Bills clinch second playoff berth this century with tough win over Steelers

Yahoo Sports

The Buffalo Bills have played in one playoff game since the end of the 1999 season. They lost an ugly 10-3 wild-card game at the Jacksonville Jaguars two seasons ago.

Buffalo will appreciate any playoff berth after that long drought, but the trip two years ago was a bit fluky. They needed a miraculous fourth-down touchdown pass from Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton to Tyler Boyd to knock out the Baltimore Ravens in Week 17. The Bills were 9-7 and had a weird mix of veterans. While it seemed there could be better days ahead, that playoff berth seemed like a one-off.

Not this time. The Bills are back in the playoffs after beating the Pittsburgh Steelers 17-10 on Sunday night, and this time it seems the success could be sustainable. The Bills have a nice core of young talent that continues to grow under coach Sean McDermott. They’re 10-4 after the win, which wasn’t secured until the final seconds. The Steelers fell to 8-6.

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Not only are the Bills in the playoffs, they aren’t a team anyone will want to see wild-card weekend.

Bills back in the playoffs

The last time the Bills won a playoff game was Dec. 30, 1995. That was the last dying gasp of a great Bills team that owned the AFC for the first half of the decade.

The Bills are likely to get the AFC’s No. 5 seed this season and will probably face the Houston Texans on wild-card weekend. Buffalo could break the drought since its last playoff win. It’s not a matchup the Texans will like seeing. The Bills play strong defense. Cornerback Tre’Davious White has become one of the best defensive players in the league, and there are a few difference makers in the front seven. Quarterback Josh Allen has improved tremendously, and rookie running back Devin Singletary and receiver John Brown were added to give much-needed pop to the skill positions.

The Bills didn’t win a pretty game on Sunday. They made some big mistakes. In an otherwise strong game Singletary fumbled twice, losing one. They took too many penalties. But they made a few big plays. White had two interceptions, including one for a long return in the third quarter that led to a field goal. Allen hit tight end Tyler Kroft for a huge 14-yard touchdown on third-and-9 with 7:55 remaining. That gave the Bills a 17-10 lead.

The Bills defense did the rest. Jordan Poyer’s interception on a desperate fourth-down pass to the end zone with 1:54 left was huge, and the Bills put the game away on another interception in the final seconds. The Steelers are limited offensively but the Bills still did a fine job holding them down. That’s the main reason the Bills won’t be an easy out in January.

Buffalo Bills tight end Tyler Kroft (81) celebrates with running back Devin Singletary (26) and others after scoring a fourth-quarter touchdowns against the Steelers. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Buffalo Bills tight end Tyler Kroft (81) celebrates with running back Devin Singletary (26) and others after scoring a fourth-quarter touchdowns against the Steelers. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

Steelers’ offensive limitations evident in loss

The Steelers are muddling along on offense with rookie quarterback Devlin “Duck” Hodges, but they were still an 8-5 team that held the No. 6 seed in the AFC coming into Week 15. They’re still in good shape for a wild-card spot with the Titans, Raiders and Browns losing on Sunday. It’s possible 8-8 gets the final spot.

The Steelers got running back James Conner back on Sunday night, and he scored a touchdown. But they were also without injured receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and tight end Vance McDonald. Coach Mike Tomlin is getting the most out of his team, Hodges has been as good as could be expected in a tough spot, but there’s only so much Pittsburgh can ask its big-play defense to do. The Steelers had just 229 yards.

The two teams that squared off on Sunday could end up as the AFC’s wild-card teams. But you could see a difference. Pittsburgh is the type of team that should be thrilled to make the playoffs but isn’t likely to make much noise there. Buffalo has the look of a team that should feel it can win a game or two in the postseason. It might be the first of a few trips to the postseason for this group.

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

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