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Steelers vs. Bills: First-half live updates, injury news and open thread

Behind the Steel Curtain - 2 hours 31 min ago
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers are back on the gridiron! The 2019 regular season continues with the Steelers and Bills locking horns in Week 15. Keep tabs on all things Black-and-gold with our updates and open thread.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back on the field, and this time for the 14th time in the 2019 regular season as they prepare to face off against the Buffalo Bills in Week 15 at Heinz Field.

Throughout the game, be sure to check back here for score updates, injury news and any breaking news from those on the sidelines following the team live. You can also follow along in the Twitter feed below.

For those wondering, you can enjoy some lively commentary with the best Steelers fans across the globe in the open thread for all BTSC members in the comment section below. Let’s remember to keep it clean, respect everyone’s thoughts and ideas, and ultimately remember we’re all here for the same reason—to root on the Steelers!

So enjoy the game and be sure to follow BTSC for all the latest news surrounding the team throughout the game and afterwards!

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

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The Steelers have five running backs active for Week 15 vs. Bills

Behind the Steel Curtain - 3 hours 29 min ago
Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

With James Conner returning to the lineup, the Steelers decided to sit Isaiah Buggs

The Pittsburgh Steelers have released their inactives for their game against the Buffalo Bills at Heinz Field on Sunday Night Football. With two players ruled out on Friday, the list is made up of five healthy scratches and two players out due to injury.

Inactives for the #Steelers tonight vs. the Bills: QB Lynch, WR Smith-Schuster, CB Burns, OLB Skipper, T Okorafor, TE McDonald, DE Buggs

— Bob Labriola (@BobLabriola) December 15, 2019

Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster had previously been ruled out on Friday as he is experienced a setback on Thursday as he was attempting to may his way back for the Bills game. Described by Smith-Schuster as a situation of pushing his knee too far, JuJu will see if he can recover in time to give it a try next week. The other Steelers’ player ruled out on Friday was Tight end Vance McDonald who is still in the NFL’s concussion protocol. It will be the second game in 2019 McDonald has missed due to injury. In his place, Zach Gentry is active for the first time since Week 6.

The other player who carried an injury stats for Week 15 was James Conner who was listed as questionable after practicing all week. I report late Saturday night from ESPN’s Adam Schefter stated Conner would play Sunday night against the Bills. With Conner’s return to the lineup, rookie DT Isaiah Buggs ended up not getting a helmet after being active every week since the bye.

Steelers’ RB James Conner, listed as questionable for Sunday night with a shoulder injury, is expected to play against Buffalo, per sources.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 15, 2019

As for the rest of the inactive list, it looks extremely familiar when compared to the last three weeks. Third-string quarterback Paxton Lynch is inactive yet again. The other players filling up the inactive list are OT Chukwuma Okorafor, LB Tuzar Skipper, and CB Artie Burns. Burns is a healthy scratch for the second straight week after returning from a knee injury.

As for the Bills inactives, they can be seen below,

Bills inactives tonight RB TJ Yeldon , OL Ike Botteger , DT Corey Liguet , TE Tommy Sweeney , OT Ty Nsekhe , WR Duke Williams , DB Dean Marlowe #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) December 16, 2019

Predicting the winner of Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Buffalo Bills, Week 15

Behind the Steel Curtain - 4 hours 46 min ago
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Predicting the winner of Steelers vs. Bills in Week 15 Heinz Field.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills will square off in prime time at Heinz Field under the bright lights of Sunday Night Football. When it comes to the outcome of this huge AFC showdown, this game is anything but easy to pick.

Pittsburgh and Buffalo are built similar, with the foundation of the team being their defense, but the Buffalo offense behind Josh Allen certainly has more stability than the Steelers with Devlin Hodges under center.

Not that Hodges should be overlooked. After all, he has won all three of his starts in 2019, and has come off the bench to lead the Steelers to another victory against the Cincinnati Bengals. This certainly has the man they call “Duck” brimming with confidence heading into Week 15.

But before I get to my pick let’s take a look at who the other side is picking...

This week I was fortunate enough to ask Buffalo Rumbling’s writer Corey Giacovelli some questions, and of course I asked him what his prediction for the game was, and you can check out his response below:

This is a hard game to predict because a win for the Bills clinch their wild card birth and a win for the Steelers will almost do the same. Josh Allen has shown that he can play in a tough environment on Thanksgiving against the Cowboys but I believe that Pittsburgh is a harder place to play. As much as it pains me to say it, I think the Steelers will barely squeak out a victory due to Watt being a terror on the edge and Fitzpatrick making a clutch play in the secondary.

It isn’t every week where a writer/editor from the opposing website believes the team they cover/root for will lose the game, but Corey is breaking the mold with his pick.

This indeed will be a defensive battle, but there are several factors which have me leaning towards the Steelers, none of which have to do with my allegiance to the home team. The Steelers at home in prime time are certainly a tough team to beat, and while they are just jerseys the fact they are wearing their Color Rush uniforms gives me a good feeling about the contest.

When all is said and done I can see a Chris Boswell field goal being the difference maker for the Steelers.

My Prediction:
Steelers - 20
Bills - 17

What is your prediction for the game? Let us know in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold leading up to kickoff.

Identifying the X-Factors for the Steelers in Week 15 vs. the Bills

Behind the Steel Curtain - 6 hours 11 min ago
Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

There are several players for the Steelers who could be viewed as ‘X-Factors’ leading up to the game.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the Buffalo Bills in Week 15. It is the Steelers’ 14th game of the season, and hopefully their sixth win of the 2019 regular season.

When looking at the matchup between AFC foes, there are players who can be viewed as ‘X-Factors’.

What is an ‘X-Factor’?

I would describe an ‘X-Factor’ as a player who can truly alter the outcome of the game, single-handedly. Not just a plug and play type player, but a player who always has to be accounted for, no matter what.

As a clear-cut example of what an ‘X-Factor’ player would look like, think Troy Polamalu. Polamalu’s skill set made him a force to be reckoned with on every play. So, who are the ‘X-Factors’ for the Steelers Week 8 game vs. Miami?

Let’s take a look...

Offensive X-Factor: Devlin Hodges

The Steelers offense is short-handed yet again, and while they face a Bills defense that is legitimate, there will come a time when the offense will need a play from their quarterback. You can play safe and try to run the football as much as you want, but you will eventually have to win a game by throwing the ball. Hodges will have to deliver when that time comes, making him an obvious choice for Offensive X-Factor.

Defensive X-Factor: T.J. Watt/Bud Dupree

Josh Allen was sacked 6 times last week by the Baltimore Ravens, and it will be up to Dupree and Watt to not just sack Allen, but make his life miserable. Living in the backfield, and keeping Allen coned into the interior pocket, will limit his playmaking ability with his legs. A big day from Watt and Dupree will likely result in a win for the home team.

