Guest of the League
Aurelio Sanchez Memorial League Est. 2007
FFL: Offseason | NFL: Superbowl

Former teammates McDermott, Tomlin lead Bills, Steelers

Thu Dec 12 2:04pm ET
By WILL GRAVES
AP Sports Writer

Players: Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, James Conner, Josh Allen

Buffalo Bills middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, center, celebrates after intercepting a pass by Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) during the first half of an NFL football game in Orchard Park, N.Y., Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)


Buffalo Bills middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (49) intercepts a deflected Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson pass intended for Willie Snead (83) during the first half of an NFL football game in Orchard Park, N.Y., Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/John Munson)


Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Devlin Hodges (6) pumps his fist after a first down completion during the second half of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)


Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson (18) celebrates his touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)


Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt (90) lines up against the Arizona Cardinals during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)


Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) looks to pass during the second half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Orchard Park, N.Y., Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/John Munson)


PITTSBURGH (AP) Sean McDermott remembers lining up across from Mike Tomlin and wanting to do everything he could to impress everyone watching, from the William & Mary coaches to his teammates to Tomlin himself. It comes with the territory when you're a freshman defensive back and the wide receiver you're facing happens to be an upperclassman and a team captain.

''We had our battles,'' said McDermott, who played with Tomlin for two seasons in 1993-94. ''I was a walk-on, he was a scholarship athlete. He was established and I was just trying to get a pair of cleats.''

A quarter century later, the stage is a much different one.

Like McDermott during his early college days, the Buffalo Bills are the upstart in search of some street cred heading into a rare prime-time visit to Pittsburgh to face Tomlin and the Steelers. A win and the Bills (9-4) clinch their second playoff berth in McDermott's three seasons. A victory by the surging Steelers (8-5) and Pittsburgh leapfrogs Buffalo for the AFC's top wild-card spot.

McDermott and Tomlin have remained in touch during their respective professional careers, with McDermott occasionally reaching out to Tomlin in search of advice. All of which is kind of funny to Tomlin, who remembers McDermott as the more focused of the two when their playing careers for the Tribe overlapped in 1993 and 1994.

''I was just trying to have fun,'' Tomlin said with a laugh.

He still is. Tomlin might be in the midst of the most remarkable coaching job of his 13-year tenure. Last week's victory over Arizona assured the Steelers of a 16th straight season season finishing .500 or better - the second-longest active streak in the league behind New England - and they've done it despite an avalanche of injuries on offense that has forced Pittsburgh to reinvent itself on the fly.

Undrafted rookie free agent and budding cult hero Devlin ''Duck'' Hodges is the quarterback. Two other rookies - Benny Snell and Kerrith Whyte - have carried the bulk of the running game since James Conner injured his right shoulder before Halloween. Third-round pick Diontae Johnson electrified while accounting for both of Pittsburgh's touchdowns against the Cardinals. Pittsburgh isn't lighting up scoreboards as it did during the ''Killer B'' era led by Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell. Yet the Steelers are still in the thick of things in mid-December, just like always.

''In the locker room, no one doubted him one bit, ever,'' Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree said. ''The outside world probably doubted him because he didn't win the Super Bowl every year. But it's the Steelers. People expect the Steelers to win the Super Bowl every year. But if he was on another team, he would be coach of the year plenty of times. But being here, expectations are a little higher. He really handled the pressure.''

Something McDermott is learning how to do in Buffalo. From the moment he and general manager Brandon Beane were hired in 2017, they've talked about building the franchise into consistent contenders. A victory over McDermott's college teammate turned mentor would be another symbolic step in the process.

''I think we've moved that needle drastically since we've got here and in the entire building,'' McDermott said. ''It's been a long time since this organization has been in a position like this, this late in the season, and we don't take it lightly.''

