Steelers Clinch Playoff Berth; Face Bills on Sunday

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Steelers LB Elandon Roberts. Image Credit: Vince Butts/UMT.

By Ray Porter Jr.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2023 regular season can be summed up in one word: Resilient. They have dealt with injuries, struggles on offense, a transition at Offensive Coordinator, and losses to teams like the Arizona Cardinals, New England Patriots, and Indianapolis Colts. Many thought this team was done and that the dismissal of head coach Mike Tomlin was possible.

But to reference Mark Twain, the reports of the Steelers’ demise were greatly exaggerated as they rebounded from a 3-game losing streak to finish the regular season on a 3-game winning streak and a 10-7 record thanks to the Tennessee Titans’ defeat of the Jacksonville Jaguars, the #7th Seeded-Steelers have earned a trip to the NFL playoffs for the first time since the 2021 season as they will face the Buffalo Bills during the NFL’s Super Wild Card Weekend next Sunday, Jan. 14, in Buffalo at 1:00 p.m. ET on CBS.

The Bills became the Steelers Wild Card Playoff opponent after they beat the Miami Dolphins 21-14 on Sunday Night Football and clinched the AFC East Division and #2 seed.

The Steelers know that they will be entering a hostile environment at Highmark Stadium, as the Bills were 7-2 at home in the regular season. Their challenges will be Pro Bowl QB Josh Allen, WR Stefon Diggs on offense, and a defense that finished the regular season with 54 sacks. Meanwhile, the resurgent Steelers finished the regular season with a 5-3 record on the road and a spark on offense when Tomlin benched veteran QB Mitch Trubisky (starting QB Kenny Pickett was recovering from injury) for veteran Mason Rudolph, who amazingly led the Steelers to 3-straight wins over the Cincinnati Bengals, Seattle Seahawks, and Baltimore Ravens en route to the postseason. RB Najee Harris eclipsed the 1,000 mark with back-to-back 100-plus yard performances, and WR Geroge Pickens eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in only his second year.

The defense is led by All-Pro LB TJ Watt (NFL-leading 19 sacks), but the NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate most likely will not be available next Sunday as he suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain after colliding with a teammate in the win vs. the Ravens. The Steelers are getting some good news as All-Pro S Minkah Fitzpatrick (hamstring) and fellow safety Damonte Kazee (suspension) could return in time for Sunday.

In their Postseason history, the Steelers lead the Bills 2-1 as they won in 1974 and 1995 and the Bills won in 1992. This will be the first time that the Steelers have played the Bills in Buffalo in the postseason.

Whether the Steelers can continue to defy the odds remains to be seen, but they will be able to show their moves since they are invited to the dance.

Notes: The AFC North (Ravens-13-4, Cleveland Browns 11-6, Steelers-10-7, Bengals-9-8) becomes the first division since 1935 to have all teams finish above .500

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