By Danny Cox
The Pittsburgh Steelers went into Arrowhead Stadium as the No. 3 seed in the AFC and looked to knock off the No. 2 seeded Kansas City Chiefs. It wasn’t a blowout, as the Steelers won by the score of 18-16, but it was a hard-fought victory in which everyone contributed.
When all was said and done, the Steelers stood victorious and are now heading to New England to take on the Patriots in next week’s AFC Championship game. They played well tonight, but it will take more to win against the Pats.
The offense didn’t do badly at all, but they failed to put any points on the board. Ben Roethlisberger went 20-for-31 for 224 yards, but he didn’t throw a single touchdown. The majority of his yards went to Antonio Brown, who had six receptions for 108 yards. Jesse James was second on the team with 83 yards on five receptions.
Pittsburgh only turned the ball over once—an interception by Big Ben. The rest of the night, they let running back Le’Veon Bell churn his legs and power through Kansas City’s defensive line for 170 yards on 30 carries. It was a nice performance by the Steelers offense, but they left a lot of points on the field.
This was a really nice performance by the Steelers defense, which allowed only 227 yards of total offense and caused two turnovers. Linebacker Bud Dupree played like a man possessed and kept attacking all night. He is actually the reason the Steelers got their interception, as he pressured Alex Smith and hit his arm as he threw to cause the ball to float in the air and land in the arms of Ryan Shazier.
It was a close game throughout, and the Chiefs never had to abandon the running game. Kansas City ended up going away from the running game because the Steelers were shutting them down at every turn. Spencer Ware led the team with 35 yards on eight carries, and the team had only 61 yards total on the ground.
Tight end Travis Kelce led KC with 77 yards on five receptions, but no other Chiefs had more than 28 yards receiving. Pittsburgh locked it down and tightened things up to contain a Chiefs offense with a lot of weapons.
Special Teams: A
If it wasn’t for special teams, the Steelers would have been absolutely blown out in this divisional round match-up with the Chiefs. Jordan Berry had a good game punting the ball. Fitzgerald Toussaint and Justin Gilbert even had nice kickoff returns to set up the Steelers with good field position, but they weren’t the stars.
Chris Boswell set a playoff record with six field goals made on the day, and he was perfect as he hit every single one he attempted. His long on the day was from 45 yards, but he did hit two 43-yarders to go along with connections from 36, 38 and 22 yards. It’s not always ideal to settle for field goals, but when you can’t get in the end zone and your kicker is on fire, let him do it.
The plan was there and Mike Tomlin had his team execute it to almost complete perfection. The offense was extremely balanced with 218 yards through the air and 171 yards on the ground. The defense was able to contain a strong Chiefs running game and Alex Smith, who had a really good season. The one thing missing was a touchdown, but Boswell was able to bail them out with a perfect foot.
The Pittsburgh Steelers were able to advance to the AFC Championship on the leg of their kicker, but they won’t be able to leave point after point on the field against the New England Patriots. Earlier this season, the Steelers lost 27-16 to the Pats in a hard-fought game that was competitive well into the fourth quarter. And the Steelers didn’t have Ben Roethlisberger either, as he was out due to injury. Next week’s game is going to be a tough battle, and Pittsburgh will need everyone on top of their game to win one more and advance to the Super Bowl.