burly tight end Keith McKeller made four TD catches.
The Steelers had the league's top defense in 1990, and they had all their troops ready for the Bills. You wouldn't have known it, however, by looking at Buffalo's offensive statistics: 31 first downs, 537 yards, six TD passes by Jim Kelly. Despite playing on a tender left ankle, which he sprained in the preseason, Kelly threw for 363 yards and completed a career-high 31 passes. A year ago, Pittsburgh went 12 games before giving up its sixth touchdown pass. "They made us look like babies," said Rod Woodson, the Steelers' All-Pro cornerback.
The Buffalo offense has entered a zone that teams pass through but seldom remain in for long. When Kelly drops back now, he has more options and more open receivers than he knows what to do with. After Pittsburgh had closed to 31-27 at the end of three quarters, the Bills scored three TDs in six minutes. In that run, Kelly had trouble choosing plays because they were all working so well.
Steeler defensive line coach Joe Greene said Sunday his team was out of its neighborhood against the Bills. It's a pretty exclusive neighborhood. In fact, no one else lives there right now.
Tell Him, Terry
Terry Bradshaw has this message for Joe Montana: Do as I say, not as I did. After playing the 1982 season with chronic muscle deterioration in his throwing elbow, Bradshaw underwent surgery in March 1983 to have the muscle reattached to the bone. But in trying to come back from the injury too soon, the man who quarter-backed the Steelers to four Super Bowl championships ruined his elbow and played in just one more game, late in the '83 season, before retiring.
"Joe's injury is to a tendon, not a muscle, but I hear it's severe," Bradshaw said on Sunday night. On Monday the 49ers announced that Montana probably would miss more than the four weeks they had thought would be needed for his frayed elbow tendon to heal. He will not try to throw for at least another week, and if there has been no progress made in his recovery, surgery would be a consideration.
"If I could say one thing to Joe," Bradshaw said, "I'd say this: Don't be pressured into coming back too soon. Don't be forced to come back by the performance of Steve Young. Don't jeopardize a career for something that can be fixed. Who cares if it takes all year?"