This week I asked Buffalo Rumbling’s writer Corey Giacovelli a series of questions leading up to the game, and I asked him who he thought the Bills’ ‘X-Factor’ would be. Here was his response:

My X-Factor for the game is cornerback Levi Wallace because of the pressure that will be on him to perform. James Washington has been putting up some fantastic numbers in the passing game the last couple of weeks especially in the vertical passing game. With talk of JuJu getting closer and closer to being ready to play that means he will be covered mostly by Tre’Davious White so Levi will have the tough task of keeping up with Washington. If Washington is able to get the edge on Wallace then the Steelers offense will have an easy time moving the football and scoring points.

I went a step forward and asked Corey which Bills player might be getting overlooked heading into the huge Sunday night contest. Here is what he had to say:

I am a big believer in special teams making such a difference in the game so i am going with returner Andre Roberts. I have been bringing him up week after week because he has been getting so close to returning one for six. A special teams touchdown can swing the momentum so much in a football game as the Steelers saw first hand last week after their punt return for a touchdown. If Roberts can spring one open it can be a game changer that can put the Bills over the hump.

Who would be your ‘X-Factor’ for the game? Let us know in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the upcoming game!

2019 Week 15 Late Games: Updates, news and open thread

Behind the Steel Curtain - 6 hours 38 min ago
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers don’t play until Sunday Night Football in Week 15, but we all will be watching on Sunday to see how things shake out in the early games.

The Pittsburgh Steelers won’t play until they host the Buffalo Bills on Sunday Night Football in Week 15, and there are plenty of key matchups to keep an eye on in the early games this Sunday. The Steelers Nation fan base will be watching games throughout the day to see how things shake out.

Some take this day to just relax and get caught up on things outside of football, but if you are like me, you are still watching the full slate of action on Sunday.

With that said, join others like me in the open thread to talk about all of the games going on Sunday. Which game are you watching? Are you someone with NFL Sunday Ticket who has access to all games, or are you stuck watching just one or two games? Let us know, and be sure to keep tabs on all those AFC North games in the process.

As always, remember we are all here for the same reason...

GO STEELERS!

How the Bills offense will try and move the ball on the Steelers defense

Behind the Steel Curtain - 8 hours 2 min ago
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Taking a look at how the Buffalo offense will try to move the ball on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are gearing up for the Buffalo Bills in Week 15 of the 2019 regular season. Entering the game with an 8-5 record, the Steelers prepare to host the Bills at Heinz Field for the huge AFC grudge match.

While this could be a familiar matchup for some of the Steelers, there are some new faces many fans want to know more about. Sure, there are the big name players in the matchup, but what about all those other players who can make a difference?

So, I wanted to get a lowdown on what the Bills might have in store for the Steelers by talking with Buffalo Rumbling’s, SB Nation’s Bills website, writer Corey Giacovelli to pick his brain on the upcoming matchup.

In this second of many installments, I asked Corey what he thinks the Bills defense will do when the Steelers have the ball. Check out his response:

When the Bills have the ball expect them to spread our the formation with Josh Allen in shotgun and Devin Singletary next to him. Out wide you will usually see the combination of John Brown on the outside with Cole Beasley in the slot with tight end Dawson Knox and a third receiver on the opposite side. The team will sometimes move Singletary in motion for an empty backfield to try and diagnose what the defense is playing to see if it is zone or man.

If the Bills follow this theory and try to spread out the Steelers’ defense, they will have to rely on something Josh Allen isn’t particularly good at — getting the ball out of his hands quickly.

Otherwise, putting 3+ receivers on the field will limit blockers in place to help keep the NFL’s top sacking unit off Allen. Allen, who was sacked six times in Week 14 by the Baltimore Ravens, holds onto the ball longer than any other NFL quarterback, so a spread offense dictated on getting the ball out quickly might not be the best course of action for success aginast the Steelers’ defense.

What could lead to success for the Bills is leaning on Frank Gore and Devin Singletary. Establishing a ground game, although difficult, is the key to success vs. the Pittsburgh defense. If you can run the football you will open up play action and also keep the down and distance in a manageable range for the offense.

Ultimately, going against the Steelers defense isn’t an easy task. They stop the run well, get after the quarterback and lead the league in takeaways. Moving the ball won’t be easy. If you like offensive football, you might want to look away during this Week 15 matchup.

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to keep tabs on BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Bills in Week 15.

Point/Counterpoint: The 2019 Steelers are still playing, nobody needs to talk 2020 right now

Behind the Steel Curtain - 9 hours 2 min ago
Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

BTSC writers Tony Defeo and Bryan Anthony Davis offer differing opinions on whether or not fans should focus on 2019, instead of already pondering the starters for 2020.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have really had a major turnover since sitting at 1-4 on September 30th. They’ve done it with guys that barely anybody heard of back in August like Devlin Hodges, Deon Cain and Kerrith Whyte. With the development of players that seem like they have a future in Pittsburgh, many wonder who will be playing and starting next year for the Steelers. The Steeler Hangover’s Tony Defeo and Bryan Anthony Davis, have differing viewpoints on the following subject. Join them as they slug it out in text below.

The 2019 Steelers are still playing, so nobody needs to talk 2020 right now. Tony Defeo’s Point

“Just wait until Ben comes back next year. With this elite defense? Are you kidding me? I predict the Steelers will be Super Bowl contenders in 2020. You just wait!”

That quote (well, not that exact quote) is similar to many I’ve heard and read this year, what with the Steelers defense playing at a Super Bowl-level but without a Super Bowl-winning quarterback—Ben Roethlisberger—around to help the team truly benefit from it.

The future is going to be great with Ben and this defense

Wait a minute, what about Bud?

Should they try hard to sign Bud Dupree next year, you know, so as to keep this Super Bowl-level defense fully-intact for the inevitable Super Bowl run the Steelers will go on in 2020 with Roethlisberger back and doing his elite best?

Maybe they should just franchise Bud. But if they do, will he sulk and/or holdout like that no good Le’Veon Bell?

What about free-agency? What are their needs? Should they go out and try to find another pass-rusher to take Bud’s place?

Back to Ben. I think they should seriously think about keeping Deon Cain around for next year. If he can build some chemistry with Big Ben at training camp in the summer, Cain could be a real find. What about Kerrith Whyte Jr., like Cain, a potential diamond in the rough the Steelers plucked off of another team’s practice squad? With James Conner clearly injury-prone (the proverbial China Doll), I think Whyte could challenge for some real playing time in 2020 and ultimately become the team’s top running back.

Wait a minute, what if Ben isn’t at 100 percent next year? Or what if he is, but Devlin “Duck” Hodges, the undrafted rookie quarterback from Samford that has taken Steeler Nation by storm, continues to evolve and get better by the start of training camp? Does Pittsburgh do the unthinkable?

All of those questions I just asked? All of those scenarios I presented? Forget about them. Pretend that I’m Michael Scott from The Office. Pretend you’re the one kid from Ryan Howard’s business class. Pretend that I just “borrowed” your textbook titled, “What the Steelers Need To Do In 2020." Pretend that I started tearing pages out of it. What good is that textbook to you now? That’s right, it’s useless.

