ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Marv Levy credited "45 stout hearts and the north wind" for making his debut as head coach of the Buffalo Bills a successful one.
Actually, 43 Buffalo Bills and a strong west-southwest wind were involved Sunday in the Bills' 16-12 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. But Levy could be forgiven for his inaccuracies, considering the unsettling circumstances of taking over a 2-7 team in midseason.
"A person comes into a situation very apprehensive about what might happen the first time out there and his team does not have a good record," said Levy, who replaced the fired Hank Bullough as Bills head coach last Monday.
But the Bills, maybe because they handled the steady 35-m.p.h. wind at Rich Stadium better than the visiting Steelers, overcame the uncertainty before a crowd of 72,000 fans.
"Obviously, the wind was a factor, maybe more for us than for them," acknowledged Steeler Coach Chuck Noll, whose team, like the Bills, is now 3-7. "It was tough to control the ball going either way."
Robb Riddick, a four-year veteran used mainly as a reserve, gained 108 yards in 25 carries in place of injured Greg Bell. It was the first 100-yard game for Riddick, who scored on a five-yard run to give the Bills a 13-0 halftime lead.
The Bills scored early on a three-yard pass from Jim Kelly to Andre Reed, but the extra-point attempt was wide left after a high snap.
Pittsburgh was hurt by two missed extra-point attempts after their touchdowns, a 5-yard run by Earnest Jackson and an 11-yard pass from Mark Malone to Weegie Thompson. Punter Harry Newsome, the holder on both extra-point tries, mishandled both snaps.
Jackson's touchdown came one play after Buffalo's Eric Richardson fumbled away the second-half kickoff. The Steelers' second touchdown came after a five-yard punt into the wind gave them the ball at the Bills' 29.
A 29-yard field goal by Buffalo's Scott Norwood early in the fourth quarter completed the scoring.
Neither team passed well in windy conditions. Kelly completed 11 of 22 for 95 yards, and Malone was 18 of 36 for 142 yards.
The Steelers, going against the wind, gained only five yards in the first quarter and did not gain a first down until 2:08 before halftime.