The Pittsburgh Steelers may boast one of the NFL's top defenses, but their vaunted unit had no answers for Stefon Diggs on Sunday night. Limited on the scoreboard early amid a defensively geared slug-fest, the Steelers saw the big-play wide receiver serve as Josh Allen's go-to from start to finish in Week 14's anticipated AFC showdown. When they had the ball, meanwhile, things weren't nearly as smooth, with Diontae Johnson earning a trip to the bench and Ben Roethlisberger turning the ball over twice amid a consistent push from the Bills' front seven. In the end, Allen and Co. came out on top, securing a 26-15 Bills win to improve to 10-3 and remain comfortably atop the AFC East.
Sunday night's decision marks the second straight defeat for the Steelers, who opened the season 11-0 before falling to Washington Football Team in Week 13. Pittsburgh remains in first place atop the AFC North, though the second-place Cleveland Browns (9-3) will have a chance to pull within one game of the lead on Monday night.
Here are some instant takeaways from Sunday's Bills victory:
Why the Bills won
They might have the best quarterback-wide receiver connection this side of Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill. If it sounds nuts, just consider how easily Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs teamed up to shred the vaunted defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Mike Tomlin's group was down Joe Haden, yes, but still -- 10 catches for 130 yards and a score doesn't even do Diggs justice for the way he consistently found wide-open space and made life easier on Allen. The Bills QB was a joy to watch in his own right, dodging Pittsburgh's front-seven assault to play a mostly clean game with huge playoff implications.
Oh, and Buffalo's own defense? Killer when it needed to be. Levi Wallace and Taron Johnson both had big plays on the ball, Tre'Davious White was predictably feisty on the outside, and the line actually kept Ben Roethlisberger under pressure for most of the night. A total team victory here.
Why the Steelers lost
Dink-and-dunk offense -- with receivers who may or may not catch the ball, by the way -- tends to work better when you're ahead in the game. The Steelers happened to fall into a deep hole, however, losing an early 7-0 advantage and trailing 23-7 midway through the third quarter. By that point, Diontae Johnson's drops, endless short-of-the-sticks routes and a dead-on-arrival ground game had already doomed Pittsburgh's offensive efforts. Ben Roethlisberger wasn't horrible, but he wasn't great, either, spending more time eluding stuffy pockets than airing the ball downfield.
On "D," sans Joe Haden, the Steelers successfully pushed Josh Allen out of the pocket a few times, but that was about it, failing to contain Diggs and surrendering some key Devin Singletary runs as well.
Second down. Steelers' ball. Fifty-two seconds to go in the first half. Pittsburgh was leading 7-3 at the time, with a chance to extend that advantage going into the break. But then Taron Johnson made a perfect break on Roethlisberger's short pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster and muscled his way into a pick, returning the interception an easy 51 yards for the score. Not only did the TD give the Bills a permanent lead, but it completely flipped the first-half script in favor of Buffalo.
Play of the game
It had to be Taron Johnson's pick-six -- a perfectly executed swipe of Big Ben's pass, and a game-changer of a score:
The Bills (10-3) will have a short week to prepare for the Denver Broncos (5-8), who just beat the Panthers and will host a Saturday afternoon matchup. The Steelers (11-2) will be back in prime time on Monday night, Dec. 21, when they visit the rival Cincinnati Bengals (2-10-1), who are fresh off a blowout loss to the Cowboys.