Buffalo Bills vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Wild Card Injury Review

Buffalo Bills vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Wild Card Injury Review

The Buffalo Bills are winners of Super Wild Card weekend by a 31-17 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday. This win marks the fourth consecutive year that the Bills have secured at least one playoff win, matching the same streak from 1990-1993.

Despite moving onto the divisional round and yet another date with the Kansas City Chiefs, the Bills are dealing with a ton of new injuries mainly on defense. This will further stress an already stressed unit that needs to find a way to contain the Chiefs’ offensive firepower.

The amount of injuries tonight certainly was notable and some concerning as the Bills prepare to host the Kansas City Chiefs. 

In-Game Injuries

CB Christian Benford (Right Knee)

Benford was forced to leave the game after forcing a fumble against TE Pat Freiermuth late in the first quarter. He set his hips to help contain Freiermuth to stay outside against the end of the field. When Benford went to go in for the tackle, he took a step with his right leg, planted, and rotated to his left to try and wrap up the tackle. 

Unfortunately, on that step, he began falling to his right which forced him to abandon tackling, and instead was forced to fall on the knee and cut out Freiermuth’s legs. In the aftermath of the fumble that wasn’t, Benford quietly walked away with training staff.

By video, there is concern for a medial meniscus tear due to the plant and rotation nature of the knee. He was initially deemed questionable but never returned. He was seen on the exercise bike trying to keep the knee loose which suggests the knee was swelling up on him. 

This is an injury that he could play through depending on the type of tear and how big it is. There is hope that this isn’t a meniscus, but he will have to manage swelling and maintain an adequate range of motion to ensure that he can play. Watch the practice report closely this week.

LB Baylon Spector (Back)

On the same play that Benford was injured, Spector also injured his back as he fell on the ball. 

Looking back at the video, Spector takes a knee to the low back once he secured the ball. Due to the direct blow, this is most likely pain with resulting spasms with the cold only worsening how he is feeling. 

With a direct blow, there is always a concern for a transverse spinous process fracture of the thoracic or lumbar vertebrae. If that is indeed the case, this would purely be a pain issue but a very painful one at that. Unless he can’t get the pain managed, this should not be an injury that keeps Spector out for next week.

P Sam Martin (Left Hamstring)

A rare punter injury, Martin injured his left hamstring trying to chase down the live ball once blocked field goal.

Several steps into his run, Martin begins grabbing at his left hamstring and hopping trying to slow down. He was later assessed by training staff and deemed questionable to return. 

Considering this is Martin’s plant leg, he was able to trial several punts during halftime and we even saw Tyler Bass attempting punts. Martin was eventually able to punt one more time during the game but did not have the same power or accuracy as he did prior.

Despite this being his plant leg, he still needs to generate a lot of power through the hip extension leg to swing the kicking leg upward. In addition, he requires stability when landing as the momentum brings him up in the air before he has to land. That could certainly aggravate the hamstring further. 

Martin also was able to continue his holding duties which thankfully aren’t affected by the injury. After the game, there was a discussion about whether a new punter is needed if Martin is unable to plant and kick effectively. If he has a Grade 1 or even Grade 2 strain of possibly the biceps femoris muscle which is where he grabbed, I don’t see how he plays. The Bills did release Leonard Fournette on Tuesday which suggests that they may move to sign a punter to the practice squad. 

Watch the injury report this week but I don’t feel good about this one.

WR Stefon Diggs (Midsection)

Diggs was down momentarily after taking a shot from Minkah Fitzpatrick late in the second quarter, requiring trainer assistance.

He appeared to take a shot to his midsection, an area of concern previously this season. It’s possible this could have aggravated the area with the hit, but at the end of the play, Myles Jack appears to hit him potentially in the groin area. Remember, players don’t wear cups. So if that was the case, I don’t care how tough you are, it hurts. 

This doesn’t appear to be something that will place him on the injury report outside of a veteran rest day. 

LB Terrel Bernard (Right Ankle)

Quite possibly one of the biggest losses of the night, Terrel Bernard went down with a right ankle injury, slamming the foot to the turf. He knew immediately something was wrong and so did the trainers, bringing out the aircast and cart to take him back for further testing. 