Same with your current thoughts and worries about the 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers.

I can’t believe you could be so preoccupied with a future season, when the current one has been so magical.

The Steelers are 8-5, when, by all rights, they could and perhaps should be headed for double-digit losses. To echo what was laid out in the introduction, the Steelers have rebounded from a disastrous start that included the season-ending injury to Roethlisberger and a 1-4 record and are now so close to making the playoffs, it would be a shame if they missed them.

Yes, their defense has emerged as an elite unit, but the offense is doing it with spit, wires and a bunch of undrafted free agents.

They are a tremendous story, these 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers. What they are doing will be remembered and respected for a long, long time. The more they win, the better the story gets. If they make the postseason and actually go on a run....I mean, could you just imagine the hysteria?

It’s a credit to the Steelers, from their front office to their coaches to their players, that they didn’t throw in the towel in 2019. They went all in with the Minkah Fitzpatrick trade, even when we thought that was nuts, and now look at them. Look at the great opportunity they have in front of them.

In my not so humble opinion, I think worrying about the 2020 Steelers does a great disservice to the 2019 edition. These guys are out there giving it their all. They’re trying their best to give you what you ultimately want. Are the odds against them? Of course, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve your undivided attention.

The offseason is long, and believe me, there will be plenty of time to discuss the 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers when the 2019 season is finally put to bed.

In the meantime, let’s go all in on these 2019 Steelers and enjoy them while we still can.

Bryan Anthony Davis’ Counterpoint

Dammit Tony! If you were not going to listen to me, at least listen to the think tank of Buckhingham, Nicks, McVie, McVie and Fleetwood. They first said it in 1977, they reiterated it when Bill Clinton was questing for a seat in the office of the oval and I’m dusting it off now...Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow”?

I fully understand the concept of not looking ahead and I truly believe in what Devlin “Duck” Hodges and the Steelers defense is doing. In fact, I’m fully invested in 2019. It ranks up there with 1984, 1989 and 2002 as one of my favorite over-achieving seasons in Steelers lore. I’m all in and I’m just foolhardy enough to dream about watching this team shock the world and playing in Miami come February as I’m playing tambourine behind Shakira and J-Lo at Halftime.

As awesome as that would be, I’m not placing a bet on the above scenario. I also have to be honest with myself and wonder, as this season shakes out, what things are going to look like next year. Everything we do in life has an effect on the future. So it is natural to think about a scenario in which Duck Hodges flourishes and leads Pittsburgh to a better than expected finish and Ben Roethlisberger returns in full health and better than ever. Of course, we are going to wonder if the Mason Rudolph experience is over or if he can rebound from a disastrous 2019. Will Javon Hargrave and Bud Dupree walk? Will James Conner’s injury history be way too much to not go and look for a feature back? Can the defense sustain this amazing play?

Theses are all things that we can still wonder about while still embracing the glory of today. Who says you can’t multitask?

So...what are your thoughts? Which one of us gets to bask in the glory of being right this week? State your case in the comments section and be sure to vote in the poll. BAD got back to his winning ways last week and is now 9-2 on the season, while TonDef is sporting another “L” on his head. Can Tony get another streak going or will BAD get another streak going? Vote and state your case in the comments.

2019 Week 15 Early Games: Updates, news and open thread

Behind the Steel Curtain - 9 hours 46 min ago
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers don’t play until Sunday Night Football in Week 15, but we all will be watching on Sunday to see how things shake out in the early games.

The Pittsburgh Steelers won’t play until they host the Buffalo Bills on Sunday Night Football in Week 15, and there are plenty of key matchups to keep an eye on in the early games this Sunday. The Steelers Nation fan base will be watching games throughout the day to see how things shake out.

Some take this day to just relax and get caught up on things outside of football, but if you are like me, you are still watching the full slate of action on Sunday.

With that said, join others like me in the open thread to talk about all of the games going on Sunday. Which game are you watching? Are you someone with NFL Sunday Ticket who has access to all games, or are you stuck watching just one or two games? Let us know, and be sure to keep tabs on all those AFC North games in the process.

As always, remember we are all here for the same reason...

GO STEELERS!

Film Room: How did Devlin Hodges secure the win in the second half vs. the Cardinals?

Behind the Steel Curtain - 10 hours 44 min ago
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers had a ridiculously efficient second half by quarterback Devlin Hodges, but is efficient good enough moving forward?

Last Sunday, NFL history was made when an undrafted rookie free agent won his first three career starts. Devlin Hodges captured the latest of those accolades against the Arizona Cardinals.

The Steelers are on the precipice of landing an improbable playoff spot in 2019 with the play of Hodges and a stingy defense. Hodges entered his fifth NFL contest tied with the Cardinals heading into the second half. His first half was nondescript except for two “WOW“ plays en route to only three offensive points. How does Hodges help ensure a much-needed victory against the 31 ranked pass defense the Cardinals deploy in the second half?

Time to roll the tape and dig deeper than what stats can provide.

Hodges put up a grand total of 65 total yards in the second half — what did he not do? He did not make any costly mistakes. Completing 7/9 passes in the second half. Conservative football and relying on the defense to not lose the lead is where Steelers football is right now.

Hodges tossed a solid strike to Diontae Johnson for what would be the go-ahead and solidifying the win. While Hodges is not putting up eye-popping stats, he is making precision throws on slants, ins, and out patterns while taking advantage of one-on-one coverage with careful accuracy. He is making the throws that every NFL starting quarterback is expected to make even though most of Steelers Nation never expected him to ever throw an NFL pass, let alone be leading the second hottest team in the NFL hurling towards the playoffs.

Bold and Bizarre predictions for Steelers vs. Bills, Week 15

Behind the Steel Curtain - 11 hours 30 min ago
Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Much to the chagrin of most, BTSC’s Nostradumbass predicts the Steelers’ matchup with the Bills.

The Steelers are closing in on a playoff berth that seemed so unlikely after a start of 0-3 and 1-4, but Devlin Hodges will face his toughest defense to date in a game that will pay dividends should they win.

Can Duck keep it going? JuJu Smith-Schuster won’t but will James Conner play? Will the ridiculous 20-game streak of the Steelers committing a turnover continue? With these questions, story lines, and more, I’ve compiled a list of predictions (some basic, and some utterly idiotic) to look for in this pivotal contest.

Last week, I came close, but ultimately whiffed on most of my predictions after getting many the week before. Let’s see if I can rebound this week.

