Jan. 16—Fans were left to dig out their seats at snowy Highmark Stadium in Buffalo, but the Pittsburgh Steelers couldn't dig out of an early point deficit in losing their fifth consecutive playoff game.
The Buffalo Bills and the sportswriters who cover them had a lot of praise for two specific plays — quarterback Josh Allen's record-setting 52-yard rushing touchdown and wide receiver Khalil Shakir's 17-yard touchdown that fooled several Steelers defenders. The Bills won the AFC Wild Card game 31-17.
Shakir credited a ball security drill the team runs weekly with helping him to maintain his footing after nearly being tackled by Steelers free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.
"He didn't wrap up and ... when you're out there everything's moving so fast you're just reacting," he told media after the game, according to video posted by WKBW. "I saw the replay, a lot of the guys we were celebrating and it was a good feeling to get in the end zone and make a play like that. Again, that comes to (Allen) putting the ball right on the money and giving me the opportunity to make a play."
The best part about Shakir's catch-and-run was that he beat Fitzpatrick, wrote Mark Gaughan for The Buffalo News.
"Fitzpatrick closed fast and hard and wrapped both arms around the Bills' receiver," Gaughan wrote. "But Shakir bent forward and spun out of the tackle."
A couple of the other Bills' touchdowns were made easy because of the Steelers defense, Gaughan said.
Allen's run was the longest rushing touchdown in Bills playoff history. In recounting it to the media after the game, Allen said he ran about 15 to 20 yards and started hearing calls from his teammates.
"There's a lot of guys screaming 'Slide,'" he said, according to video posted by WKBW. "And I didn't slide, and scored. It worked out that time."
Allen's play and lack of turnovers was a major reason why the Bills won the game, according to WIVB sports director Josh Reed.
"The biggest difference between the Bills and the Steelers was at quarterback," he wrote.
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The Steelers trailed 21-0 in the second quarter and, while quarterback Mason Rudolph made an attempt at a comeback in the second half, it wasn't enough. The team was hurt by two turnovers the Bills turned into points.
Associated Press Buffalo-based sportswriter John Wawrow reported that the Steelers had entered the game with the third fewest giveaways — 16 — in the NFL this season.
The snow became almost a second storyline from the game, which had been delayed 27 1/2 hours after a storm in New York dumped 3 feet of snow on Highmark Stadium. Many fans who arrived at the stadium with 71,000-plus seats had to essentially fend for themselves while workers had the field clear.
"The way that our stadium was able to play today, the fans that came out and shoveled, ... that speaks volumes about our community and how much support that we have from our fans," Allen told the media after the game.
The fans took it in stride — they used their hands, cardboard and shovels to clear rows of seats and threw snow in the air during touchdowns.
"I'm impressed these fans found places to sit/stand," Reed of WIBV wrote on social media. "An hour before the game this looked impossible but Bills fans found a way."
It was a "true everyone for themselves scenario," wrote Jon Scott of Spectrum News 1 on social media.
Renatta Signorini is a TribLive reporter covering breaking news, crime, courts and Jeannette. She has been working at the Trib since 2005. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.