The Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills went head-to-head on Sunday Night Football in Week 15 with huge playoff implications on the line. A win by Buffalo secure their spot in the postseason, where a Steelers win would make their playoff berth an almost certainty.
A lot on the line for these two AFC contenders, and the Steelers won the opening coin toss and elected to receive the football to start the third quarter, putting Josh Allen and the Buffalo offense on the field to start the game.
Allen and company were able to manufacture a couple first downs, but after a failed 3rd and 5 play they punted the ball away to Devlin Hodges and the Steelers’ offense. James Conner’s return was started by a nifty 15 yard run to open the possession, but on a 3rd and 15 Hodges’ pass intended for James Washington was intercepted by Tre’Davious White.
The interception, which served almost as a punt, had the Bills starting their second possession on their own 25-yard line. After just one first down it was another Buffalo punt which resulted. Pittsburgh’s possession was brief and Jordan Berry’s first punt was a 22-yard shank, giving the Bills tremendous field position.
Allen took little time moving the ball into the red-zone, and eventually taking it in himself on a 1st and goal play from the 1 yard line. The score, and point-after, put the Bills up 7-0 in the early moments of the second quarter.
Hodges was able to finally connect on a big play to James Washington on the Steelers’ opening drive, but the end result was nothing more than a Chris Boswell 49-yard field goal making the score 7-3 with 11:26 left in the second quarter.
Both teams exchanged punts before Josh Allen’s pass intended for Cole Beasley sailed high, and was tipped into the hands of Steven Nelson for the Steelers’ interception. Nelson returned the ball to set up the offense inside the red-zone for the first time.
On the next play from scrimmage the Steelers ran a wildcat play, but a low snap threw the play off time and Diontae Johnson fumbled the handoff, giving the ball right back to the Bills. The Bills would run out the half and the score stood 7-3 heading into halftime.
The Steelers received the ball to start the third quarter, and Pittsburgh opened up the offense for Duck Hodges on the opening drive. A big pass to Diontae Johnson, followed up by a big James Conner run put the Steelers in the red-zone with relative ease. Hodges then hit Conner on a swing pass and he was able to make a defender miss as he walked into the end-zone.
The Chris Boswell point-after was good, giving the Steelers a 10-3 lead in the early portion of the third quarter.
The ebb and flow of the game continued in the third quarter when Allen looked as if he was ready to respond to the Steelers’ touchdown with a scoring drive of his own. On a nifty draw to Devin Singletary it looked as if he had a first down, and then some, but T.J. Watt tracked him down from behind causing a fumble which was recovered by Mike Hilton.
Pittsburgh’s offense couldn’t even muster a first down off the turnover, and another awful Jordan Berry punt gave the Bills solid field position for their next drive. Cameron Heyward took over on the Bills’ next drive and the Steelers’ defense forced another punt.
It looked promising for the Steelers on their next drive, but Hodges got greedy on an out route pass intended for Diontae Johnson, but was intercepted by Tre’Davious White again. White returned the ball inside the red-zone, but Buffalo had to settle for a field goal to tie the game at 10 with 12:23 remaining in regulation.
Following another Steelers’ 3-and-out, Allen hit John Brown for a huge 40-yard gain over Steven Nelson. Following nice Singletary run, Allen hit Tyler Kroft in the corner of the end zone for the go-ahead score. After the point-after the Bills lead 17-10 with just 7:55 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Both teams had their hand at a three-and-out, but with 5:13 left in the game it was Hodges’ chance to get the Steelers back in the game. Hodges went to his favorite target, James Washington, down the sideline for a big play. What followed was the Steelers going the opposite way instead of closer to pay dirt. On 4th and 7, from the 23 yard line, Hodges’ pass was intercepted, his third of the game, and it gave the Bills the ball with a chance to ice the game away.
The Bills couldn’t run their way to a first down, and a win, and had to punt the ball back to Pittsburgh with 1:30 left in regulation. With no timeouts remaining, combined with a facemask penalty on James Conner, put the Steelers in Buffalo territory quickly. Hodges would throw his fourth interception of the game to end the game.
The loss to the Bills moves their record to 8-6 and puts a huge dent in the Steelers’ postseason plans, but thanks to a loss by the Tennessee Titans in Week 15, they remain in the 6th spot in the AFC Playoff Picture. They now have to turn their attention to back-to-back road games starting with a trip to New York to play the Jets.