Why Was the Bills-Steelers Playoff Game Postponed? Explaining the Decision

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The Buffalo Bills-Pittsburgh Steelers Wild Card game originally scheduled for 1 p.m. ET on Sunday was postponed to Monday at 4:30 p.m. ET in an effort to prioritize public safety amid severe weather in western New York, the state’s Governor Kathy Hochul announced Saturday afternoon.

The game is still set to be played at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York.

Hochul said the decision to move the game was made in consultation with the state’s emergency response team, the Bills, the National Football League (NFL), and league commissioner Roger Goodell.

“The bull’s-eye of the storm is predicted to hit midday Sunday afternoon right during the scheduled Buffalo Bills game,” the governor said at a press conference. “…It’s all part of our critical efforts to keep New Yorkers, motorists and fans safe from this wildly unpredictable storm.”

Here’s what to know about the situation.

The Buffalo Bills logo is seen on the field at Highmark Stadium on January 22, 2023, in Orchard Park, New York. Buffalo’s Wild Card game against the Pittsburgh Steelers has been postponed until Monday because of severe weather in the area.
Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images/Getty Images

Why Was the Bills Game Moved to Monday?

Heavy snow began falling in the area on Saturday afternoon, with roughly 2 feet expected in a 24-plus-hour period. And the snow falling on the region has been accompanied by strong winds gusting as high as 65 miles per hour, the Associated Press reported. The National Weather Service (NWS) issued a winter storm warning for the Buffalo area lasting through 7 a.m. ET Monday, while a travel ban was put into place at 9 p.m. ET on Saturday.

The governor said she began conversations with the NFL on Thursday to go over possible weather scenarios surrounding the game.

A decision was reached to move the game, according to a statement by the Bills, not because of frigid playing conditions, but to ensure the safety of everyone in the area. That includes the fans who may have braced the conditions to travel to the game. The change in date provides weather crews additional time to clear roads near the stadium.

“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.

He added: “As most know, there are hundreds of deputies, from not only the sheriff’s office, but others that assist on game day. They need to be assisting in the middle of a snowstorm, helping those in need, not directing traffic at a football stadium…None of us want to see that many vehicles on the road tomorrow morning trying to get to a football stadium knowing that the conditions are going to be as bad as they are.”

The NFL offered similar sentiments, sharing through a spokesperson that, “The NFL’s priority is always to ensure public safety and avoid diverting resources from authorities that could negatively impact local efforts in the affected areas,” according to the AP.

Read more sports news from Newsweek

Could the Game Be Moved Again?

The Bills-Steelers game will not be pushed back again, Hochul definitively said during a press conference on Sunday afternoon. The governor cited speaking with Bills ownership and Goodell throughout the day, and guessed that by daylight hours on Monday it would be safe to drive to the stadium.

Snow continued to fall in some areas Sunday at a rate of 3 to 6 inches per hour, according to the governor, with wind speeds still up to 50 mph.

“I’m not saying it’s going to be pleasant,” Hochul said of the expected game-time conditions, “but it’s not going to be life-threatening either.”

Poloncarz also noted that the stadium’s parking lots may not be entirely cleared and strongly recommended fans carpool to the game if possible.

Hochul Shares Bills Stadium Weather Conditions

Hochul shared a video on X, formerly Twitter, of the weather conditions in Orchard Park on Sunday right around when the Bills and Steelers would have been kicking off if the game was played as originally scheduled. The governor noted a lack of visibility and the “dangerously high winds” in the area.

NFL Media reported that Bills players and coaches had hoped to go to the team facility on Sunday, though the ongoing storm and travel ban prevented that from happening. Poloncarz said Sunday that the travel ban in Orchard Park and the surrounding areas will “probably not” be lifted before Monday morning.

The Steelers’ flight into the area took off on Sunday afternoon.

The Bills had been seeking snow shovelers to assist in clearing out their stadium ahead of Monday’s game, though asked any interested parties to abide by travel bans and not report to Highmark Stadium until further notice. Some dedicated fans did walk to the stadium to aide in the snow removal, Hochul said.

The last instance in which an NFL playoff game was moved because of the weather came during the 2016 season when the Steelers’ divisional-round matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs was pushed from 1:05 p.m. ET to 8:20 p.m. ET. Pittsburgh won that game, 18-16, in Kansas City.

How to Watch Bills-Steelers Game on Monday

The Steelers (10-7) and Bills (11-6) are currently scheduled to kick off at 4:30 p.m. ET on Monday. The game will still air on CBS, with the network’s top crew of Jim Nantz and Tony Romo on the call. Buffalo, the AFC East champions and No. 2 seed in the conference, enters the game as a 10-point favorite over seventh-seeded Pittsburgh.

Hochul said that she expects conditions at game time to be very cold, though does not anticipate any blowing snow.

If the Bills win, they will host the Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round. But if the Steelers advance, they will set up a divisional meeting with the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens.