The Buffalo Bills are set to host the Pittsburgh Steelers for the first time ever in a playoff game between the two clubs in Orchard Park, NY. Originally scheduled for today (Sunday) at 1 p.m. EST, the playoff matchup has since been moved to Monday, January 15, at 4:30 p.m. EST.
Where once fans expected things to be decided within a ferocious snow globe of wonder, now it’s expected we find a more “seasonable” sort of mid-January outdoor affair. Make no mistake, the weather will still play some factor, but not to the extent where we’re likely to see major game plan changes that resemble 1910s football.
For Super Wild Card Weekend, I spoke with Jarrett Bailey, Deputy Editor of Behind The Steel Curtain to get a pulse on what to expect from a very dangerous Pittsburgh Steelers team. Jarrett touched on everything from the play of quarterback Mason Rudolph, to expectations without edge rusher T.J. Watt, and thoughts on interim offensive coordinator Eddie Faulkner. Plus, Jarrett discusses the best way to attack and stop the Steelers, and gives us his overall thoughts on the game’s outcome.
1. We’ve heard a lot about Mason Rudolph recently — with some outlets claiming there isn’t as much of a gap between he and Josh Allen as it seems. What is it about Rudolph, why is it working now (given it didn’t in past seasons), and is the nail in the coffin for Kenny Pickett (or is Tomlin comfortable swapping QBs on a whim)? More succinctly: What does Rudolph bring that Pickett doesn’t?
He is better in the pocket. He doesn’t bail at the first sign of pressure. He has better touch on his throws. He throws a much better deep ball. He’s better in every aspect than Pickett, minus mobility. The Steelers don’t make the playoffs without Rudolph.
2. Losing T.J. Watt is perhaps the biggest blow the Steelers’ could have absorbed. There’s no replacing his production, but perhaps his leadership traits are as important a consideration. What should we expect to see from the Steelers without Watt this weekend?
You’ll see a lot of Nick Herbig and Markus Golden playing opposite of Alex Highsmith. Now, both guys have taken full advantage of their snaps this season, but we know they aren’t T.J. Watt. If they can’t sustain pressure, that’s going to be the difference maker.
3. What has interim offensive coordinator Eddie Faulkner brought as a play caller that Matt Canada lacked? Thoughts on him being hired officially in the offseason, or if the Steelers will conduct a thorough search for a new OC?
Utilizing gap-scheme runs for Najee Harris and moving George Pickens around to make him more of a versatile weapon. Both of those have changed the aspect of the offense. It’s far from perfect — it’s still a Matt Canada offense — but they’ve made multiple necessary adjustments.
4. If you were preparing to face these Steelers, what would film study have taught you to best attack on offense, and give them fits when your defense is on the field?
Make them one-dimensional. The run game has been a big part of their success over the last several weeks. Not to say that they haven’t been great at passing the ball, but the Steelers don’t have good pass protection. So if defenders can pin their ears back, that usually spells trouble.
5. In three seasons of an expanded NFL Playoff bracket, no seven seed has ever defeated a two seed. How confident are you in the Steelers’ chances this weekend — enough to believe they beat the spread, or win outright, and why?
I think the Steelers will cover and the weather will play a big factor into that. Ultimately, though, I think the Bills win somewhere in the range of 22-13. Buffalo is just more talented than the Steelers, and are far better at quarterback.
My thanks again to Jarrett Bailey for taking the time to chat Bills-Steelers! To read my responses, head over to Behind The Steel Curtain for the companion article linked here (and on the Buffalo Rumblings home page).
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