Local fans ready for Bills, Browns, Steelers playoff action

Jan. 12—Fans of all three area NFL teams — the Buffalo Bills, the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers — are excited as the three teams are in the playoffs at the same time for the first time since 2020.

At least one of the teams will advance to the next round of playoffs as the Bills and the Steelers go head-to-head Sunday at 1 p.m. in Buffalo.

Browns fans will know their team's playoff fate one day sooner — Cleveland travels to Houston on Saturday to play the Texans at 4:30 p.m.

Whether it's Bills, Browns or Steelers, it comes down to having grown up in a family that favors that certain team, according to their fans.

Born in Buffalo, New York, Brenda Costa of Meadville has been a Bills fan all her life.

"They were playing the day I was born (Dec. 10, 1972) and they didn't win then; they tied that day," Costa said with a smile, referencing the 21-21 outcome of the game against the Detroit Lions.

Costa said of her love of Bills football came from her late father.

"It was something that I shared with my dad. He introduced me to professional football," she said.

"It's a wonderful connection to home and to friends and family," Costa said. "During the season, I have a lot of Facebook posts shared among friends from high school. It's just a really nice way to stay connected with my Buffalo roots."

For Rob Kightlinger of Meadville, being a Steelers fan is a family tradition.

"Growing up, it was the heyday of the Super Bowl runs (of the late 1970s). It just was a natural thing," he said.

"There'd be sometimes 15 or 16 of us gathered around a 19-inch TV watching a game," he continued. "People would give you Christmas gifts that were like a Steelers stocking cap, or a scarf or gloves or mittens."

Jon York may only be in his 30s, but he's been a Browns fan all of his life.

"It's the hardworking loyalty of Cleveland sports," he said. "It's something you don't go against."

York said he remembers when he was little in the 1990s, his parents would throw dog bones at the TV as they watched the Browns games on television.

"I remember when the Browns left (following the 1995 season) — I refused to root for any other team," York said. "So I became a fan of players. I just liked players until Cleveland came back."

York's enthusiasm for the Browns led him last week to create a new barbecue sauce — Flacco' Round and Find Out — honoring the team making the playoffs under quarterback Joe Flacco's leadership.

York, who is owner of Russell's BBQ of Linesville, an award-winning barbecue restaurant, said the new sauce features local maple syrup, jalapeño and some spices.

His first thought was to make a spicy barbecue sauce and call it Flacco Fever, but changed toward something sweeter.

"The barbecue sauce — most people expect it to be sweet and then the spice kind of sneaks up on you," York said. "That's what the Browns have been doing. They're shocking people. It's a surprise what they're able to do and that's kind of what the barbecue sauce is. It's not just about Flacco, but that's the whole Browns team."

Last week, York sold out out of the initial batch of 100 12-ounce bottles. He's produced 200 bottles more this week.

The sauce, along with York and his sister, Janna York Black (who manages the restaurant), were featured on the local news of Cleveland TV station WOIO Channel 19 on Thursday.


Costa is hopeful for the Bills' chances on Sunday while Kightlinger thinks the Steelers will win.

"I'm pretty confident in the Bills. I hope it's not a close game," Costa said. "There have been quite a few Bills games this year that have been late-night games and had my heart racing when it was time to go to bed.

"We do have a house divided. My son is a pretty avid Steelers fan. We may not watch the game in the same house," she said with a laugh.

Kightlinger expects a close game due to injuries to the Steelers.

"We're pretty banged up and we lost T.J. Watt (the Steelers' top linebacker)," Kightlinger said. "I don't think the chances of advancing very far or deep into the playoffs are very good."

But, Kightlinger noted the recent play of Mason Rudolph as the Steelers quarterback. Since taking over as the starter, Rudolph has won three straight games.

"The players are rallying around him — it looks that way to me," Kighlinger said. "I don't expect a blowout. I think this should come down pretty close to the wire."

Both Costa and Kightlinger have clothing rituals for the Bills-Steelers game.

"My husband bought me a new sweatshirt that says 'Buffaloian' on it and the Bills haven't lost since I started wearing that. I will be wearing that," Costa said.

"I'm not superstitious, but I won't wear Steelers garb during a Steelers game, but the Pittsburgh Penguins instead," Kightlinger said.

The Steelers and the Penguins, Pittsburgh's team in the National Hockey League, have the same black and gold color scheme.

"Every time there's a big game and I've worn Steelers stuff they've lost," Kightlinger said. "I'm not going to be the scapegoat this year — I'll be wearing Penguins gear."

York is confident about the Browns moving on to the next round of the NFL playoffs — and possibly beyond.

"I believe they can always win and we watch no matter what," York said. "It's the playoffs and anything can happen. They did beat Houston earlier."

The Browns beat the Texans in a regular season game, 36 to 22, on Dec. 24 in Houston.

"Those guys are hungry for it," York said of the Browns. "They look like a team. There's some leadership.

"I put my money on the Browns every year for the Browns to win the Super Bowl," he said. "Maybe this is the year it will hit. I don't care about the money."

Keith Gushard can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at