  • Kerrith Whyte leads all Steeler rushers with 62 yards on the ground.
  • Deon Cain gets his first TD as a Steeler.
  • JuJu Smith-Schuster helps Cain celebrate his first Steelers TD by commemorating the 228th anniversary of the ratification of the US Bill of Rights by acting out amendments 1-10 of the Constitution. No. 19 is penalized for an excessive boring celebration.
  • The Steelers’ defense shuts down Josh Allen and the Bills offense for the most part, but Allen leads the Bills to two scores on the day.
  • An ignored Zach Banner no longer feels that way as No. 72 catches a Duck Hodges pass for a first down. The crowd erupts with glee.
  • With the Jets having already played in Baltimore on TNF, Le’Veon Bell takes a holiday in “the Burg”. There he celebrates the 70th birthday of legendary actor Don Johnson with his hip-hop medley of (a song made more famous on Miami Vice) “In The Air Tonight” and Johnson’s 1986 hit “Heartbeat”. The only people to really notice are confused patron’s of Pittsburgh eatery, The Colombian Spot where the performance takes place.
  • Joe Haden records his fifth interception and ties Minkah Fitzpatrick for the team lead.
  • T.J. Watt gets back on the sack track with a strip, but Bud Dupree out sacks his counterpart with two takedowns of Josh Allen to join Watt in double digits.
  • Duck Hodges throws for 200 yards with one touchdown and a pick. No. 6 also continues to make plays with his legs by rushing for 30 yards and a score.
  • The Steelers and the Bills will struggle putting up too many points, but a Chris Boswell kick ices it for the Steelers 20-17.

Will any of this actually happen? I’ll bet at least one or two. Heck, maybe every one of them. Be sure to post your predictions — basic or bizarre — below.

NFL Odds and Predictions: Picking all the Week 15 games against the spread

Behind the Steel Curtain - 12 hours 11 min ago
Photo: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

BTSC’s Jeff Hartman and Dave Schofield pick all remaining NFL games both against the spread and over/under point totals

After Week 14 of the NFL season, the Pittsburgh Steelers are still sitting in the AFC wildcard seat in the sixth positions as they hold the tiebreaker over the Tennessee Titans who are both sitting at 8-5. With Titans and the Houston Texans playing in Week 15 wnd the winner grabbing the the AFC South lead, the Steelers can really open up some space in the wildcard race with a win over the Buffalo Bills. In fact, a Steelers win Sunday night puts them into the fifth seed regardless of any other outcomes around the NFL.

As for the other standings around the league, The Baltimore Ravens have already picked up their 12th win of the season on Thursday night to lead the AFC by a game and a half over the New England Patriots. In the NFC, the 49ers are looking for their 12th win of the season against the Falcons. Even with the best record in the NFC, the 49ers only have a one game lead in their own division over the Seattle Seahawks.

For the 2019 NFL season, both Jeff Hartman and myself will be picking every game (except Thursdays) against the spread and the over/under point totals. Please remember we are not experts on betting or any kind of sports gamblers. We are just a couple of Steelers’ fans saying who we think will come through each week.

Last week, Both Jeff and I hovered right around .500 in both categories with each of us getting a one game victory over the other. I had the advantage in picking games against the spread at 7-6-2 while Jeff was a game behind at 6-7-2. Jeff held the advantage in the over/under at 8-7 while I was just behind at 7-8. On the season, we are each above .500 in both categories while Jeff was the first person to pick 100 games correctly in the over/under category.

So here are the picks for the 15 games this Sunday and Monday for Week 15 of the NFL season. Please feel free to list your choices in the comment section below and play along!

All selections are based off of the consensus data from oddsshark.com as of Saturday night.

Playoff scenarios for the Pittsburgh Steelers heading into Sunday night’s game against the Bills

Behind the Steel Curtain - 12 hours 31 min ago
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Currently in the 6th seed, the Steelers will move up one spot with a victory over the Bills

With only three weeks remaining in the NFL season, the exact way things can play out for teams in playoff contention becomes more clear. While factors such as strength of victory and conference record can still change from week to week, looking at specific matchups for the upcoming slate of games can help in determining what the Pittsburgh Steelers need to do to maintain, or improve, their playoff position.

Here is a rundown of the Steelers current standings in in the AFC playoff race:

AFC Playoff Standings

1. Baltimore Ravens-y 12-2
2. New England Patriots 10-3
3. Kansas City Chiefs-y 9-4
4. Houston Texans 8-5
————————————————-
5. Buffalo Bills 9-4
6. Pittsburgh Steelers 8-5

7. Tennessee Titans 8-5
8. Cleveland Browns 6-7
9. Oakland Raiders 6-7
10. Indianapolis Colts 6-7

x- clinched playoff berth y- clinched division

Pittsburgh Steelers are currently in the six seed in the AFC playoff picture as they are tied with the Tennessee Titans in record but hold the tiebreaker of a better conference record. With the Baltimore Ravens winning the AFC North division with their victory over the Jets Thursday, the Steelers can place no higher than fifth in the conference standings.

Moving up

In Week 15, if the Pittsburgh Steelers can defeat the Buffalo Bills they will move up into the fifth seed for the playoffs. The Steelers win coupled with the Bills loss will give them identical records in 2019. With the Steelers owning the first tiebreaker of the head-to-head matchup, they would be ahead of the Bills in any scenario which involves only the two teams being in a tie. Should a third team enter the mix down the road, the head-to-head tiebreaker would not apply and conference record would come into play.

Moving down

Should the Steelers not be victorious in Week 15, they can either hold pat at the sixth position or fall to the seventh position based solely on the results of one game. With the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans tied at 8-5 in the AFC South, the winner of their matchup will hold the fourth seed at 9-5 while the loser will drop to 8-6.

Since the Steelers did not play either the Titans or Texans in 2019, the first tiebreaker will be conference record. The Steelers have played one less AFC opponent so far in 2019 than both the Titans and the Texans as they each have a matchup against an NFC South team in Week 16. As for Week 17, the Texans and Titans will face off for the second time with this matchup coming in Houston.

Through 13 games, the Steelers have a conference record of 6-3, which is slightly ahead the Tennessee Titans at 6-4. The Houston Texans have a conference record of 7-3. Should the Steelers come up short in Week 15, they would hold the six seed if the Texans defeat the Titans. But if Tennessee takes down Houston, the Steelers would fall to the seventh seed as Houston has a better conference record.

Looking Ahead

When it comes to simply making the playoffs, the Steelers main competition will be whichever team places second in the AFC South. Right now the two front runners are the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans as they are both 8-5. With both of their games remaining against each other, either one team is guaranteed to lose two games or each team will lose at least one game. The very best record the second-place finisher in the AFC South could have is 10-6 with an 8–4 conference record. The Steelers would be able to match this scenario with a victory in two of their final three games. When it comes to the tiebreakers of conference record and common opponents, the Houston Texans currently sit better than the Tennessee Titans, therefore it would be a better benefit to the Steelers for the Texans to win the division.

NFL Tiebreakers

If two teams are tied for the wildcard and they are not in the same division, the following tiebreakers will be applied in this order:

1. Head-to-head, if applicable.
2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.
4. Strength of victory.
5. Strength of schedule.
6. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
7. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
8. Best net points in conference games.
9. Best net points in all games.
10. Best net touchdowns in all games.
11. Coin toss.

While head-to-head, conference record, and record against common opponents can be easily calculated, strength of victory is dependent on many different outcomes each week. With so many games going one way or the other, it is more beneficial to wait at least one more week in order to determine strength of victory and beyond if needed.

