After a slight delay, it is time for playoff football for the Steelers. They face a daunting task, travelling to the home of the hottest team in the NFL, the Buffalo Bills. How can Pittsburgh become the second No. 7 seed of the weekend to advance to the divisional round? Here’s how:
1. Ride the run game
The elements from the lake-effect snow storm that got the game moved to Monday in the first place are going to play a factor. I highly doubt we see a western shootout between Mason Rudolph and Josh Allen, and that’s fine. The Steelers have rushed for 357 yards over their last two games, including consecutive 100 yard games from Najee Harris. Ride these two fantastic running backs against a Bills defense that finished 24th in EPA per rush. If Pittsburgh can sustain drives in that manner, watch out,
2. Force turnovers
We have talked all year about the Steelers’ need for takeaways isn’t a sustainable way to win. Well, they’re facing a Bills team that gave the ball away 28 times this season, so the opportunities will present themselves. It’s not about just getting takeaways, though- they have to turn them into points. Realistically speaking, Josh Allen can throw an interception or two in this game and the Bills can still win rather handedly; that’s just the truth, they’ve done it all year. Pittsburgh needs to turn whatever takeaways they do get into touchdowns. Because yes, Allen could very well make mistakes that keep the Steelers in it, but if they don’t execute on those turnovers, he will execute the Steelers when all is said and done.
3. Control time of possession
This somewhat goes hand-in-hand with No. 1. If you go back to the Bills’ first Super Bowl appearance against the New York Giants, New York had a very obvious gameplan — keep Jim Kelly and the Bills’ offense on the sideline. The Giants held the ball for 40:33, giving Buffalo only 19:27 of possession. The Steelers need to replicate that gameplan. Run the clock, sustain long, painstaking drives, and do all you can to get the Bills off the field in a timely manner. Who cares if it’s ugly, every Steelers’ win over the last two years (save for the first two starts for Rudolph this season) has been ugly. Force turnovers, run the clock, and win a low-scoring game in the miserable January winter conditions.