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2023 Buffalo Bills rookie report: Wild Card round vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Rookies made their stamp to kick off the postseason

AFC Wildcard Playoffs - Pittsburgh Steelers v Buffalo Bills Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills are victors through one round of the 2023 NFL Playoffs after a one-day delayed handling of the Pittsburgh Steelers in frigid temperatures this past Monday evening. The Bills had multiple defensive pieces go down with injury throughout the game, which forced some unsuspecting players into key roles for a significant amount of snaps.

The Bills won by a couple of scores and the game felt mostly in control with a lead the entire game despite those injuries occurring throughout the contest.

Buffalo’s 2023 rookies put their fingerprints all over the first NFL postseason game of their young careers — led by a trio of names making noise.

TE Dalton Kincaid

It wasn’t one of the biggest stat line performances through the air for the Bills on Monday, but 2023 first-round selection Dalton Kincaid led the team in receiving with 59 yards on three receptions and a first-quarter touchdown. He made most of his noise early on, but there was plenty to be made — causing problems for a pieced-together Steelers linebacker corps.

Kincaid’s touchdown came on a seam bender where he was able to escape a “carry” effort by a linebacker to split a Cover 2 look.

There’s been a lot more opportunity for Kincaid to be totally freed within the offense — connecting with quarterback Josh Allen on multiple shot plays in recent weeks. Allen and Kincaid clearly have a chemistry to hit on these plays as opposed to Allen and Diggs who have consistently felt a tick off on their big-play chances.

If Gabe Davis continues to be sidelined moving forward, Kincaid will need to continue acting as a focal point for the offense. He’s proven more than capable, playing some of his best football as the season winds down. The Bills have big aspirations the next few weeks, and the rookie will be a big part of the reality.

OG O’Cyrus Torrence

Torrence continues his decent play as a rookie, but there are still too many dominating losses that highlight his tape this season. Playing offensive line in the NFL as a rookie is plenty difficult as it is. Throughout the course of each game this year, you can most likely find at least one obvious loss by Torrence on his game tape. The second-round pick out of Florida offers hope as a consistent starter for years to come, but he’s not a finished product and must show year over year improvement moving forward.

Torrence proved to be decent once again against the Steelers, but he also gave up a tackle for loss due to a blown block. Cleaning up the one or two bad reps per game will significantly help Torrence in the long run, and prove just how far he can go as a young lineman in the NFL. He’s still yet to miss a snap this season, which is a major benefit to the team and his outlook.

LB Dorian Williams

It’s been a while since we’ve seen significant action for Dorian Williams on defense, but a barrage of injuries hit the linebacker unit against the Steelers. Already without star linebacker Matt Milano for the season, linebacker Tyrel Dodson also didn’t play in this game after being ruled out due to a shoulder injury.

Throughout the course of the game, linebacker Baylon Spector got some run alongside Terrel Bernard and started the game before both of them ended up hurt throughout. Spector left and didn’t return with a back injury and Bernard was carted off with an ankle injury in the second half. Despite Bernard’s injury looking significant on first glance, both Spector and Bernard are considered as day-to-day moving forward.

These injuries presented the opportunity for Dorian Williams to see all the reps at WILL linebacker. Williams played 21 defensive snaps in the latter stages of the game. Despite the limited snaps this season, Williams finished with eight tackles and played fairly well with a couple of impressive, explosive reps that showed why the Bills liked him enough to select him in the third round of the 2023 Draft.

One of those plays came on a downhill rep where Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph hit his receiver checkdown option in the flat. Williams quickly reacted and pursued to show off his stopping power as a hitter and forcing a tackle for loss.

We’ll see how the injury situation sorts itself out at linebacker over the course of this week. If things break a certain way, Williams could find himself starting against one of the most difficult NFL teams to cover in the intermediate areas. A potential showcase as a rookie against quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce in Orchard Park, NY for the right to play in the AFC Conference Championship would be a nice stamp for Williams heading into his sophomore season.

WR Justin Shorter

Shorter wasn’t activated off of Injured Reserve and his practice window to be removed from that list closed. With that, Shorter’s rookie season is officially over. This next offseason will be an opportunity for him to prove he can stick on the 53-man roster. He never played a regular-season down during his first campaign.