The Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills both face must-win situations in order to keep their postseason aspirations alive. The AFC foes will likely face treacherous conditions in snowy Buffalo.
What: Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) at Buffalo Bills (6-6)
Where: Ralph Wilson Stadium, Orchard Park, NY
When: Sunday December 11th, 2016 1pmET Kickoff
Weather: Highs in the low 30s, snow expected.
Line: Steelers -3
TV: CBS Jim Nantz, Phil Simms and Tracy Wolfson on the sidelines
Radio: Steelers Nation Radio/WDVE Bill Hillgrove, Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley on the sidelines.
Key Injuries: PIT: OUT Shamarko Thomas (concussion), Darrius Heyward-Bey (foot) DOUBTFUL Javon Hargrave (concussion) QUEST Ramon Foster (chest), Chris Boswell (abdomen), DeAngelo Williams (knee) BUF: OUT Lerentee McCray (concussion), QUEST Sammy Watkins (foot), Kyle Williams (back), Cordy Glenn (knee)
2016 NFL Ranks: Bills’ Offense: Overall 19th Rushing 1st Passing 32nd . Bills’ Defense: Overall 12th Rushing 26th Passing 8th … Steelers’ Offense: Overall 11th Rushing 18th Passing 8th . Steelers’ Defense: Overall 14th Rushing 6th Passing 19th
AFC North Rankings: Baltimore 7-5, Pittsburgh 7-5, Cincinnati 4-7-1, Cleveland 0-12
What You Need to Know: The Steelers have won nine of their last ten against Buffalo.
What’s at Stake: With the Ravens facing their toughest test of the season at New England on Monday night, the Steelers could really use some breathing room with a loss their and a win of their own on Sunday. Either way, the Steelers really are in a ‘must-win’ mode right now.
All-Time Series: Steelers lead 13-8 and the Bills lead in Buffalo 7-5.
Series Highs: Passing: PIT Bubby Brister 330 yards 9/25/1988 BUF: Jim Kelly 363 yards 9/8/1991 Rushing: PIT Rashard Mendenhall 151 yards 11/28/2010 BUF O.J. Simpson 227 yards 9/28/1975 Receiving: PIT Weegie Thompson 118 yards 9/25/1988 BUF (tie) Eric Moulds 122 yards 10/10/1999 Haven Moses 122 yards 10/11/1970
Three Things We Need to See for a Steelers’ Victory:
Unkowns Have to Step Up. Chris did a nice job of outlining this in his recent piece and I’ll add to it. With Cam Heyward gone for the season and Javon Hargrave likely out for this game, guys like Ricardo Mathews, L.T. Walton and possibly Caushaud Lyons will have to play well. The Bills feature the best running attack in pro football and the if the snowy elements come to fruition, I see no reason for them not to run the ball at will. These guys don’t need to make tackles necessarily. What they have to do is make things easy for those linebackers to get where they need to go.
The Outlaw Has to Get it Done. With the emergence of Ladarius Green last week, Jesse James seems to be an afterthought in the Steelers’ offense. Not so fast my friend…. James still caught three passes on four targets and I think that trend continues. Think about it; with so much focus on Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell and Green, that leaves James as Ben Roethlisberger’s go-to security blanket. He averaged about 10 yards per catch and that means moving the sticks so keep an eye on him Sunday. And another thing, his blocking has improved and that needs to continue.
Stop the Insanity. Last week the Steelers had over 100 yards in penalties. Bell made a disheartening comment several weeks ago when he said “we do those things in practice but nobody says anything.” I’m paraphrasing but you get the gist. There is no way the Steelers can expect to win each week if they are making mental and dumb physical errors as well. This late into the season, it’s unlikely there’s much Mike Tomlin can do but he has to hammer home the point that this team cannot afford to beat itself and expect to beat the opponent.
Prediction (8-4) Based on our projections, the Steelers have to win out to win the division. Therefore, the idea that this team would have a ‘letdown’ or that this would be a ‘trap game’ is ridiculous in my mind. That said, this team just hasn’t been that impressive on the road even if you factor in the last two road games. With Buffalo also fighting for playoff survival I expect a tight game late into the fourth where the kickers will decide it. That worries me…
Bills 18 Steelers 17