Josh Allen, Bills dispatch Steelers 31-17 in playoff game delayed a day by snow
It made no difference to Josh Allen what day or time the Buffalo Bills faced the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The AFC wild-card playoff game could’ve been played Sunday as scheduled, in the midst of a lake-effect storm that dumped more than 2 feet of snow on the region, and the Bills were going be to ready.
They proved that on Monday, when Allen threw three touchdown passes and scored on a franchise playoff-record 52-yard touchdown run as Buffalo beat Pittsburgh 31-17 in a game that was postponed by 27 1/2 hours.
“People keep saying that’s what we wanted. We had no call in that,” Allen said about the postponement. “We would have played yesterday, would have played Saturday would have played Friday, it wouldn’t have mattered. We would have come out here and played when we were told to play.”
The game turned into a celebration of the elements. Snow blanketed a majority of the seats inside Highmark Stadium when the gates opened and was put to good use by fans, who tossed handfuls into the air like confetti to celebrate.
“We put on a show in the snow,” left tackle Dion Dawkins said. “We’re here. We got one more week.”
The second-seeded Bills (12-6), who closed the regular season with five straight wins, advance to host Patrick Mahomes and the No. 3 seed Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round on Sunday night. Buffalo and its fans have longed for a home playoff game against the Chiefs after their 2020 and ’21 seasons ended with playoff losses at Kansas City.
“We’re a step behind already,” Allen said, noting the Chiefs will have two more days of rest after beating Miami on Saturday. “It’s going to take a team effort. We know the type of team that they are, obviously the type of quarterback that they have in Pat over there.”
Buffalo led 21-0 before Pittsburgh scored on three straight possessions to get within 24-17. Allen then sealed the win, throwing a 17-yard touchdown pass to Khalil Shakir with 6:27 remaining. Shakir caught the pass at the 10 over the middle, slipped Minkah Fitzpatrick’s tackle attempt with a spin move, and outraced the rest of the Steelers defenders into the end zone.
“Dude hit me and I was able to just stay up and make a play from there,” Shakir said. “But that comes down to (Allen) getting the ball, putting it right on the money and giving me an opportunity to make a play.”
Allen finished 21 of 30 for 203 yards and ran for 74 yards on eight carries, becoming the first quarterback in NFL playoff history to throw three or more TD passes while rushing for 70 or more yards and a score. He didn’t have a turnover for just the fourth time this season.
Mason Rudolph threw two touchdown passes with an interception in his first playoff start for the Steelers (10-8), but Pittsburgh was too inconsistent on either side of the ball to keep up with Allen and the Bills. The Steelers lost their fifth straight playoff game; the franchise’s most recent postseason victory was exactly seven years ago.
Missed tackles, two turnovers that led to 14 points for Buffalo and the Bills' ability to bottle up the Steelers' running attack contributed to the loss.
“I’m appreciative of the efforts. But it’s not mystical. We didn’t do what was required to win tonight,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “Can’t come into an environment like this with a playoff-caliber team and turn the ball over like that and expect to be competitive.”
Asked about his future in Pittsburgh after completing his 17th season — all of them with a record of .500 or better — Tomlin smirked and walked away.
“When we got it down to seven points, I thought we were going to make a run. It comes back to the defense,” veteran defensive tackle Cam Heyward said. “There were chances. We didn’t capitalize. that was probably the biggest outlier in the game.”
The elements didn’t play much of a factor. Though temperatures were in the teens, the skies were clear and there was only a slight breeze blowing in off Lake Erie.
The Bills asserted themselves at the start.
Allen’s 9-yard touchdown pass to Dawson Knox capped an 80-yard opening drive. After Buffalo linebacker Terrel Bernard recovered receiver George Pickens’ fumble at the Pittsburgh 29, Allen threw a TD pass to Dalton Kincaid on the next play.
Allen’s touchdown run came after cornerback Kaiir Elam intercepted Rudolph’s pass intended for Diontae Johnson in the end zone.
The Steelers finally capitalized on one of the Bills’ few errors of the half, when coach Sean McDermott elected to attempt a 49-yard field goal into the wind with a little more than two minutes left.
Montravius Adams blocked Tyler Bass’ low kick. The ball squirted some 20 yards into Bills territory and was recovered by Nick Herbig at Buffalo’s 33. The Steelers scored five plays later on Rudolph’s 10-yard TD pass to Johnson.
The Bills overcame a rash of injuries to their defense. Bernard was ruled out after twisting his right ankle and starting nickelback Taron Johnson did not return after being evaluated for a concussion. The Bills began the game without cornerback Rasul Douglas (knee) and linebacker Tyrel Dodson (shoulder).
“We’ve got a resilient group,” Allen said of a team that was 6-6 after an overtime loss to Philadelphia on Nov. 26. “The veteran leadership that we have, I really think it’s unmatched in the league.”