The NFL wild card playoff game between the Buffalo Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers, originally scheduled for Sunday, has been postponed to Monday afternoon due to a paralyzing snowstorm hitting the Buffalo area this weekend. With several feet of snow in the forecast and a driving ban in place across the region, the game was moved for safety reasons.
Massive winter storm prompts state of emergency in Buffalo
A powerful winter storm is set to dump up to 4 feet of snow across parts of western New York this weekend, prompting local officials to declare a state of emergency in Erie County. With blizzard-like conditions expected, New York Governor Kathy Hochul made the decision early Friday to postpone the Bills-Steelers game by a day.
“The safety of players, coaches, staff and fans is our top priority,” Hochul said in a statement. “My team has been in constant contact with the NFL and the Bills to monitor the weather and make sure that if it is played, it is safe for everyone.”
The National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning for Buffalo and surrounding areas valid from Saturday afternoon through Sunday night. Wind gusts of up to 40 mph will accompany heavy snowfall rates of up to 3 inches per hour at times, leading to impossible travel conditions.
A driving ban is in effect for Erie County starting at 7 a.m. Saturday, with only emergency vehicles allowed on roads. The ban will be reassessed on Sunday morning prior to the rescheduled kickoff time at 2 p.m. EST on Monday.
Highmark Stadium buried under feet of snow
Highmark Stadium, home of the Bills, was also not spared from the early effects of the powerful snowstorm. Photos show the stands and field already buried under over 2 feet of snow Friday evening, as the cells set to produce the core of the historic blizzard had yet to arrive.
With snow piling up fast, the Bills sent out a call for help on Saturday morning asking fans to come assist with shoveling out the stadium to make it playable for Monday. Equipment including snowblowers, plows, and brush machines worked overnight to begin clearing miles of seats and access areas.
|Lower Bowl Seats
|Upper Bowl Seats
Despite over 30 inches of snow falling already, forecasts indicate an additional 1 to 3 feet is still likely through Sunday night. Teams of workers and volunteers will have to work around the clock to make enough progress digging out for players and fans to safely access the stadium by Monday afternoon.
Safety concerns prompt discussions on moving game location
With a historic blizzard bearing down on Buffalo, the NFL reportedly considered moving Sunday’s Bills-Steelers wild card game to a neutral location like Atlanta or Indianapolis. But with travel hazards expected to persist, along with limited flight availability, the decision was made to postpone playing the game in Buffalo by 24 hours.
Bills coach Sean McDermott praised the move, saying “we could play a day later if need be. Safety is key here for our city.”
The Bills transported team members and staff to Detroit on Friday to wait out the storm. The Steelers were scheduled to fly into Buffalo on Saturday evening in hopes conditions improve enough for takeoff and landing at Buffalo Airport by then.
If the driving ban is still in effect Monday morning, contingencies like asking fans to carpool or providing transport from designated parking areas further away are being explored.
With so much uncertainty around the extreme weather, the NFL will provide continual updates if any further scheduling changes become necessary. But after shovels and plows helped render the stadium playable, the league chose avoiding another postponement despite what could be the most extreme football conditions ever seen.
Diehard fans embrace chaotic scene in Buffalo
While city and state crews methodically plow major roads and infrastructure, the scene around Highmark Stadium is much more chaotic. Diehard Bills fans are taking backyard equipment like snow blowers and dump trucks to help clear miles of seats buried under feet of dense, wet snow.
Volunteers show up by the dozens to shovel or plow their section of seats,often waving Bills flags from atop mounds of snow piled 20 feet high along the sidelines. Groups organize on social media to coordinate efforts and make sure all areas receive attention.
The community effort exemplifies the passion of Bills Mafia supporting their team’s first home playoff game in 4 years. Fans indicated they always expected wintery weather this time of year in Buffalo, joking that a mere 3+ feet of snow was not enough to dampen their spirits.
Many fans expressed confidence that the Bills would take care of business at home on Monday, plowing through the Steelers much like shovels are plowing through the relentless snow.
Looking ahead to gameday
With the Bills and their rowdy fanbase hungry for playoff success, the team hopes the extra day to prepare pays dividends against the Steelers. Buffalo is currently a 10-point favorite according to oddsmakers.
Josh Allen and the Bills offense looks to start hot and allow their fierce pass rush to pin their ears back against inexperienced Pittsburgh QB Mason Rudolph. Emotions will be high with such tremendous effort expended to make this home game possible for Bills Mafia.
Once the teams finally do take the field Monday afternoon, football’s eyes will turn to Buffalo to see if the Bills’ Super Bowl aspirations can plow forward against their AFC rival. Shovel or plow blade in hand, nothing short of a historic blizzard could keep fans from witnessing the action.
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