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Insider Only Bills go Duck Hunting, Steelers margin of error to make postseason…………

A nightmare QB performance, A nightmare night for Randy Fichtner & More Buzz

The Duck crumbled as the Buffalo Bills (10-4) picked off Devlin Hodges four times, en route to a 17-10 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6) on Sunday night. The Bills in clinching a playoff spot, went Duck Hunting in quarter 4, picking off Hodges three times over the Steelers final five possessions, as a 10-7 Steelers lead to open the 4th quarter, evaporated to a 17-10 loss.

This was just a maddening game for the Steelers on a number of levels and in all three phases, yet, here they were with a three point lead entering the 4th and drove into Bill’s territory twice when trailing by seven on their final two possessions.

When you dissect this game, it starts with the offensive game plan.

It was either too conservative (1st/2nd QTR), just plain overthinking things (All Game) or too aggressive (2nd half).

The game plan in the first half was so vanilla, no creativity, everyone in the building knew what the Steelers were going to do and nothing just went together. Finally in the waning minutes of the second quarter, a Steven Nelson interception completely changed momentum of the game and the Steelers decide to overthink things.

1st and goal at the 10, they line up James Conner in the wildcat and what do you know, Diontae Johnson who is prone to fumble, botches the handoff and the Steelers turn the ball over at the Buffalo 12 yard line. Just a gut punching turnover and an idiotic play call against a defense like the Bills have. Three points is great in that situation as you get the ball to start the third quarter.

Entering the third quarter the Steelers had to get more creative in the passing game and they produce a flawless drive, going 69 yards on 7 plays to take a 10-7 lead. Hodges connected with Diontae Johnson for a 29 yard pass on the drive and for the first time in the game, Pittsburgh had Buffalo on their heels defensively.

But, what played out here was the Steelers deciding to completely abandon the run the rest of the way when it was a game that was going to be decided by defense and field position.

Following the opening 2nd half drive to go up 10-7, the Steelers had a 26-3, pass to run ratio. Just mindboggling.

Randy Fichtner doesn’t get enough credit this season for what he’s at the work with at quarterback, but what your made of as an offensive coordinator becomes magnified in pressured situations like Sunday
night’s game was considering the opponent on defense and the playoff implications.

Fichtner obviously didn’t make the horrid sideline throws or poor reads Hodges made, but he had to be a difference maker from the sidelines and he failed miserably in this one.


Leash Shorter, Stick with Hodges vs Jets

— For how rotten Devlin Hodges performance was against the Buffalo and you have to wonder if Hodges ignoring Tomlin saying into the headset ‘spike the ball’ has some consequences in opening up the QB decision vs the Jets, the Steelers should again call Hodges number.

The leash should be a lot shorter entering the Jets game, but between the two QB’s, I still look at Hodges as giving Pittsburgh the best chance to hit on a couple deep passing plays, especially with the connection Hodges and Pittsburgh’s best WR right now James Washington have developed.

The Steelers shouldn’t overthink this. Go with Hodges, see how he responds and go from there.


— For all that went wrong for the Steelers, four Devlin Hodges interceptions, Jordan Berry giving the Bills a short field, ect, I still come back to the wildcat call and Josh Allen’s 14 yard TD pass to Tyler Kroft on 3rd and 9 as being the two critical plays that swayed this game.

Credit to Allen for attacking the Steelers one weak link on the defense in Terrell Edmunds whose back peddling into the end zone instead of protecting the chains. The Steelers had the right formation as Mark Barron passed Kroft to Edmunds who was day dreaming for a second. Steelers hold Buffalo a field goal, that game probably goes to overtime.


Steelers – Titans Tiebreaker Scenario’s

— The Steelers playoff chances would have spiked to 95% with a win vs Buffalo and have now dipped to under 50% with Sunday’s 17-10 loss.

It’s simple, win out and the Steelers are in. After that it’s complicated.

10-6 Scenarios:
*If the Steelers and Titans both win out and finish 10-6, the Steelers win the tiebreaker.

9-7 scenarios
*If Steelers and Titans each finish 9-7 with the Titans win coming against the Saints, Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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