The Pittsburgh Steelers have officially been eliminated from the NFL Playoffs. Mike Tomlin's team faced the Buffalo Bills in bitter temperatures at Highmark Stadium in the Wild Card round, but things didn't go according to plan. Despite their best efforts without T.J. Watt, the Steelers were sent packing. Now they won't see the field again for a meaningful football game until September.
This game got away from Pittsburgh early as they quickly dug their own grave in the first two quarters. After QB Josh Allen marched the Bills down the field for a touchdown on Buffalo's opening drive, a George Pickens fumble gave the Bills the ball back in their own red zone. One play later, Allen found Dalton Kinkaid over the middle of the field for a score.
Mason Rudolph and the Steelers tried to answer back with a score of their own in the second quarter, but his pass in the endzone to Diontae Johnson resulted in an interception. The Bills jumped out to a 21-0 lead -- thanks largely to a pair of turnovers by Pittsburgh. At one point, they were on pace to suffer their worst loss in playoff history. The Steelers answered back with under two minutes remaining, but they still trailed 21-7 heading into the tunnel at halftime.
In the second half, the Steelers showed signs of life as they moved the ball down the field. Pittsburgh kept pace with Buffalo in the second half, but it was too little too late. In the end, Mike Tomlin's team suffers his third straight playoff loss by multiple scores --this one ending with a final score of 31-17. This is now seven straight years that Pittsburgh has failed to earn a single playoff win.
Mason Rudolph made a valiant effort in his biggest NFL game
As bad as things looked at times, it was hard to be too hard on Mason Rudolph for what transpired in Pittsburgh's Wild Card game against the Bills. Though Rudolph did have the early interception in the back of the endzone, Diontae Johnson could have done a better job working back toward the football.
Outside of that, Rudolph showed remarkable poise in the pocket and stood tough with pressure barreling down. His receivers also missed several opportunities to come down with the football. In his first-ever playoff game, Rudolph finished with 229 yards to go with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception, per ESPN stats.
Time for Steelers to blow it up?
Going seven consecutive years without a playoff win is typically enough to inspire change for any NFL franchise. We don't know what the future holds with Mike Tomlin, the coaching staff, and many of the players on this team. However, it's probably safe to expect a significant amount of roster and coaching turnover in the organization.
When it comes down to it, plateauing as a slightly above .500 team year after year just doesn't cut it. The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the most winning franchises in NFL history, but at the end of the day, postseason success is all that matters... and this team has been lacking exactly that.
The Steelers were bigger underdogs than any team in Super Wild Card weekend, and they never came close to owning a lead against the Bills. Now the offseason starts, and every fan is hoping that real changes are coming in the near future.
Sadly, Pittsburgh won't play another meaningful game of football for eight months. The longest stretch of the year for every Steelers fan begins now.