DUCK'S DEVELOPMENT

Hodges won over Tomlin and the rest of Pittsburgh's coaching staff with his pragmatic approach. He has thrown just two interceptions and taken just six sacks in his five appearances. Yet he's starting to evolve from caretaker to difference-maker. Hodges made a handful of clutch plays against the Cardinals, including an improvised third-down completion to Johnson that helped set up the game-sealing field goal.

Still, the Alabama native might face a new challenge against the Bills: playing in the cold. The forecast calls for snow showers in the morning with gusty winds and temperatures in the 20s at kickoff. Hodges, however, doesn't expect to be bothered. The avid hunter says trips to Saskatchewan, Canada, have left him well-prepared for whatever comes.

READY FOR PRIME TIME?

Buffalo's rise has caught the attention of the television networks. The league flexed the meeting with Pittsburgh from the early afternoon window to prime time a couple weeks ago and moved the team's visit to New England next weekend from Sunday to Saturday. The Bills haven't played on Sunday night in 12 years, when they were dismantled by the Patriots 56-10.

''That's something we haven't experienced as a team yet,'' said quarterback Josh Allen, who was 11 the last time Buffalo played under the Sunday night lights. ''It's definitely going to be a learning adjustment for us, but I really feel like the schedule is the only thing that changes.''

FAMILY AFFAIR

Trey, Terrell and Tremaine Edmunds will become the first trio of brothers to be active in the same NFL game in nearly 100 years when they run on to Heinz Field in front of a crowd that will include over 30 friends and family to commemorate the occasion.

Trey, the oldest, is a backup running back and special teams ace for Pittsburgh. Terrell, the middle brother, is the Steelers' starting safety. Tremaine, the youngest, is a second-year linebacker coming into his own for one of the NFL's top defenses. Terrell is curious to see where their parents - former NFL tight end Ferrell Edmunds and wife Felicia - place their allegiance.

''It's going to be funny to see how they're going to try and split it up,'' Terrell Edmunds said. ''Hopefully they pick the right team. It's a home game for us. We're playing at Heinz Field. Hopefully they pick the right jersey to wear.''

Player Notes
Raheem Mostert Jan 20 10:30pm ET

San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert exploded for 220 yards and four touchdowns on 29 carries against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship. He also caught two passes for six yards. Mostert was unstoppable on Sunday, converting three rushing scores of 36, nine and 18 in the first half. He capped his evening with a 22-yard touchdown in the third quarter. The fifth-year breakout player was the star in the Niners easy 37-20 victory and will again lead the backfield into the Super Bowl in two weeks against the Kansas City Chiefs.

From RotoBaller

Jimmy Garoppolo Jan 20 10:30pm ET

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo completed just six of eight passes for 77 yards and no scores in the NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers. Garoppolo had little to do but watch running back Raheem Mostert annihilate the Packers rush defense for 220 yards and four scores. With two consecutive easy victories in the playoffs, Jimmy G has attempted just 27 passes this postseason. Sledding will surely get tougher in the Super Bowl against the red-hot Kansas City Chiefs.

From RotoBaller

Tevin Coleman Jan 20 7:50pm ET

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said that running back Tevin Coleman (shoulder) suffered a dislocated right shoulder in the NFC Championship win over the Packers on Sunday. Coleman had his shoulder popped back into place and Shanahan thinks that Coleman has a chance to play in the Super Bowl in two weeks. Only time will tell if the 26-year-old will be able to play against Kansas City. He ran the ball six times for 21 yards before his injury and had a season-high 22 totes for 105 yards and two touchdowns in the Divisional win over the Vikings. Even if Coleman plays, he'll be second fiddle to Raheem Mostert, who ran for over 200 yards and four scores against Green Bay. Matt Breida would spell Mostert in the backfield if Coleman doesn't gain clearance.

From RotoBaller

Philip Rivers Jan 20 1:50pm ET

There has been buzz that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a possible landing spot for Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who will become a free agent in March. After his worst season since 2007, the aging gunslinger is unlikely to re-sign with the Bolts, and he recently moved his family from San Diego to Florida to be closer to his extended family in Alabama. The 38-year-old might have a year or two left of football in him if he continues to play, but the 2019 season showed that he's near the end of the line. Rivers would only be an option for Tampa if they choose not to bring Jameis Winston back for at least another season after he led all of football in passing yards last season.

