Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Bills Mafia' Makes a Statement Buffalo Fans Traveled Well and Challenged Steelers Nation Noise

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Bills Mafia' Makes a Statement Buffalo Fans Traveled Well and Challenged Steelers Nation Noise

Article excerpt

About 6:35 p.m., at a Buffalo Bills tailgate in the parking lot of Carnegie Science Center, a song rang out that wasn't "Renegade," or "Here We Go Steelers," or any kind of polka.

It was that old "Shout" ditty, but not the one by The Isley Brothers that you hear at every wedding. Instead, it was the one that ends triumphantly with, "Let's go, Buffalo! Let's go, Buffalo!"

And it's anyone's guess how many times that was played Sunday outside Heinz Field. You would have just as good a chance trying to count how many Bills fans, how many members of "Bills Mafia," descended on the North Shore for their first "Sunday Night Football" appearance since 2007. It didn't matter that it wasn't in Buffalo, because Buffalo came to Pittsburgh for the team's first prime-time game of 2019 and only their second that didn't kick off at 1 p.m. - and left with a 17-10 victory that sealed at least the No. 5 seed in the AFC, and ensured that it was this season's home finale for the Steelers.

"The Mafia does that every week," said left tackle Dion Dawkins. "They come, they support, they show up for us. It's the consistency of the Mafia."

Bill Stiner and Ray Miles walked down North Shore Drive before the game wearing personalized Bills jerseys with their names on the back, Stiner in a blue-and-red water buffalo hat with horns and Miles wearing Christmas lights around his neck.

"We go to an away game every year, and this is one of the higher percentages of Bills fans I've seen," Stiner said.

The two Rochester, N.Y., natives have been Bills fans all their lives, and haven't relinquished that loyalty since moving to Pittsburgh. Miles credited the local chapter of the "Bills Backers" fan club for organizing events around town and encouraging those who were able to buy tickets and attend the game, whether you live in the area or could make the three-hour trip from upstate New York.

Steelers Nation was still plenty loud on third and fourth downs, but on a night that players called for a "black-out" from their home crowd to complement their all-black "color rush" jerseys, there was a very noticeable amount of blue parked in yellow seats. The announced attendance was 64,694, highest since the season opener against Seattle and the first time hitting 64,000 since Week 5 against Baltimore.

"Since the proximity is so close, once it got switched to a Sunday night game, that really made people want to come down," said Miles, who went to see the Bills at Cleveland last month and also has gone to road games with Stiner in Atlanta and Detroit.

Sunday was the sixth night game this season for the Steelers, and third at home. But the previous time the Bills played in prime time was a season ago against the Patriots on "Monday Night Football," and this week, they had a chance to clinch a playoff berth for the second time in three seasons under head coach Sean McDermott. They did just that, while also getting to double-digit wins for the first time since 1999, ending the NFL's longest streak without a 10-win season.

"They did a good job. They travel well," said Steelers captain Cam Heyward. "Steeler Nation did a great job, too. We just didn't get the job done for them. …

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