The Pittsburgh Steelers were defeated by the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday 36-10. The Steelers were unable to pull themselves out of a 23-0 halftime hole despite their recent second-half successes. Pittsburgh now sits at 7-7-1 but still in the hunt for a playoff berth.
It was another ugly game for the Pittsburgh offense on Sunday. Once again shut out for a large portion of the game they found themselves in a 23-0 hole at halftime.
Typically the Steelers rely on a second half, or even fourth quarter surge, to close these large gaps, but they were unable to do that in this one thanks to two second half turnovers leading to 10 points for Kansas City. It total, Pittsburgh lost the turnover battle 3-0, resulting in 17 KC points.
The Steelers had 303 yards and 20 first downs on the day. However 139 of those yards and 10 of those first downs came on the team’s last two drives when the score was already 36-3.
Gameplan and play calling seemed like the biggest issue on the day for Pittsburgh. Opting for the quick, horizontal passing game despite Kansas City playing press coverage resulted in a lot of quick and unsuccessful drives.
Pittsburgh’s second turnover, a fumble by Wide Receiver Dionte Johnson, felt like a “turning point” of the game, despite already being down 23-0. It came on Pittsburgh’s first possession of the second half after the defense just forced a three-and-out. Running Back Najee Harris had just carried the ball on first down for 8 yards, and Johnson fumbled after an easy catch which had given him first-down yardage. The Chiefs recovered the ball in their own territory and scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive.
Another turning point came one drive before, just before halftime. Pittsburgh started a drive on their own 25 yard line with 2:13 remaining in the half. The Steelers typically do not capitalize in these situations, but had shown more proficiency in them during the last few weeks. They end up with a 4th and 1 and run a toss play to Harris to lose three yards. Instead of potentially getting points on the board, Pittsburgh went into halftime scoreless.
For the game Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was 23-35 for 159 yards. He had 1 touchdown, 1 interception, and 1 fumble lost. Harris ran the ball 19 times for 93 yards, with 28 of those coming on the touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Another 21 came on one play in the first half. Johnson six catches for 51 yards and a touchdown. Wide Receiver Chase Claypool had a nice game making four catches for 41 yards. All four catches required some sort of body adjustment and contested catch which was nice to see from Claypool.
The defense also had their struggles in this one, although not in any obvious ways. Without Tight End Travis Kelce, Pittsburgh managed to keep Wide Receiver Tyreek Hill in check (two catches for 19 yards). However it was the “other guys” that gave Pittsburgh fits. Byron Pringle had six catches for 75 yards and two touchdowns. Backup running back Derrick Gore had 12 carries for 43 yards and three catches for 61 yards. His 50-yard reception led to the final score of the half.
Watching the game it felt like the Chiefs got whatever they wanted. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes was 23-30 on the day with three touchdowns. The running game went for 127 yards and a touchdown against. And the team went for 381 yards on the day. But oddly, it’s hard to put this one on the defense.
KC was just 4 of 11 on third down. Mahomes threw for less than 300 yards. If Pittsburgh cuts down on the turnovers we could be talking about holding the Chiefs in the 20s. Four of Kansas City’s 10 possessions started at their 49 yard line or better, and those four possessions resulted in 20 points.
The Steelers absolutely had their struggles defensively. Mahomes was efficient with the team not being too aggressive. They had only two sacks on the day, and no take aways. But their game plan was to force the Chiefs to slowly work their way down the field. No big plays, keep Hill in check, and hope the offense keep up. Two of those three things were accomplished.
Special Teams were quiet in a loss today. Return man Ray-Ray McCloud averaged 20 yards per return on kicks and punts. No mistakes and a long of 29. Kicker Chris Boswell went 1/2 on field goals and 1/1 on extra points.
Today’s punter was Corliss Waitman who played today for Presley Harvin III after the passing of his father. Waitman, who was with the Steelers last year, had 2 punts with an average of 60.5 yards and one touchback.
In conclusion: today stunk. Steelers fans certainly had hopes of winning this game, or at least showing the ability to be competitive against the cream of the crop. Unfortunately with the Steelers being defeated by the Chiefs, and convincingly at that, the Steelers are on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff picture.
The offense continues to drudge through the season, while the defense continues to encourage. 36 points to the Chiefs is almost an expectation. And considering the turnovers and field position allowed it’s hard to pin the loss on that side of the ball.
Joining Pittsburgh in the loss column this week are other AFC Wild Card hopefuls. The LA Chargers, Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns also lost ground in the race, keeping the Steelers hopes alive.
Pittsburgh plays again next Monday night against their division rival the Cleveland Browns.
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