Steelers Season Ends in 31-17 Wild Card Loss to Bills

Pittsburgh Steelers Defensive Lineman Cam Heyward #97 and Head Coach Mike Tomlin- 11/10/19 (Photo Credit: Vince Butts/UMT Sports )

By Ray Porter Jr,

ORCHARD PARK, NY–The amazing part of the 2023 Pittsburgh Steelers season was their ability to overcome adversity, whether it was injuries, coaching changes, ineffective play, or losing streaks, the Steelers showed tenacity and audacity by overcoming those challenges en route to a 10-7 record and a berth in the National Football League (NFL) playoffs.

Unfortunately, their battle ended on Martin Luther King Day (after getting rescheduled from Sunday due to inclement weather) as the Steelers fell to the Buffalo Bills 31-17 in their Wild Card Game at Highmark Stadium.

“Commend Coach (Sean) McDermott and the Buffalo Bills for a victory in a hard-fought game,” said Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin. “You know, I appreciate the efforts of our guys in there. I just told them that, but efforts don’t get it done.”

Although the Steelers fell short, they did not go out without a fight as they rebounded from a challenging first half in which they gave up 21 points, 14 on TDs by Bills QB Josh Allen to TEs Dawson Knock and Dalton Kincaid. Allen (21/30, 203 yards, 3 TDs) then scored a TD of his own on a 52-yard run, which set a team record.

“So, let’s talk tangibly about why we weren’t successful,” Tomlin remarked. “You know, we spotted them early in the football game via turnovers. Can’t come into an environment like this versus a playoff caliber team and turn the ball over like that and expect to be competitive man; we spotted them.”

The Steelers’ turnovers came because of a fumble by WR George Pickens and an interception when QB Mason Rudolph’s intended pass to Pickens fell into the hands of Bills CB Kaiir Elam, ending a drive that began at the Steelers 8-yard line.

But the Steelers closed the first half with a TD of their own as Rudolph (22/39, 229 yards, 2TDs, INT) found WR Diontae Johnson for a 10-yard TD. In the 3rd quarter, K Chris Boswell added a 40-yard FG, and after the Bills extended their lead with a FG of their own from K Tyler Bass, Rudolph would lead the Steelers on another scoring drive that ended when he found WR Calvin Austin III for a 7-yard TD, closing the Bills lead to 24-17. But it was short-lived as Allen would find WR Khalil Shakir for a 17-yard TD pass for their 31st and final points of the game.

“We cut it to seven and was excited about that. Then we gave up a touchdown drive. When you get a major penalty within a drive on defense, that’s usually going to produce points. And that was the case, and it put them back up by fourteen, and then the rest is academic. And so, I’m appreciative of the efforts, but it’s not mystical.”

As the Bills prepare to host the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday, the Steelers prepare for an off-season in which it is inevitable that changes are needed.

“We didn’t do what was required to win tonight. We didn’t take care of the ball,” commented Tomlin. “We didn’t get the ball from them enough in an environment like this and, thus, the score.”

Notes: When Tomlin was asked about his contract, he abruptly left the news conference.

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