From RotoBaller

J.J. Watt Jan 20 1:10pm ET

Houston Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel has been fired, and defensive line coach Anthony Weaver has been promoted in his place, according to league sources. Houston's defense was a liability for most of the year, especially their leaky secondary. The Texans allowed 51 points and seven straight touchdown drives to the Chiefs in the Divisional Round loss. During the 2019 season, Houston's defense allowed 388.3 yards per game (fifth worst), 267.3 passing yards per game (fourth worst), 121.1 rushing yards a game and 24.1 points per game. Getting J.J. Watt back healthy for a full season will be a start to the Texans rebounding on defense under Weaver.

From RotoBaller

Luke Kuechly Jan 20 1:00pm ET

The Carolina Panthers hired former Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Snow as their new defensive coordinator on Monday. Snow oversaw the defenses for Matt Rhule at both Baylor and Temple. He has 37 years of college coaching experience and has also served as a defensive coordinator at UCLA, Washington, Arizona State and Boise State. Snow coached four seasons in the NFL with the Lions from 2005 to 2008 when he worked with the team's linebackers. Snow will lead a Carolina defense in 2020 that will be without All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly, who recently announced his retirement from football.

From RotoBaller

Jan 20 8:43am ET

Houston Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel is not expected back in 2020. Defensive line coach Anthony Weaver is the top candidate to replace him.

From TheHuddle

Tevin Coleman Jan 20 2:03am ET

Updating a previous report, San Francisco 49ers RB Tevin Coleman (shoulder) has a 'good chance' to be available for the Super Bowl, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan.

From TheHuddle

Jaire Alexander Jan 20 12:53am ET

Updating a previous report, Green Bay Packers CB Jaire Alexander (thumb) suffered a broken thumb during the team's NFC Championship Game loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Alexander is hopeful he won't need to undergo surgery.

From TheHuddle

Green Bay Packers Jan 19 11:50pm ET

The Green Bay Packers Defense recorded one sack and allowed 37 points in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers steamrolled past Green Bay's unit for 285 rushing yards and four rushing scores. To make matters worse, they couldn't generate much pressure or any turnovers. Despite the disappointing end, the Packers defense was much improved from last year, ranking 15th in sacks with 41 as well as third in interceptions with 17. They may not be among the top defenses drafted in 2020, though they should be on every fantasy managers' radar.

From RotoBaller

Jimmy Graham Jan 19 11:40pm ET

Green Bay Packers tight end Jimmy Graham caught four of five targets for 59 yards in a 37-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Graham was a big disappointment this season in a year filled with disappointing tight ends. The 33-year-old put up the lowest numbers since his rookie season and never really put together a good stretch of play until very recently. Graham has one year left on his contract worth about 7.5 million dollars. Given how much of a bust he was, perhaps Green Bay cuts ties with him and goes younger at the position in 2020.

From RotoBaller

Geronimo Allison Jan 19 11:30pm ET

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Geronimo Allison caught two of three targets for eight yards in a 37-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. There were big expectations for Allison heading into 2019 in both the real and fantasy football worlds. Unfortunately for him, he lived up to neither, failing to eclipse 50 receiving yards in all but one game all year. Green Bay, who is in desperate need of another receiver behind Davante Adams, will have a decision to make about the 25-year-old, who is an unrestricted free agent. It's hard to see Allison being back in Green Bay in 2020.

From RotoBaller

Allen Lazard Jan 19 11:20pm ET

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard caught three of four targets for 36 yards in a 37-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Lazard may not have made much noise in the two playoff games but flashed some potential in the regular season, including his first career 100-yard game. Rodgers started to develop a little chemistry with the 6-foot-4 wideout late in the season, as he looked his way 17 times in the last two contests. It would be surprising if Lazard were the number-two receiver for the Packers next year, though it still makes sense for them to bring him back in some capacity. Lazard has some sleeper potential if he's catching passes from Rodgers in 2020.

