The Buffalo Bills will be without two key members of their squad for their Wild Card playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, head coach Sean McDermott announced on Friday morning.
Starting wide receiver Gabe Davis and third safety Taylor Rapp will both miss the game this Sunday in Buffalo.
Davis has been dealing with a PCL sprain suffered during Buffalo’s Week 18 win over the Miami Dolphins. He had two targets without a catch before exiting that game. Buffalo’s No. 2 receiver and top deep threat, Davis has 45 catches for 746 yards, seven touchdowns and 16.6 yards per catch average that leads the Bills.
Davis’ big-play ability is a key to the Buffalo offense. He torched the Steelers for 171 yards in their last regular seasons matchup against the Bills in 2022.
“He gets down the field,” Steelers defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said on Thursday. “I still have nightmares about him from last year. So, they do a really good job of accentuating things these guys are good at.”
He will likely be replaced by Khalil Shakir in the starting lineup. Shakir has started 10 games, and played 406 of his 695 snaps in the slot, according to Pro Football Focus. But he also bring a big-play ability to the table. He’s second behind Davis with a 15.7 yards per catch average this season.
The absence of Davis and the expected winter weather could limit Buffalo’s deep passing game, but Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick doesn’t think it will.
“I still expect them to throw the ball. Deep ball is a big part of their game,” he said. “It’s a big part of what they do. … Josh Allen has a strong arm to cut through the wind or cut through the weather. They play up there all the time in bad weather.”
On defense, Rapp is the third safety behind All-Pros Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde and has developed into a quality defender in his own right. A former second-round pick of the Los Angeles rams, Rapp signed a one-year free agent deal with the Bills and while only starting four games, has played nearly half of Buffalo’s defensive snaps.
On the season, he has 50 tackles, one for a loss, two passes defended, one fumble recovery and one interception — a game-sealer against the Dolphins last week.
Taylor Rapp picks it!
— NFL (@NFL) January 8, 2024
With Rapp out, Pittsburgh native and Pitt alum Damar Hamlin will slide up the depth chart to be the No. 3 safety against his hometown team on Sunday.