The Steelers took the field in Buffalo knowing they had qualified for the playoffs but left the turf at Bills Stadium with a two-game losing streak.
Kansas City's 33-27 victory over Miami on Sunday afternoon assured the Steelers of their first trip to the postseason since 2017, but there wasn't much to celebrate after a 26-15 loss to the Bills on Sunday night.
The Steelers fell to 11-2.
The Bills improved to 10-3.
Game action photos from the Steelers' Week 14 game against the Buffalo Bills at Bills Stadium
Buffalo exhausted the final 7:11 of regulation after the second interception of the night thrown by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger gave the Bills possession at their 29-yard line.
"We're facing some adversity but we're not hitting the panic button," Roethlisberger said. "We all need to look in the mirror and understand we all need to play better.
"It starts with me."
Kicker Tyler Bass' 23-yard field goal with 8:07 left in the fourth quarter re-established breathing room for the Bills at 26-15 with 8:07 left in regulation.
Buffalo had 334 total net yards to the Steelers' 224, 21 first downs to the Steelers' 14 and possessed the ball for 35:15 to the Steelers' 24:45.
The Bills converted seven of 14 third downs (50 percent).
The Steelers went 1-for-10 on third downs (10 percent).
"Just not enough play-making for us," Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said. "We gotta possess the ball better. We gotta score more points.
"It got tough as attrition set in. We had (left guard) Matt Feiler go down with a pec (pectoral injury). We had (Kevin) Dotson (who had replaced Feiler) go down with a pec. Such is life in the NFL. We gotta find a way to collect ourself and make sufficient plays. We didn't, so we accept responsibility for that and get ready for our next opportunity."
The Steelers are at Cincinnati a week from tonight.
Buffalo gained 232 of its total net yards and scored both of its offensive touchdowns in the second half.
"We played like crap, simple as that," defensive tackle Cam Heyward said. "We can talk about our defense in the first quarter but after that it all went to hell."
The Steelers battled back from a 16-point deficit and made it a one-score game early in the fourth.
Roethlisberger capped a 10-play, 81-yard drive in 4:38 with a 3-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. Roethlisberger followed with a two-point conversion pass to tight end Eric Ebron that brought the Steelers to within 23-15 with 12:18 left in the fourth.
Quarterback Josh Allen's 13-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Gabriel Davis and Bass' extra point gave the Bills a 23-7 lead with 7:02 left in the third quarter. Buffalo moved 57 yards in four plays in 2:05 for its second touchdown in as many second-half possessions.
Buffalo took the second-half kickoff and drove 68 yards in eight plays in 4:37 for a touchdown that increased a two-point halftime advantage to nine. The march culminated on a 19-yard pass from Allen to wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Bass' extra point gave the Bills a 16-7 lead with 10:23 left in the third quarter.
Cornerback Taron Johnson's interception and 51-yard return for a touchdown put the Bills ahead, 9-7, with 52 seconds left in the first half. Johnson stepped in front of a pass from Roethlisberger that was intended for Smith-Schuster on second-and-5 from the Steelers' 47-yard line. Bass missed the extra point wide right.
"We made a few plays in the first half," Tomlin said. "They made a few plays.
"Their plays were more significant than ours. The pick-six was the significant play."
Bass had brought Buffalo to within 7-3 with a 34-yard field goal with 1:42 left in the second quarter. The Bills drove 58 yards in nine plays in 3:14.
The Steelers opened the scoring on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to wide receiver James Washington with 8:21 left before the half. What became a three-play, 30-yard scoring drive in 1:15 began after a completion from Allen to tight end Dawson Knox, a fumble by Knox and a recovery by cornerback Cam Sutton. Running back James Conner fumbled on the first snap from the Buffalo 30, but Smith-Schuster recovered. Kicker Chris Boswell converted the extra point.
Nose tackle Tyson Alualu was credited with a sack when he forced an Allen fumble on first-and-10 from the Buffalo 24 midway through the second. Bills center Mitch Morse recovered, but the play allowed the Steelers to set an NFL record by registering at least one sack in 70 consecutive games. Tampa Bay had produced a sack in 69 consecutive games from 1999-2003.
The Steelers lost Feiler in the first quarter and Dotson in the third.
J.C. Hassenauer replaced Dotson at left guard.