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Steelers-Bills set for magical, snowy, cold Wild Card matchup

Pittsburgh will travel to Orchard Park to kick off their playoff run.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Buffalo Bills

Thursday update: The U.S. National Weather Service has officially issued a Winter Storm Watch in Wyoming, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, and Southern Erie counties in effect from Saturday through Monday.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are set to travel to Orchard Park, New York this week for a Super Wild Card Weekend matchup against the Buffalo Bills. Though Pittsburgh’s standing as the No. 7 seed ensures they’ll be playing road games throughout the playoffs, they’ll at least be set to play in some conditions they’re somewhat familiar with — cold, snowy and windy.

Just under a week out from the game, AccuWeather is projecting a high of 24*F with 3.5 inches of snow and winds of 28 mph, including gusts of up to 50 mph. The “RealFeel” temperature for the game? 0 — a big, ol’ goose egg. It’s gonna be a cold one, folks!

Though the cold and wind may not be overly conducive to the passing game, the conditions could set Pittsburgh up for a prime opportunity to do what they’ve done best in the second half of the season — run the ball.

Since Week 10, the Steelers have ranked sixth in the league averaging 142.9 rushing yards per game with running backs Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren leading the charge. Harris, in particular, has embraced a heavy workload in the second half of the season, ranked second among running backs with 155 carries in that span, totaling 653 rushing yards (5th) and 6 rushing touchdowns (t-7th). In that span, both Harris and Warren ranked top-five in rush yards over expected with 107 and 130 rush yards over expected, respectively, per NFL Next Gen Stats.

Of course, for as much as a snowy and cold game could set the stage for the Steelers run game, it will do the same for the Bills, with second-year breakout running back James Cook and quarterback Josh Allen — a dynamic 1-2 punch on the ground. Cook ranks third among running backs this season with 1,122 rushing yards (1,567 scrimmage yards), having been a focal point of the offense since the team installed Joe Brady as their interim offensive coordinator in mid-November. Meanwhile, Allen ranks third among quarterbacks with 605 rushing yards, while tied to lead all quarterbacks with 15 scores on the ground.

Since 2016, the Steelers have played in two games where it was snowing at kickoff, both of them having been against the Bills in Buffalo. Those games yielded mixed results, having won (27-20) back in Week 14 of the 2016 season but losing (15-26) in Week 14 of 2020. Of course, both of those games were in the Ben Roethlisberger era — a much different time in Steelers' history. Steelers are 7-1 since 2014 in outdoor games with sub-30-degree temps at kickoff, with the one loss under such circumstances having come against the Jaguars in the Divisional Round of the 2017 NFL Playoffs.

The Steelers and Bills will kick off Sunday, January 14 at 1 p.m. ET, airing on CBS. Pittsburgh currently sits as 10-point road underdogs, with the over/under set at 35.5.