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Steelers Can’t Overcome Brutal Start, Lose to Bills, 31-17



Steelers RB Jaylen Warren
Pittsburgh Steelers RB Jaylen Warren is tackled by the Buffalo Bills on Jan. 15, 2024. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Pittsburgh Steelers saw their 2023 season come to a close with a 31-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Wild Card playoffs on Monday.

The Steelers spotted the Bills a three-score lead with a disastrous first quarter. Mason Rudolph threw his first interception since taking over as the Steelers’ starter and George Pickens fumbled the ball, setting the Bills up with two short fields in their first four possessions.

The Pittsburgh defense could do little to slow down Josh Allen and company, who were nearly perfect after spending much of the season allowing lesser opponents to hang around. Allen threw an NFL-high 18 interceptions in 2023, but he took care of the football through blustery conditions on Monday evening, never allowing the Steelers to claw back into the game.

Allen took the initial drive of the game 80 yards, with a 9-yard pass to tight end Dawson Knox in the back of the end zone providing the game’s first score.

The teams traded three-and-outs before Pickens’ fumble set Buffalo up at the Steelers’ 29-yard line. It took Allen just one play to find tight end Dalton Kincaid over practice squad linebacker Miles Jack for another score.

Rudolph finally directed the Steelers to a lengthy drive, taking a 10-play effort all the way to the Buffalo 4-yard line before he misfired for Diontae Johnson in the end zone and Bills cornerback Kaiir Elam took it away.

Allen then directed an 8-play, 80-yard drive that he capped off all on his own, scrambling through the center of the Steelers defense for a 52-yard score, the second-longest quarterback run ever allowed by a Pittsburgh defense.

Pittsburgh got some life when Montravius Adams blocked a field goal late in the first half. The ball caromed deep back into Buffalo territory and the Steelers took advantage of the short field, with Rudolph hitting Johnson for a 10-yard score.

The teams traded third-quarter field goals before the Steelers came their closest to a comeback. Rudolph found Calvin Austin III for a short touchdown to make it a one-score game with 6:37 to play.

But the Steelers still could not stop Allen. He drove the Bills right back down the field, with Khalil Shakir shaking off Minkah Fitzpatrick for a 17-yard score, driving the final nail in the Steelers’ coffin. The team played their final drives without the services of cornerback Joey Porter Jr.

The Steelers have now lost five consecutive playoff games and have not won a playoff game since 2016, making four consecutive 0-1 trips to the postseason. 

The Bills will move on to host the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round next weekend.