AFC Playoff Picture: Where the Steelers stand heading into Week 15

Behind the Steel Curtain - 13 hours 1 min ago
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers currently control their own destiny, but that can change in the blink of an eye.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2019 season is 13 games old, and they sit at 8-5 heading into a Week 15 matchup with the Buffalo Bills in prime time. With only three games remaining on the team’s schedule, it is now we start to take a look at the AFC Playoff Picture, and what might need to take place for the black-and-gold to get into the postseason.

After a Week 14 win over the Arizona Cardinals, the Steelers remain the sixth seed and in control of their own destiny heading into Sunday’s game at Heinz Field.

Let’s take a look at where things sit heading into Week 15:

AFC Playoff Picture — Week 15

1. Baltimore Ravens (12-2) REMAINING OPPONENTS: at Browns (6-7), vs. Steelers (8-5)
2. New England Patriots (10-3) REMAINING OPPONENTS: at Bengals (1-12), vs. Bills (9-4), vs. Dolphins (3-10)
3. Kansas City Chiefs (9-4) REMAINING OPPONENTS: vs. Broncos (5-8), at Bears (7-6), vs. Chargers (5-8)
4. Houston Texans (8-5) REMAINING OPPONENTS: at Titans (8-5), at Buccaneers (6-7), vs. Titans (8-5)
5. Buffalo Bills (9-4) REMAINING OPPONENTS: at Steelers (8-5), at Patriots (10-3), vs. Jets (6-8)
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5) REMAINING OPPONENTS: vs. Bills (9-4), at Jets (6-8), at Ravens (11-2)

In the hunt:

7. Tennessee Titans (8-5) REMAINING OPPONENTS: vs. Texans (8-5), vs. Saints (10-3), at Texans (8-5)
8. Cleveland Browns (6-7) REMAINING OPPONENTS: at Cardinals (3-9-1), vs. Ravens (11-2), at Bengals (1-12)
9. Oakland Raiders (6-7) REMAINING OPPONENTS: vs. Jaguars (4-9), at Chargers (5-8), at Broncos (5-8)
10. Indianapolis Colts (6-7) REMAINING OPPONENTS: at Saints (10-3), vs. Panthers (5-8), at Jaguars (4-9)

These standings will shuffle significantly in just a couple weeks, let alone by Week 17. Just take a look at the games which took place in Week 14 that shuffled the playoff order. The Titans beat the Raiders, essentially bumping them out of the race. The Chiefs win and the Texans loss had them flip-flop in the standings. Buffalo’s loss could equate to the Steelers claiming the 5th seed if they beat the Bills in Week 15.

A lot can change after any given week, and Week 15 will be no different. Take a look at some key games for the upcoming slate of NFL games:

Texans at Titans
Bills at Steelers
Colts at Saints

However, it is sad to say, but the Steelers’ only hope for a playoff berth would be via the Wild Card. The Ravens look like the best team in the NFL at the current moment and have already clinched a playoff spot in the postseason.

The good news is the Steelers control their own destiny, and taking care of their own business will leave no doubt whether they deserve a spot in the playoffs. A lot can change in just a couple weeks...

Take a look at the above standings; who do you see failing down the stretch? And which team will be a surprise to climb the rankings? Let us know in the comment section below!

Fan Rooting Guide: Who Steelers fans may want to root for in other games in Week 15

Behind the Steel Curtain - 13 hours 52 min ago
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

BTSC’s guide to the other weekend games that might impact the Steelers the most.

The AFC playoff picture is shaping up as far as the Steelers are concerned. Beating Buffalo could vault the Steelers into the No. 5 seeding. Of course, the Steelers do need to win, but other games still have a direct impact on them. With parity ablaze in the AFC, the playoff contenders are far from being determined. However, it starts taking more and more of a shape with every passing week.

Most of the time, Steelers fans know who to root for. But here’s a guide to significant matchups, and whose losses the Steelers would benefit more from this weekend. Once again, the Steelers need to win for this wish list to be viable. For those that argue that this is a fruitless exercise, then think of this as a rooting guide for the Steelers traded first-rounder to go later.

If the season ended today, the Steelers would be the sixth seed in the AFC, but there are plenty of teams to root for in other action.

Here are the current AFC playoff standings.

  1. Baltimore Ravens 11-2 (Would win AFC North and earn a First Round Bye)
  2. New England Patriots 10-3 (Would win AFC East and earn a First Round Bye)
  3. Kansas City Chiefs 9-4 (Would win AFC West and host Wild Card Pittsburgh)
  4. Houston Texans 8-5 (Would win AFC South and host Buffalo;)
  5. Buffalo Bills 9-4 (Would earn Wild Card and travel to Houston)
  6. Pittsburgh Steelers 8-5 (Would earn Wild Card and travel to Kansas City)
  7. Tennessee Titans 8-5
  8. Cleveland Browns 6-7
  9. Oakland Raiders 6-7
  10. Indianapolis Colts 6-7
  11. Denver Broncos 5-8
  12. X Los Angeles Chargers 5-8
  13. X New York Jets 5-8
  14. X Jacksonville Jaguars 4-9
  15. X Miami Dolphins 3-10
  16. X Cincinnati Bengals 1-12

(X) eliminated

New York Jets at Baltimore Ravens - Thursday 8:20 PM, FOX

The Ravens aren’t going to lose at home, let alone to the Jets. Plus, you don’t need a rooting guide to cheer against these guys.

Who to root for: New York Jets

Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans - Sunday 1:00 PM, CBS

The winner of this series could be a Steeler opponent coming up in the Wild Card. So, pick your poison. I’d rather see Tennessee.

Who to root for: Tennessee Titans

Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs - Sunday 1:00 PM, CBS

The Chiefs are surging again. I would love to see them knocked back down to earth.

Who to root for: Carolina

New England Patriots at Cincinnati Bengals - Sunday 1:00 PM, CBS

Cincinnati has lost their bite, so rooting for them doesn’t feel as dirty. I doubt they beat the Patriots though. However, it would mean panic for Pats fans.

Who to root for: Cincinnati Bengals

Jacksonville Jaguars at Oakland Raiders - Sunday 4:05 PM, CBS

Oakland is struggling and almost out of the picture. Finish them.

Who to root for: Jacksonville Jaguars

Cleveland Browns at Arizona Cardinals - Sunday 4:05 PM, CBS

Browns need to win-out and hope. A loss ends the pipe dream.

Who to root for: Arizona Cardinals

Indianapolis Colts at New Orleans Saints - Monday 8:15 PM, ESPN

A Colts loss finishes them as far as Pittsburgh is concerned.

Who to root for: New Orleans Saints

Other AFC Games in Week 15:

Miami Dolphins at New York Giants - Sunday 1:00 PM, CBS

Minnesota Vikings at Los Angeles Chargers - Sunday 4:05 PM, CBS

Report: James Conner expected to be in the lineup for the Steelers in Week 15

Behind the Steel Curtain - 14 hours 18 min ago
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers might be without JuJu Smith-Schuster, but could get James Conner back for the Sunday Night game vs. the Bills.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense has been short-handed for the last few weeks. Trying to get the job done with a third string quarterback, no top tier running back and without their No. 1 wide receiver.

