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News / Sports / National Sports

Steelers-Bills playoff game moved to Monday amid forecast for dangerous winter weather

Only third time in NFL history a playoff game has been moved due to weather

By JOHN WAWROW and JENNIFER PELTZ, Associated Press
Published: January 13, 2024, 1:44pm

BUFFALO, N.Y. — A potentially dangerous winter storm forecast to hit the Buffalo region over the weekend led the NFL on Saturday to push back the Bills’ wild-card playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers from Sunday to Monday.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and the NFL cited public safety concerns as the reason for the postponement, with up to 2 feet of snow projected to fall on the Buffalo region over a 24-hour period starting Saturday night.

“The decision to move the game to Monday was made in consultation with New York Gov. Kathy Hochul in the best interest of public safety, and with the Buffalo Bills and the Pittsburgh Steelers, as the region prepares for the storm,” the NFL and Bills said in a joint statement.

Hochul said she started talking with the NFL on Thursday about the possibility of having to reschedule the game because of what she called a “dangerous storm.” Hochul, who is from just outside of Buffalo, closed her news conference by saying, “Go, Bills.”

“We want our Bills to win, but we don’t want 60,000 to 70,000 people traveling to the football game in what’s going to be horrible conditions,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said at a news conference in the Buffalo suburbs.

Officials advised residents to stay off the roads starting at nightfall on Saturday, with a driving ban taking effect at 9 p.m. The game will now be played at Highmark Stadium at 4:30 p.m. Monday instead of 1 p.m. Sunday.

The forecast for the Buffalo area called for heavy snow and winds gusting as high as 65 mph (105 kph) Saturday, with 1 to 2 feet (.03 to 0.6 meters) or more of snow eventually piling up. The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning lasting through 7 a.m. Monday, saying that “travel will be very difficult to impossible at times,” with the combination of snow and very strong wind causing near-zero visibility.

Much of the storm was expected to be concentrated in a narrow band of lake-effect snow hovering over Buffalo’s southern suburbs, which includes the Bills’ home in Orchard Park.

Postponing the game frees up sheriff’s deputies, who are usually assigned to Bills game-related duties, to deal with storm-related emergencies, Poloncarz said. Officials were concerned about Steelers fans making the trip to Buffalo through treacherous conditions.

The Steelers themselves have pushed back their travel plans and will now head to Buffalo on Sunday.

After the NFL announcement, the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins shifted the start time of their home game against the Seattle Kraken on Monday from 6 p.m. to 1 p.m. to avoid a time conflict with the Bills-Steelers game.

The Bills are familiar with weather-related schedule changes. In 2022, a lake effect storm led to Buffalo’s home game against Cleveland being moved to Detroit in November. A month later, a massive blizzard caused the Bills to delay their trip home, forcing them to stay overnight in Chicago on Christmas Eve.

Though NFL playoff games have been shifted in the past for various scheduling reasons or to add games to determine tiebreakers, this marks just the third time weather has played a direct factor.

In January 2017, wintry weather in Kansas City led to the NFL pushing back the start of an AFC divisional playoff game between Pittsburgh and the Chiefs from 1 p.m. to 8:20 p.m.

In 1932, the league added a “playoff” game to break a tie in the standings between the Portsmouth Spartans and Chicago Bears. Extreme cold temperatures and heavy snowfall led to the game being played inside Chicago Stadium, with the Bears winning 9-0 on an 80-yard field.

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Peltz reported from New York City. AP Sports Writer Will Graves in Pittsburgh contributed to this report.

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