The Steelers play the Buffalo Bills this week in the Super Wild Card round of the 2024 NFL Playoffs. The Bills are the No. 2 seed in the AFC and boast a strong roster with plenty of talent that will be a threat for the Steelers to handle on Monday afternoon — no matter what the weather looks like.
Here are 10 players on the Buffalo Bills’ roster to keep your eye on heading into the NFL Playoffs.
QB Josh Allen
Josh Allen is undeniably one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, and he’s made a legitimate MVP case this season despite throwing a whopping 18 interceptions. But the turnovers don’t tell the full story — Allen has also thrown for 4,306 yards so far this season to go along with 29 passing touchdowns, both of which rank top-five in the NFL. He’s also added an impressive 524 yards on the ground to go along with 15 rushing touchdowns.
Allen remains as dynamic and game-changing as ever. He’s one of the few quarterbacks in the league who can single-handedly win games for his team, through both the air and the ground. You can bet he’s the Steelers’ greatest concern this week.
But don’t dismiss the interception numbers entirely. Allen deserves his praise as an elite quarterback, but with the jaw-dropping big plays and tight-window throws come a number of mistakes, as well. Allen’s overconfidence is his biggest strength as a playmaker, but it has also resulted in a rash of reckless and mistake-prone throws this season. In short, Allen’s presence is the main reason why the Bills are nine-point favorites over the Steelers, but he’s also the reason why some fans think that Pittsburgh could still emerge from Buffalo with an upset victory.
WRs Stefon Diggs and Khalil Shakir
Stefon Diggs has had a down year by his standards. The star receiver hasn’t recorded a 100-yard game since mid-October, and he’s only broken 50 yards twice in his last eight games. Still, he managed to record a thousand-yard, eight-touchdown season this year and he remains one of the NFL’s most reliable receivers and savviest route-runners. And his four-game streak of 100-plus yard games earlier this season proved that he can still perform at a very high level. Matched up against the Steelers’ Joey Porter Jr. on Monday, it’ll be a must-watch battle between the up-and-coming rookie and the star veteran. Despite Diggs’ lack of momentum entering this game, don’t forget that he’s the man behind the Minnesota Miracle. Stefon Diggs can perform in the playoffs.
Another lesser-known Bills wideout is Khalil Shakir. With Buffalo’s usual WR2, Gabe Davis, having been ruled out for Monday’s matchup, Shakir will likely have a larger role in the Bills’ offense against the Steelers. Shakir ran in the low 4.4s in his 40-yard dash coming out of college, and that speed has translated to the NFL level. Shakir has begun to develop into an excellent weapon for the Bills, recording his second 100-yard game of the season last week against the Dolphins. His speed and talent as a vertical threat will be a tough matchup for the Steelers’ veteran secondary on Monday. The last time Pittsburgh took on the Bills, Gabe Davis’ deep-threat ability resulted in a monster 171-yard, two-touchdown performance. The Steelers are hoping that Shakir doesn’t put up numbers that even come close to that on Monday.
TEs Dalton Kincaid and Dawson Knox
The Steelers have struggled against tight ends this season, and unfortunately, it doesn’t get any easier for them this week. The Bills’ Dalton Kincaid and Dawson Knox are one of the league’s premier one-two punches at the position, with the first-round rookie Kincaid really starting to come into his own over the past few weeks. The two tight ends have combined for nearly 100 receptions this year to go along with 859 receiving yards and four touchdowns.
Kincaid is athletic and the definition of a security blanket at the position. In college, he was a go-to target over the middle of the field, and he’s starting to see similar production as he settles into the Buffalo offense. Despite Elandon Roberts’ return, the Steelers are still without their top two coverage linebackers this season, meaning Kincaid and Knox, two excellent receiving tight ends, might be looking at big days on Monday.
RB James Cook
The Bills’ run game hasn’t been very strong this year outside of Josh Allen, but when it has sparked, it’s been largely due to James Cook. The younger brother of former Vikings star Dalvin Cook, James is a similarly explosive runner at his best. He rushed for 179 yards in a breakout performance against the Cowboys earlier this season. He’s cooled off significantly as a runner since, but he’s remained a consistent receiving threat out of the backfield, with 44 catches on the season.
With poor weather expected on Monday, there’s a good chance that the Bills turn to their run game more than they usually would. However, there’s a catch: Cook has had some fumbling issues throughout his young career — which even got him benched at one point this season — meaning that the slick conditions won't be doing him any favors. Expect the Steelers to be looking to exploit this potential weakness all game.
DT Ed Oliver
Ed Oliver hasn’t received as much credit as he deserves this season. He plays one of the least glamorous positions in football, and was overshadowed by the greatness of Aaron Donald and Chris Jones once again. However, Oliver had an elite season himself as an interior disruptor with 9.5 sacks — an incredible number for a defensive tackle.
Oliver is undersized for his position, but he’s remarkably strong for his weight and plenty athletic. This film room from Buffalo Rumblings really showcases his explosiveness and game-wrecking abilities. Lined up against struggling Pittsburgh center Mason Cole on Monday, Ed Oliver will be one of the top Bills players to watch when the Steelers have the football.
CB Taron Johnson
Recent second-team All-Pro Taron Johnson has long been one of the league’s best slot corners, and he’s finally getting some recognition this season. Johnson is a lockdown presence in coverage and a formidable run defender, with 98 total tackles in the regular season. He added one sack, three forced fumbles, and eight passes defensed, although he shockingly has yet to record an interception this season.
The Steelers aren’t exactly known for running much of their offense through the slot, and Johnson’s coverage ability probably won’t encourage them to change that much on Monday. However, expect the corner’s prowess in run defense to be a key matchup as Pittsburgh tries to run the Bills to the ground in the ugly weather on Monday.
S Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer
Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer are one of the league’s best safety tandems, and they’ve been that way for a number of seasons. Hyde has recorded 54 total tackles, seven passes defensed, and two interceptions this year, while Poyer has added 101 total tackles and four passes defensed. The latter has yet to intercept a pass this season, but he recorded nine picks over his past two years of football, showing that he can still be a ball-hawking threat.
Hyde and Poyer have long been the reliable backstops to the Bills’ defense, and with third safety Taylor Rapp ruled out of Monday’s game, they’ll have even more responsibility than usual this week. The Steelers’ deep passing game has made massive strides in the past three weeks, especially the connection from quarterback Mason Rudolph to wide receiver George Pickens — but Rudolph and the Pittsburgh passing offense haven’t faced a safety duo like Hyde and Poyer yet this year.
As evidenced by the uncharacteristic 10 players on this list, the Bills have plenty of talent on their roster heading into Monday’s game against the Steelers.