Yet, throughout the trials and tribulations the Steelers have rattled off 3 straight wins.

As they prepare for the Buffalo Bills to invade Heinz Field in Week 15 for a Sunday night showdown, fans of the Steelers already know they will be without JuJu Smith-Schuster, but there is some good news breaking this morning involving the availability of James Conner.

Conner, who practiced fully all week, was officially listed on the team’s final injury report as questionable, but according to multiple sources, Conner is expected to play on Sunday night.

This per Adam Schefter of ESPN:

Steelers’ RB James Conner, listed as questionable for Sunday night with a shoulder injury, is expected to play against Buffalo, per sources.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 15, 2019

This per Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network:

#Steelers RB James Conner (shoulder) is expected to return to the field today and he should be treated as the starter. However, expect Conner to split carries with Jaylen Samuels and Benny Snell.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 15, 2019

Rapoport brings up a question many have wondered this week when discussing the possibility of Conner returning to the lineup — who will be the odd man out if Conner returns?

Rapoport lists Jaylen Samuels, who missed practice Wednesday with a groin injury but had no injury designation, as someone who will split carries, but the Steelers aren’t likely to dress five running backs in the upcoming game.

So, who is the odd man out?

James Conner
Benny Snell Jr.
Jaylen Samuels
Kerrith Whyte Jr.
Trey Edmunds

All have value on multiple levels for the Steelers, but the tough choice will have to be made. Logic says Edmunds could/should be the odd man out, but there have been questionable choices made in this department before.

Fans should be excited to have Conner back in the lineup, if he can get through a game without re-injuring his shoulder. Conner brings a dynamic playmaking ability which isn’t found in the other Steelers running backs. Conner’s potential return will bring with it a spark, and a wrinkle, to the huge Week 15 game vs. Buffalo.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for the Buffalo Bills on Sunday Night Football.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Buffalo Bills: A Complete History of the Rivalry

Behind the Steel Curtain - 15 hours 8 min ago
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

In the NFL’s 100th season, a look at the Steelers and Bills, now and through history.

With all the NFL 100th Season lists, I’ve been thinking about the histories of various Steeler rivalries. So every week for the rest of the year, I’ll post a retrospective preview, considering the two teams and setting up for the upcoming game.

This week: Buffalo Bills 2019 Comparison Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images Current Records:

Pittsburgh : 8-5 (2nd AFC North)
Buffalo : 9-4 (2nd AFC East)

2019 Off/Def Comparisons:

....................................... Overall........... Pass ........... Rush........... Score

Pittsburgh Offense........290 (28th).......196 (31st)........95 (25th).......19.9 (23rd)
Buffalo Defense…..........297 (3rd)........192 (3rd).......105 (14th)......16.3 (2nd)

Buffalo Offense...............342 (20th).........207 (27th).....135 (5th).........21.1 (20th)
Pittsburgh Defense.........311 (5th)...........210 (5th)…...101 (9th).........18.6 (6th)

2019 Defensive Comparisons (advanced stats):

Percentage of opponent drives that end in a …score / …turnover / (net difference)

Pittsburgh…...28.3…...21.1…..(-7.2)
Buffalo..……...22.3…....10.1…..(-12.2)

Opponent Passing …TDs / …INTs / (net difference)

Pittsburgh.…..21…..18…..(-3)*
Buffalo………..12……9…..(-3)

*The Steelers gave up 6 passing TDs and grabbed 0 INTs in the two weeks before Minkah Fitzpatrick arrived. That brings their TD/INT difference to +3 over the past 11 weeks.

Opponent Passer Rating:

Pittsburgh…...81.2*
Buffalo….…....77.5

*The Steelers allowed a passer rating of 131.3 before Fitzpatrick showed up. Their team rating in the last 11 weeks has been 71.5.

Opponent rushing TDs

Pittsburgh.……5
Buffalo…..…...11

Opponent Rushing yards per carry

Pittsburgh.……3.78
Buffalo……..….4.39

HISTORY: Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images All-Time Records:

Steelers : 664-583-22 (.532)
Buffalo : 438-496-8 (.471)

Steelers have the 4th most wins in NFL history; 11th best all time winning percentage. Buffalo is 23rd in both wins and winning percentage.

Since Merger:

Steelers : 502-315-3 (.614)
Buffalo : 371-425-2 (.467)

The Steelers are the winningest team in the NFL since the 1970 AFL/NFL merger. The Bills are tied with the Cincinnati Bengals at 22nd.

This Century:

Steelers : 212-115-2 (.648)
Buffalo : 136-181-0 (.429)

The Steelers are the #2 team in the NFL this millennium. Buffalo sits at #28.

Coach in Common:

Mike Mularkey (Steelers Tight End 1989-91, Tight Ends Coach 1996-2000, Offensive Coordinator 2001-03; Bills Head Coach 2004-05)

Mularkey made a pro bowler out of Kordell Stewart in his first year as Steelers O.C., then rode Tommy Maddox to a playoff run the following year. His reward was a two-year run heading the Bills, in which a 14-18 record was enough for the Wilson family to pull the rip-cord. Bizarrely, Mularkey keeps getting head coaching opportunities (Jacksonville 2012, Tennessee 2014-15), but never seems to get more than a season or two to turn a team around.

What Number 4 Represents:

Steelers : Four Super Bowl Titles from 1974-79 (4-0)
Buffalo : Four Super Bowl appearances from 1990-93 (0-4)

All-Time Running Back Controversy:

Steelers : Franco Harris (1972-83) vs Jerome Bettis (1996-2005)
Buffalo : O.J. Simpson (1969-77) vs Thurman Thomas (1988-99)

Best Penn State Linebacker:

Steelers : Jack Ham (1971-82)
Buffalo : Shane Conlan (1987-95)

(Note: Buffalo coach Marv Levy drafted three linebackers from PSU in the 80s, explaining, “as Gloria Venderbilt said, you can never be too rich, too thin, or have too many Penn State linebackers.”)

Longest Stretch of Failure:

Steelers : 1933-71 – zero playoff wins, one (unscheduled) playoff appearance
Buffalo : 2000-2019 – zero playoff wins, one playoff appearance

Division Rivals in another Universe?

Distance Pittsburgh and Buffalo : 214.7 miles
Nearest AFC East team to Buffalo: NY Jets – 373.4 miles
Distance Pittsburgh to Cincinnati: 289 miles
Distance Pittsburgh to Baltimore: 248 miles
* only the Cleveland Browns are closer to the Steelers than Buffalo

HEAD TO HEAD: All-Time Series:

Steelers : 16 – 9

Playoff Series:

Steelers : 2 – 1

Current Streak:

Steelers : 6w

Longest Streak:

Steelers : 6 games (2001-16)
Buffalo : 5 games (1986-93) *includes one playoff game

First game:

October 11, 1970
Steelers : 23
Buffalo : 10

This was the Steelers’ first win in 17 games, having finished Chuck Noll’s first season on a 13 game losing streak, and starting 1970 at 0-3. They’d finish the year on a promising run, going 5-6 after that winless start. But this was not a good team. The defense held O.J. Simpson to 60 yards on the day, and Steeler quarterbacks (Terry Hanratty and rookie Terry Bradshaw) combined for a stat line of 7-22, 50 yards and a touchdown. Yikes. The Steelers young D (already featuring Joe Greene, Mel Blount, Andy Russel, and L.C. Greenwood) records five sacks and five takeaways, and that’s enough to take the day.