From RotoBaller

Patrick Mahomes Jan 19 11:13pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes' 87 passing touchdowns in his first 35 games, including playoffs, are the most in NFL history. His 11 passing touchdowns and 142 pass attempts without an interception to begin his playoff career are both the most on record, and he is one of just two players to have at least 250 passing yards, three or more passing touchdowns and at least 50 rushing yards in multiple career playoff games.

From TheHuddle

Raheem Mostert Jan 19 11:13pm ET

San Francisco 49ers RB Raheem Mostert rushed for 220 yards and four touchdowns on 29 carries in a 37-20 win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game Sunday, Jan. 19, becoming the first player in NFL history to rush for at least 200 yards and four touchdowns in a playoff game.

From TheHuddle

Davante Adams Jan 19 11:00pm ET

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams caught nine of 10 targets for 138 yards in a 37-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Adams operated as Rodgers' safety blanket yet again, capturing 79 more receiving yards than the Packers' next leading receiver. When healthy, this is what the 26-year-old did all year, as he compiled double-digit targets in all but four games, including the playoffs. Despite missing five games, Adams still almost put up a 1000-year season. It would behoove Green Bay to put together a stronger receiver group behind the star receiver. Even if they don't, a healthy Adams should be back in the discussion as an elite fantasy wideout in 2020.

From RotoBaller

Jamaal Williams Jan 19 10:40pm ET

Green Bay Packers running back Jamaal Williams picked up just six rushing yards on three carries and caught two passes for one receiving yard in a 37-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Williams had a disappointing end to his season, as he failed to register at least 40 rushing yards in his last three games after eclipsing the mark in his previous three. The 24-year-old did show flashes at times of being the perfect complement to Aaron Jones. Still, it will be interesting to see if Green Bay hands the reins to Jones next year or continues to spell him with Williams. For now, consider Williams more of a handcuff option than a complement heading into 2020.

From RotoBaller

Jimmy Garoppolo Jan 19 10:23pm ET

San Francisco 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo completed six of his eight passes for 77 yards in a 37-20 win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game Sunday, Jan. 19. RB Raheem Mostert rushed 29 times for 220 yards and four touchdowns and caught two passes for six yards, and RB Tevin Coleman rushed six times for 21 yards. WR Deebo Samuel caught two passes for 46 yards and rushed twice for 43 yards, TE George Kittle caught his only target for 19 yards, and WR Emmanuel Sanders was held without a catch on one target. DE Joey Bosa and DL Arik Armstead both recorded a sack.

From TheHuddle

Aaron Jones Jan 19 10:20pm ET

Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones carried the ball 12 times for 56 yards and a rushing touchdown along with five catches for 27 yards and a receiving score in a 37-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Jones was running well and would have been able to do more damage on the ground if not for the 27-0 deficit at the half. The 24-year-old finished the year tied for the NFL lead in touchdowns with 19, then added four more scores in the playoffs. He (likely) won't score this many times next year, though Jones proved he's more than just a touchdown machine, racking up career-highs in both rushing and receiving yards. He'll be among the best options in 2020 for fantasy backs in all formats.

From RotoBaller

Aaron Rodgers Jan 19 10:10pm ET

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed 31 of 39 passes for 326 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions in a 37-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. At first glance, Rodgers' stat line doesn't look so bad, though the first half was a complete struggle for him and the offense. Down 27-0 at the half, the veteran signal-caller effectively used up garbage time to post these numbers. It's a disappointing end to the season for Rodgers, though he still put up his eighth career 4000-yard season as well as his 10th season with at least 25 touchdown passes. The 36-year-old has plenty of juice left in his arm but will probably need another threat on the outside next year besides Davante Adams if Green Bay wants to make noise.

From RotoBaller