Buffalo Bills vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Pick & Prediction JANUARY 14th 2024

The Buffalo Bills were one of the NFL’s hottest teams during the stretch drive of the season and went from playoff outsiders to the AFC’s No. 2 seed.

After winning five straight games to win the AFC East and earn home-field advantage, the Bills will look to continue their scorching run when they host the seventh-seeded Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday afternoon at Orchard Park, N.Y.

The Bills (11-6) had a .500 record after 12 games before suddenly clicking. They won the AFC East on Sunday night with a 21-14 road win over the Miami Dolphins.

Buffalo star defensive tackle Ed Oliver said the late-season urgency has his team fully prepared for the postseason.

“We’ve been in the playoffs for five weeks now,” Oliver said. “Every game is a must-win. Every play, every snap, every second of every day counts toward one goal, and that’s winning.”

The Steelers (10-7) are on their own roll with three straight wins since turning to Mason Rudolph at quarterback. Pittsburgh is looking for its first playoff victory since the 2016 season and has to overcome more than Buffalo’s ferocious home-field environment.

The Steelers have lost star linebacker T.J. Watt to a knee injury he suffered during a 17-10 road victory Saturday over the Baltimore Ravens in the regular-season finale.

Pittsburgh is just 1-10 without Watt, the 2021 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

“Obviously, playing without T.J. is significant, but to be quite honest with you, we’ve played without a lot of people this year,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “It’s just another opportunity for us to strike a blow for team and to display what team really means, a collective of individuals that work together in an effort to produce an outcome. It’s not going to be a one-man job in terms of replacing T.J.”

Watt had 19 sacks in the regular season to lead the NFL in that category for the third time in the past four seasons.

Bills quarterback Josh Allen might be salivating as he carved up the Pittsburgh defense last season when Watt was sidelined due to a different knee injury. Allen passed for 424 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-3 home victory.

The conditions at the home stadium will be highly familiar to Allen. The Sunday forecast is for high temperatures in the mid-20s with winds between 20 and 35 mph and possible snow showers.

“The wind may move the ball a little bit,” Allen said after Wednesday’s walk-through. “Typically, it’s going to be, with weather like this, a game that both teams are going to run the ball, and it’s going to be very possession-limited, so we got to make these possessions count.”

Allen has passed for 4,306 yards, 29 touchdowns and a career-worst 18 interceptions this season. He also has rushed for 524 yards and a career-best 15 scores.

Rudolph was a savior down the stretch for the Steelers, who dealt with inconsistent quarterback play from Kenny Pickett and Mitch Trubisky most of the season.

Rudolph came in for mop-up duty on Dec. 16 against the Indianapolis Colts and then completed 53 of 71 passes (74.6 percent) while guiding Pittsburgh to a three-game winning streak that gained it the AFC’s final playoff berth.

Rudolph will look to help snap the Steelers’ three-game postseason losing streak. Veteran defensive tackle Cam Heyward, who is in his 13th season with the franchise, is craving an end to the drought.

“A lot of guys don’t have to speak for it because they haven’t been here,” Heyward said. “But the guys who have been here, we own that. It’s a new season, and we’re just ready for this opportunity. We understand it’s not given to us. We’ve earned it. This is an opportunity for us to go out there and play some good ball.”

Steelers running back Najee Harris, who rushed for 312 yards and four touchdowns during the three-game winning streak, missed Wednesday’s practice with a knee injury. Guard Isaac Seumalo (shoulder) also sat out. Star safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (knee) was a full-practice participant after missing the previous three games, and safety Damontae Kazee is back after serving a three-game suspension for a hit on Colts wideout Michael Pittman Jr.

For the Bills, safety Taylor Rapp (calf), cornerback Rasul Douglas (knee) and receiver Gabe Davis (knee) sat out Wednesday’s session. Allen remains bothered by a neck injury but was a full-go Wednesday.

Buffalo has won three of the past four meetings with Pittsburgh.

–Field Level Media

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