Most Recent game:

December 11, 2016
Steelers : 27
Buffalo : 20

Le’Veon Bell carries 38 times for a team record 236 rushing yards and three touchdowns as the Steelers shut down a scrappy Bills team in the Buffalo snow. Ben Roethlisberger had an uncharacteristically ugly game, throwing three interceptions and no touchdowns, so Bell had to carry the day, and he did. This Steelers team had started 4-5, before going on a tremendous nine game winning streak (including two playoff victories). This was the fourth victory in the run, and the only one in which they ran for more yards than they passed.

Biggest Game in the Series:

December 22, 1974 (AFC Divisional Playoff)
Steelers : 32
Buffalo : 14

This was the first poststeason step on the Steelers journey to the first of their four 1970s Super Bowl victories. The Steelers scored 26 points in the second quarter, as Franco Harris ran for three touchdowns and Rocky Bleier added a short touchdown reception in the quarter. The Steelers defense held O.J. Simpson to 49 yards, and kept Buffalo to 100 as a team, while they ran for 235 yards themselves. This game was also an example of a suffocating defense, but not a big-play D: the Steelers recorded one takeaway and zero sacks, and yet outgained the Bills by 174 yards. The win sent the Steelers to Oakland for a conference title tilt with the hated Raiders.

Other Memorable Games:

November 28, 2010
Steelers : 19*OT
Buffalo : 16

The Steelers were on their way to their second Super Bowl in three years; the Bills would finish the season 4-12. This should have been a rout, but somehow Buffalo hung in there and knotted the score at 16 at the final gun. On to overtime, where Ryan Fitzpatrick (yup) caught the Steelers secondary out of position and threw the game winner deep to Stevie Johnson, who dropped it. This opened the door for Rashard Mendenhall (151 rushing yards) to set up Shaun Suisham’s game winning field goal.

Amazingly, Johnson logged into Twitter after the game and answered one of the great sports questions: since winners always seem to thank God for their success, why does no one ever blame God when they fail? Johnson’s tweet: “I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! ILL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!! THX THO...” Reading about it later, many of us thought this was an Onion headline at first. Nope.

January 2, 2005
Steelers : 29
Buffalo : 24

The Steelers entered the contest at 14-1, having already clinched the AFC’s number 1 seed, while Buffalo needed a win to sneak into the playoffs for the first time in six seasons. The game seemed like a perfect opportunity for the Bills, as the Steelers rested their starters. Unfortunately, the Steelers JV squad was still the better team. The game is significant in that it completed the only 15-1 season in AFC history. As a side story, since Duce Staley was still injured, Bill Cowher rested Jerome Bettis, and was forced to start an undrafted rookie running back named Willie Parker, who recorded 102 yards in his first NFL start. As so often happened in those days, the game sealing points came from the defense, as a backup OLB named James Harrison brought back a fumble 18 yards for a fourth quarter touchdown.

January 6, 1996 (AFC Divisional Playoffs)
Steelers : 40
Buffalo : 21

The Steelers get playoff revenge for their 1993 loss (see below) by trouncing the fading Bills dynasty. The Steelers will host Indianapolis the next week, and when the dust settles, Pittsburgh will wind up in the Super Bowl to take on the Bills’ nemesis and their own 70s whipping boys, the Dallas Cowboys. It will be the Steelers’ first Super Bowl in 15 years.

January 9, 1993 (AFC Divisional Playoffs)
Steelers ; 3
Buffalo : 24

The two-time defending AFC champion Bills had survived the Wildcard round by executing the biggest comeback in NFL history, defeating the Houston Oilers 41-38 after trailing 35-3. Meanwhile, the Steelers came in fresh, after rookie coach Bill Cowher led them to the AFC’s #1 seed. On paper, the game reads like a passing of the torch, particularly since the Bills would be starting backup quarterback Frank Reich in place of future Hall of Famer Jim Kelly. Unfortunately, Buffalo is not ready to let go of the conference’s mantle. The Bills defense will sack Neil O’Donnell seven times and force three turnovers without committing one themselves (the Steelers had led the league in takeaways in 1993 with a whopping 46). In the end, the Bills blast the Steelers at Three Rivers, and qualify for their third straight Super Bowl. There, they will be trounced by the Dallas Cowboys 52-17, in a game most famous for Bills wideout Don Beebe running down a showboating Leon Lett before Lett can reach the end zone and score on a fumble return. Kind of an anticlimax, but I guess those happen sometimes.

Podcast: Can the Steelers prove their worth vs. the Bills in Week 15?

Behind the Steel Curtain - 16 hours 6 min ago

The Steelers have only beaten one team with a winning record, but Pittsburgh can silence the doubters with a win on Sunday night.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are on the verge of a playoff berth, but there are doubters out there who feel this team has only beaten bad teams and aren’t worthy of the playoffs. Can the Steelers beat the 9-4 Bills and prove to they are indeed worthy?

This is a tough question, and one where they can be multiple responses/answers to. This is going to be the talking point in the latest podcast.

Plenty has to be deciphered here, and Jeff Hartman lays it all out there for the listeners in the latest show...

Check out the show below, and be sure to comment what you think in the comment section below!

If you missed the live show, be sure to check out the YouTube clip here, and be sure to subscribe to our channel by clicking HERE:

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Google Play: CLICK HERE

If you’re old-school and just want the audio, you can listen to it in the player below.

Distribution Maps: What games will you see in Week 15 before the Steelers and Bills play?

Behind the Steel Curtain - 17 hours 15 sec ago

The Steelers are playing the Buffalo Bills in Week 15 on Sunday Night Football. Will you get to see before the showdown?

If you were like me, before I decided to sign up for the DirecTV Sunday Ticket package every week I was wondering whether I’d be able to watch my beloved Steelers in the comfort of my own home, or if I’d have to go elsewhere to watch the game.

Before there were websites devoted to this, it meant a lengthy trip on the television guide screen to see which game was scheduled to air, but now it’s just a click away.

Since anyone with standard cable will get to see the Steelers and Bills go head-to-head in Week 15, check out which games you’ll see in your local viewing area leading up to the prime time showdown.

