The Pittsburgh Steelers owe a large debt of gratitude to the Buffalo Bills and their head coach, former Ravens defensive coordinator and Jets head coach Rex Ryan, who was able to take down his old team in the season finale and as a result helped launch the Steelers into the postseason.
According to Elias Sports, Ryan is the first coach in recorded NFL history who had the opportunity to knock his former team out of the playoffs in the year after he was fired. The Bills’ victory made slighted coaches 1-0 all-time in that category, and the Steelers couldn’t be happier about it.
But there are actually a lot of connections between the Steelers and Bills organization that go beyond their old rivalry with Ryan, whom they knocked out of the playoffs multiple times, most recently as the head coach of the Jets in 2010 in the AFC Championship.
Starting with the Steelers’ side, they actually field two key defensive contributors this season who were drafted by the Bills. Pittsburgh signed outside linebacker Arthur Moats as a free agent in 2014, and he has produced eight sacks for the defense as a rotational player over the past two years.
Additionally, the Steelers picked up second-year cornerback Ross Cockrell on the final cut down day after the Bills let him go in the previous round of cuts. He has been a major part of the secondary since Week Two, serving as the primary nickel cornerback, playing outside as the only cornerback who is at least six feet tall.
Backup offensive lineman Doug Legursky also spent some time with the Bills, serving as a starter for a short period of time. The Steelers originally signed him as an undrafted free agent, and he even started in the 2010 Super Bowl. He was brought back this year due to injuries.
As a bonus, wide receiver David Nelson, who was signed during training camp before being placed on injured reserve, played his first three seasons with the Bills. Additionally, both special teams coach Danny Smith and running backs coach James Saxon served on Buffalo’s staff in the early 2000s, though not overlapping.
The Bills used to have a stronger Pittsburgh connection, but still have two former Steelers on their roster, including Kraig Urbik, whom the Steelers drafted in the third round in 2009, but only lasted one year. Urbik has started 57 games for the Bills, including four this season.
Also on the roster is Corbin Bryant, who has spent some time with the Steelers both during the offseason and during the season in 2011. Bryant was on the practice squad in 2011 and also was active for one game on the 53-man roster.
Doug Whaley was the Steelers’ Director of Player Personnel for a decade before accepting a job with the Bills to serve in the same role as well as the Assistant General Manager. He has been the General Manager outright since 2013.
Of course, there is also a literal blood relation between the Steelers and Bills organizations. Back in May, the Bills drafted running back Karlos Williams, who is the younger brother of third-year Steelers linebacker Vince Williams. The younger Williams scored a touchdown in the Bills’ victory over the Jets.