There was a strong suspicion of a fibular fracture the way the foot hit the turf and how the sock shifted. That injury would have ended his season and dealt a big blow to the Bills’ playoff chances. Fortunately, x-rays were negative which suggests that this is more of a ligamentous/soft tissue injury. 

Bernard did suffer an ankle sprain several weeks ago and also had a high suspicion of a medial ankle sprain or potentially a high-ankle sprain based on the mechanism. He didn’t miss any extended time outside of a few plays in the Chargers game.

Should he have had damage to the inside portion of the ankle and added lateral damage when the foot rolled out hitting the turf, that could explain why he was in such pain. He most certainly damaged the calcaneofibular ligament and anterior tibiofibular ligament when he rolled the ankle as noted below.

One of the upsides of the previous damage is that the ankle was probably already taped up and likely had prior instability. If he injured it further, there is more play in the ankle already but potentially less damage sustained overall when it hit. If the Bills can game plan without Bernard for a game to let him rest, they could reasonably tape up the ankle and get him back out there. If they can’t, they could manage the swelling and pain this week to allow him to practice, it’s not unrealistic to have him miss no time.

We will have to see how practice progresses this week. 

G Connor McGovern (Left Side)

McGovern went down briefly late in the third quarter holding his left side as seen below. 

He did get twisted down and was down for several moments as training staff tended to him before he came off and missed his one-required play. He rotated down to the right and then fell to his left side watching back on video. At first, there was concern for an oblique injury but it may have also just been getting hit in the abdomen/ribs. 

This is one injury we may get more information on, may not, but the fact that he returned so quickly is promising moving forward. 

CB Taron Johnson (Head)

Johnson exited the game on the last play of the third quarter when he collided with two Steelers offensive players. He appeared to lose his balance once he disengaged and then fell over with his right arm waving erratically. 

Watching it live, it wasn’t apparent what exactly happened until the team announced he was being evaluated for a head injury. He left the game and never received an update. He was seen in the locker room afterward where it was bright and noisy, suggesting that he did not suffer a concussion. 

However, on Monday, it was announced that Johnson had indeed entered concussion protocol.

Looking at the end zone view, you can see a much better view of why he suffered the concussion.

The statistics aren’t great for someone who has suffered their second in-season concussion to return and play the next week. He has beaten the odds in the past, but this may be too much to overcome in a short week. Watching the practice reports will be crucial to see if he can play. Otherwise, I would expect Cam Lewis to get the start. 

S Micah Hyde (Right Shin)

Hyde never received any type of designation for this injury, but he was limping around briefly after getting cleated at the end of a run play seen below. 

This is more pain than injury, but explains why if someone saw him limping, this is what happened. 

DE Leonard Floyd (Left Shoulder)

Immediately after Terrel Bernard went down, Floyd came off the field working out his left shoulder in discomfort. Looking back at the replay, the camera pans away before we can see what happened. It’s possible he suffered a stinger or some other type of hit to the area that required a moment to work out. We may get a better view on the All-22, but another injury that should not impact next Sunday. 

Other Observations 

CB Rasul Douglas (Left Knee)

After missing Monday’s game due to a left knee injury suspected of a contusion or possibly an MCL sprain, Douglas stated that he would have played, but the team held him out. 

While this is coming from the player himself, I do question how effective he would have been. Considering all the injuries listed above, it was smart to avoid a re-injury and allow a somewhat rested body to step in next week should Benford or Johnson be out. 

LB Tyrel Dodson (Left Shoulder)

According to Sean McDermott, Dodson was closer to returning to play than Douglas but both sat out which was the smart move. This flies in the face of what Douglas stated above, but either way, it’s great to see that Dodson is trending towards playing next week. 

DT Jordan Phillips (Right Wrist)

Phillips is officially eligible to return to the active roster following his four-game stint on injured reserve following his wrist dislocation against the Cowboys in Week 15. His return to the roster will come down to a corresponding roster move to bring him back into the fold. Someone goes to injured reserve, someone gets cut, they also don’t have to make that decision this week either. 

There were a ton of injuries but the Bills got the win. They move on to facing Kansas City who is battling their injuries coming off their win over Miami on Saturday. We will get a lot more updates this week and hopefully, most guys can practice along with several more to return. 

This is a big week in Buffalo, it’s time to slay the postseason dragon that is the Kansas City Chiefs. 

Top Photo Credit: Buffalo Bills