For those who want to know which game they’ll see, check the map below, courtesy of 506 Sports:

CBS Single Game

RED: Texans at Titans
GREEN: Vikings at Chargers (LATE)
YELLOW: Jaguars at Raiders (LATE)
BLUE: Broncos at Chiefs
PINK: Browns at Cardinals (LATE)
LIGHT BLUE: Patriots at Bengals

FOX Early Game

RED: Bears at Packers
GREEN: Seahawks at Panthers
YELLOW: Buccaneers at Lions
BLUE: Eagles at Washington
GREY: No Game

FOX Late Game

RED: Rams at Cowboys
BLUE: Falcons at 49ers

So, how will you be watching the game? At home? At a bar? Hosting a party? Either way, today is the day to get pumped!!

HERE WE GO!!

The 2019 Steelers defense possesses one of the best sack rates in the NFL

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 12/14/2019 - 3:16pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers lead the NFL in sacks heading into Week 15, and their sack rate is one of the best in the league.

The 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers defense does two things better than any other team in the NFL heading into Week 15. Sack the quarterback and take the football away.

With the black-and-gold the clubhouse leader in both sacks and turnovers, you would think their sack rate would be the best in the league, but you’d have to think again. But first, let’s explain what a sack rate actually is...

According to NFL Matchup on ESPN’s verified Twitter page, sack rate is the percentage defensive sacks per opponent dropbacks.

In this case, the Steelers have the second best sack rate in the league with 9.8%. Take a look at the top 10 in the image below:

Through Week 14, these teams have the highest defensive sack rate. #GoNiners #HereWeGo #KeepPounding #DUUUVAL #HTTR #GoPats #LARams #Saints #GoBills #Browns #FlyEaglesFly #Skol @gregcosell | @MattBowen41 pic.twitter.com/wIvzxMOblp

— NFL Matchup on ESPN (@NFLMatchup) December 11, 2019

It should come as a surprise to no on how the Steelers’ Week 15 opponent, the Buffalo Bills, also finds themselves on this list of defenses who get after the quarterback. The Bills come in tied for 9th in the sack rate standings, which means Devlin Hodges and company will have to be prepared for the pressure Buffalo will bring on Sunday Night Football.

While stats are tremendous, and great for truly assessing a team’s identity, so much of it comes down to individual matchups on a week-by-week basis. As stated earlier, the Steelers ability in Week 15, not what they’ve done previously, to harass Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen will ultimately set forth a path to the postseason.

If they get to Allen, and force him into bad positions, the Steelers could find themselves catapulted in front of Buffalo to the No. 5 seed in the AFC Playoff Picture. Fail to contain Allen and suddenly the Steelers will be looking at tie breaker scenarios and wondering what will come of this magical 2019 season.

In any way, be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for the Bills to invade Heinz Field in Week 15 on Sunday Night Football.

Crunching the Numbers: Examining how penalties shape the Steelers’ offensive drives in 2019

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 12/14/2019 - 1:05pm
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

When a flag is thrown during a Steelers’ drive, it has a significant impact on the result

I had a question posed to me this week which caused me to dive quite deep into the Steelers 2019 season. When asked about how penalties affect Steelers’ drives, both the person who asked the question and myself assumed we had an idea of the result as we were just looking for the data to back up our hypothesis. But the more I searched, the more the data was telling a different story.

So how do penalties affect the offensive drives for the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers? When the Steelers are set back, does it significantly hinder their ability to put up points? Or does it not really make a significant difference in the long run? In this weeks installment of Crunching the Numbers, we’ll take a look at all the Steelers’ drives in 2019 and evaluate the percentages of how often they score points when a penalty is enforced.

144

To set the stage for this exercise, it is important to first look at the Steelers totals for 2019. Of the Steelers 144 offensive drives, they have scored points in some manner in exactly one-third of their possessions. The Steelers have had a drive resulting in a touchdown 22 times (15.3%) and a field goal 26 times (18.1%). The Steelers have had 57 of their offensive drives end in a punt which is 39.6% of their total drives. They’ve had 39 drives end by some other means than a punt or a score. Drives which fit into this “other’ category include a turnover, the end of the half, the end of the game, a safety, turning the ball over on downs, or a missed field goal. Between the other category and punts, they comprises 66.7% of all Steelers’ drives.

82

Of the Steelers 144 offensive drives, 82 of them have had no penalties accepted for either team. On these drives, the Steelers have only scored nine touchdowns (11.0%) and 10 field goals (12.2%) which means the Steelers have a scoring rate of 23.2%. Surprisingly, the Steelers actually score points at a rate of 10% less than their total average when there are no penalties called. In these drives, the Steelers have punted 35 times (42.7%) and have given the ball up by some other means 28 times (34.1%). So when there is no penalty called, over three-quarters of the Steelers’ drives have ended without points.

24.1%

Here is where the data starts to take an even more interesting turn. In looking at the 29 drives in where the only penalties accepted were against the Steelers when they were on offense, they score at a rate of 24.1%. With four touchdown drives and three field goals, the Steelers actually score with a slightly higher percentage when there is an offensive penalty then if there was no penalty at all.

88.9%

So how is the Steelers total scoring percentage higher than when there are no penalties? It’s because of the Steelers overwhelming success rate on drives where there is only a penalty accepted against the defense. Of the 18 drives where the Steelers have not surrendered a penalty but have accepted one against their opponent, they have scored on an overwhelming 88.9%. These scores have come as six touchdown drives and 10 field-goal drives. In all, The Steelers have only punted twice in 2019 on a drive where the only penalty called was on the defense. Along with only two punts, there have been no drives ended by the any other means. The Steelers have scored points on 16 of 18 of these drives .

40%

The only category remaining is the 15 drives in which there were penalties called on both the offense and defense. Many times these penalties were even in number, but not necessarily all. Sometimes there may have been more penalties on the offense while others may have had drives where the defense was penalized more. For these drives, the Steelers have scored on 40% of them with three drives being touchdowns and another three being field goals. The Steelers have punted five times and have given the ball up four times by one of the other categories.

66.7%

Here was the number which I thought was very interesting. In looking at any drive in which a penalty was called on the defense whether there was a penalty on the offense at some point or not, the Steelers score points on two-thirds of these drives. The scoring rate of 66.7% comes with 27.2% rate of touchdowns and 39.4% for field goals. Only one-third of the time do the Steelers not score points with 21.2% of the drives ending in a punt and 12.1% ending some other way.

In 2019, the Steelers have been held scoreless on 66.7% of all their drives. But if there is an accepted penalty on the defense including drives where the Steelers were also penalized, they score at the same 66.7% rate. So if a penalty is enforced on the defense, the scoring rate is flipped.

When taking the time to look at every drive of the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers, I expected scoring success rates to plummet on any occasion in which they suffered an offensive penalty they had to overcome. Surprisingly, it was not the offensive penalties which significantly changes the outcome of the drive. Instead, it has been the Steelers taking advantage of defensive penalties in order to put points on the board.

As for the Buffalo Bills, they have the ninth most defensive penalties in the NFL for 2019. Averaging three penalties on the defensive side of the ball each game, can the Steelers take advantage to put points on the board? Can their high rate of success in cashing in on the defenses mistakes guide them to a win on Sunday night? Please leave your answers in the comments below!

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