Steelers seek to stay hot in traveling to face tepid Bills
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Receiver Antonio Brown is well aware of the Pittsburgh Steelers' track record of successfully mounting late-season playoff pushes.
When December rolls around, the Steelers traditionally heat up.
''The goal is to continue to get hot,'' Brown said. ''We know what's at stake. We know what's expected of us. And we want to finish strong.''
Following a four-game swoon, the Steelers (7-5) are on a roll in having won three straight to move into a tie with Baltimore atop the AFC North in preparing to travel to play the Buffalo Bills (6-6) on Sunday.
This is no time for a letdown, especially after an efficient 24-14 win over the New York Giants .
''You know how important these games are for us in terms of positioning,'' coach Mike Tomlin said. ''Like we talked about openly last week, December football: Getting into that mentality and understanding what December football is like.''
Since 2000, the Steelers have combined to go 46-18 over their final four games of a season. And they've only twice had two or fewer wins over the season's final quarter, going 1-3 in both 2012 and 2007.
That's not been the case in Buffalo, where the Bills' inability to produce a finishing kick has been a contributing factor to their 16-season playoff drought, the NFL's longest active streak.
Since 2000, the Bills are a combined 25-39 in the season's final quarter, and have won more than two of their final four games once. That happened in 2004 when Buffalo was on a 6-0 roll before being eliminated from contention with a season-ending home loss to a Steelers team that rested its starters after having already secured its playoff spot.
''This experience right here could be the start of something new,'' Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. ''That's what we're trying to do, is to take seize of it right now, this opportunity that we have.''
The Bills have left little margin for error in having to win out and get help from other teams to have a shot at the postseason.
They must also rebound from a dreadful collapse at Oakland, where Buffalo squandered a 15-point third-quarter lead in a 38-24 loss .
TESTY TAYLOR: Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor isn't taking kindly to criticism.
"I'm done talking," the second-year starter tersely said shortly after ending his 10-minute weekly news conference during which he faced numerous questions regarding his inconsistent play. Taylor is overseeing the NFL's worst-ranked passing attack which, in his defense, has been depleted by injuries.
What's concerning is how little impact Taylor has had influencing wins. His numbers are similar whether the Bills win or lose.
In six wins, he has 1,000 yards passing and eight touchdowns (including two rushing). In six losses, he has 1,292 yards passing and nine touchdowns (four rushing).
The big difference is the Bills' NFL-leading rushing attack has 424 more yards in its six wins than losses.
SHADY vs. JUICE: Two of the NFL's most dynamic running backs are squaring off. Buffalo's LeSean McCoy leads the NFL in averaging 5.5 yards per carry, while Pittsburgh's Le'Veon Bell is averaging 145 yards from scrimmage since missing the first three games because of an NFL suspension.
''That's a bad man right there,'' McCoy said of Bell.
McCoy is no slouch, having already topped 100 yards rushing five times and 100 yards from scrimmage in seven times.
WINTER WONDERLAND: Snow's in the forecast this weekend, and that's fine for Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
''It's fun to play in the snow,'' said Roethlisberger, who recalled growing up watching Bills Hall of Famer Jim Kelly competing in the frosty elements. ''I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.''
SEEKING SACK HELP: The Bills are coming off their first game of the season without a sack. And cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman knows it's never easy hauling down Roethlisberger, who's been sacked just 16 times this season.
Roethlisberger's 6-foot-5, 240-pound frame is particularly daunting for the 5-foot-8, 165-pound Robey-Coleman.
''I'm going to let you know right now, I'm not big enough to bring him down,'' he said with a laugh. ''I'm going to need the cavalry to come and help me out a little bit. I might be able to probably pull down his shoulder sleeve, but that's about it.''
TURNING THE CORNER: Pittsburgh's rejuvenated secondary held the Giants in check last week thanks in part to cornerback Ross Cockrell . Drafted by Buffalo in 2014, he was cut loose in the 2015 preseason and picked up by Pittsburgh.
Bills coach Rex Ryan isn't surprised by Cockrell's success.
''I get the brilliant idea that maybe we should stash him on the practice squad,'' Ryan said. ''As soon as we did that, guess what? I thought no one had tape on him. Unfortunately for us, Pittsburgh picked him up.''
AP Sports Writer Will Graves in Pittsburgh contributed to this report.
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