Pendlebury was well down on his best for a second week as Essendon notched an 18-point victory over the Pies in the Anzac Day game.
The decorated midfielder had 20 disposals, three clearances and four tackles but lacked his usual impact and spent a significant portion of the game up forward.
Pendlebury was also quiet during their loss to St Kilda last week, spending extended time on the interchange bench during a critical third quarter.
With the Magpies’ record dropping to 1-4 ahead of a must-win clash against the unbeaten Geelong, Buckley is hoping for better output from a man who has so often carried his side.
“I spoke to him during the week and he said that he wasn’t feeling great in the (Saints) game but there was nothing from an injury perspective,” Buckley said.
“We rely on our leaders to stand up, and Pendles would be dirty on his performance. He’d be dirty about where we’re at. We’ll find out how dirty in five days’ time against the Cats.”
Speaking after the game, Pendlebury insisted he was not carrying any niggles and said his time spent outside of the midfield was the result of Daniel Wells coming into the side.
“It’s just rotations. I started forward and then I went forward a little bit in the third,” he said.
“With Wellsy coming in, it gives us the flexibility to put more midfielders forward and I thought Wellsy was fantastic today in his first game for the club.”
While Adam Treloar (39 disposals) toiled hard against the Bombers, Buckley said fellow on-ballers Taylor Adams and Steele Sidebottom as players who also needed to lift against the Cats.
“We just weren’t able to hold sway through the middle of the field as much as we normally do,” Buckley said.
“You don’t often get bad games out of those guys but we’ve got a couple of bad games out of those blokes all at once.”
Buckley admitted his forward line remains a significant work in progress after the Pies again kicked more behinds than goals.
The under-pressure coach said young forward Josh Smith would be recalled to face the Cats after quiet games from Darcy Moore and Mason Cox.
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