PITTSBURGH, PA [WKBW] — For the first time since 2007, the Buffalo Bills [9-4] will appear on Sunday night football when they visit the Pittsburgh Steelers [8-5]. With a win, the Bills will clinch just their second playoff berth since 1999. But does our sports staff think they’ll get it done?
It doesn’t get much better than this — a chance to clinch a playoff spot in prime time. For so many Bills fans, this team has already exceeded expectations. But now it’s time to see if they can seal the deal.
The Steelers defense is the best unit the Bills will play this year. Yes, I know they’ve already gone against the Patriots and Ravens. Pittsburgh forces turnovers, they get to the quarterback and as a unit capitalizes on almost every mistake their opponent makes. For the Bills on Sunday, limiting those aforementioned mistakes is of the utmost importance. In a game that will likely be low-scoring, a defensive touchdown could be the difference between a Bills win or another loss in prime time.
Coming off one of their most unimpressive offensive outings of the season, it’s hard to feel optimistic about the Bills chances against the Steelers defense. Luckily for the Bills, like their opponent, their bread and butter is on defense. With Devlin “Duck” Hodges under center for the Steelers, the Bills should also have a chance to take over the game defensively.
So this matchup, at least in my opinion, ultimately comes down to which below-average offense can give their team some wiggle room. I’ve said all week, if the Bills can score 20 points I think they’ll win this game. While I don’t think that would be impossible, the only way I see that happening is if they are playing with a short field or if they get some help with a defensive or special teams touchdown.
It’s going to be close, but I’m going with the home team because they need this game more than the Bills. We’ll see who wants it more on Sunday night.
Steelers 17, Bills 16
The Bills need to win this one. Plain and simple. Yes, I know they have three shots to grab a playoff spot with a win. But the last thing you want to do is take things down to the final week of the season, so this Sunday's game is so important not just for a playoff spot but for playoff seeding.
I don't see this one being a high scoring affair as both defenses have been so good. We've seen what the Bills can do. As far as the Steelers go, they're a unit that is at the top of the league when it comes to forcing fumbles and sacks. It's more important than ever for Allen to hold onto that ball when the Steelers blitz comes his way, and for the o-line to give Allen time to find an open man.
Both offenses have been up and down this season and I don't think either team is going to go off when it comes to capitalizing and scoring points. This one can go either way, but I do think the Bills have the edge.
Bills 16, Steelers 13
Despite last week's loss, the Bills are still in control of their own destiny. But the Steelers are one game behind them in the wild card race. I'd go as far as to say that this is a must-win game for Buffalo. And they've shown that they're capable of doing so.
The last month of football has been the Bills' best all year; including coming up short to the Ravens. The way the Bills kept Lamar Jackson contained was remarkable. Doing so against Devlin Hodges shouldn't present anywhere near as much of an issue, especially without the presence of Juju Smith-Schuster.
The key to the game is protecting Josh Allen and protecting the football. Pittsburgh has forced 33 turnovers this season-- more than any other team in the NFL. They also lead the league in sacks. Josh Allen can't afford to take unnecessary risks in the passing game and the offensive line can't afford to let Allen get beaten up like he was against Baltimore.
In several games this year, we've seen one side of the ball help carry the other to victory. This week, it'll fall on the defense. And I think they're up for the challenge.
Bills 17, Steelers 14