This coming weekend, for the first time in what seems like ages, the Buffalo Bills have a Sunday Night Football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. There is a lot on the line for Buffalo in this game as they can clinch a playoff birth with a victory. To preview this big match-up we talked to Jeff Hartman from Behind the Steel Curtain for a preview of the big AFC contest.
1) How much more respect is Mike Tomlin gaining for his coaching performance this season?
To be honest, the Steelers fan base has always been split on Tomlin. Some love him, some hate him. Nothing will change that, even another Super Bowl appearance/victory. Tomlin will always have his detractors, but he is gaining more talk on a national level. After years of not producing with a massive amount of talent, not having as much talent and pulling this team together has been nothing short of great. Let’s just say there have been less #FireTomlin tweets in the second half of this season than usual.
2) How has Duck been having so much success early in his career?
Devlin Hodges isn’t scared. Period. The stage isn’t too big for him, even though he went undrafted and wasn’t even signed to a futures contract until winning a try-out from the Steelers. Hodges steps onto the field as if he belongs, and that is contagious. His success isn’t just great for him personally, he is doing it without two of his best playmakers in James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster in the lineup. From a fundamental standpoint, the Steelers are running the ball better now than they have all season, and Hodges is taking care of the football. On top of that, when he does take a shot it has been accurate and well-thrown. That is a recipe for success.
3) Pittsburgh is one of the more difficult places to play. What makes it so special?
Outside of the rabid fan base, I would have to say the field itself lends itself to being louder. Heinz Field isn’t as large as many stadiums around the league. It only holds anywhere from 65-66,000 spectators, and when you compare it to the gigantic stadiums in Dallas and Minnesota you feel as if you are right on top of the field. The environment is awesome, the venue is amazing and the fans are tremendous. Add it all together and you have one tough place to play.
4) What has Minkah Fitzpatrick done so well to improve the Steelers defense?
Fitzpatrick is a nut for the game of football. Dating back to his days in HS and at Alabama, he is a film junky. Similar to another great Steelers safety before him, Troy Polamalu, he often has an idea what is going to happen before it happens based on formation and down and distance. His recognition is often flawless, and his communication keeps everyone on the same page in the back end. Fitzpatrick doesn’t just do his job at safety, he is doing everyone’s job making sure they are all where they should be. It is hard to believe he hasn’t played a full season in Pittsburgh yet, and he will still get better. He is worth every bit of that 2020 first-round draft pick, in my opinion.
5) Prediction for the game?
I wasn’t sure where I was going to go with this game because both of these teams are built the same. Inconsistent offense, and a stifling defense. Then the Steelers announced they will wear their Color Rush uniforms on Sunday Night Football, something I predicted by the way. They are 5-0 all-time in those uniforms. Mike Tomlin’s record at home on prime time is pretty darn good too. Add it all up and I’ll take the Steelers to win a close one at Heinz Field in Week 15.