The Pittsburgh Steelers put the AFC on notice with their 19-13 road win over the Kansas City Chiefs. They entered the game at the crossroads of their season, and responded by shutting down the league’s last unbeaten team. The Steelers dominated Chiefs in time of possession, rushing yards, and total yards. How dominant were the Steelers on defense? Kareem Hunt, leading the league with over six yards per carry, was held to 21 yards on nine attempts. His longest run was five yards. Week six Pittsburgh Steelers review looks at what the Steelers did in all three phases of the game.
Week Six Pittsburgh Steelers Review: Steelers vs Chiefs
The biggest question facing the Steelers, was how they’d respond to a bitter loss to Jacksonville. Surrounded by their own Anthem controversy, rumors of locker room turmoil, and frustration, they used it all to galvanize them. Their response was a total team effort in all three phases of the game. The Pittsburgh Steelers that showed up at Arrowhead, looked like the team many had standing tall in February.
While they are not yet a finished product, they took a big step towards that end on Sunday. If They can maintain that discipline and focus, the Sky is the limit for the Steelers. They have an offense that is closing in on it’s identity, and a young defense that is growing in to its potential. That defense got a welcome boost from an offense that kept them on the bench for well over half the game.
The Steelers on Offense
The Steelers offense, coming into this game, has been deserving of the criticism it had been generating. The play calling had been disjointed, the execution inconsistent, and the frustrations mounting. Against the Chiefs though, they looked like a well oiled machine. The play calling had a purpose, allowing the offense to find and keep its rhythm from start to finish.
The Steelers dominated the Chiefs in time of possession (36:39-23:21), rushing yards (194-28), and first downs (23-12). The Steelers rushed for 10 first downs, and the Chiefs just one. The had the ball for almost 22 minutes in the first half, averaging over 5 minutes per drive.
Ben Roethlisberger completed 17 out of 25 passes for 252 yards and a touchdown, finishing with a rating of 97.4. He completed five passes of 15 yards or more, including the 51 yard touchdown to Antonio Brown for the deciding points. Roethlisberger was in command of the offense all game, looking decisive and confident for the first time all season. It’s amazing what a coherent game plan and play calling can do for an offense.
Le’Veon Bell’s Big Day
In between passes, Roethlisberger handed the ball to Le’Veon Bell, who carried it 32 times for 179 yards and a touchdown. Bell had his way with the Chiefs defense, despite them stacking the box. The Chiefs attacked Bell with two different fronts. The first formation had three linemen and three linebackers. When that failed, they put eight men in the box, sometimes moving up safety Daniel Sorenson to be the ninth. Bell seemed to like that better.
Bell averaged 5.6 yards per carry on the day and had over 100 yards by halftime. He had seven carries of 10 or more yards, two of which converted third and long situations. Bell has definitely shaken off the rust from missing training camp. He is averaging over four yards per carry over his last three games, rushing for 370 yards on 82 attempts. Much of the credit goes to an offensive line that was going hard off the snap.
Brown Delivers the Knockout Punch
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. In the case of Brown, he was both on his 51 yard reception. His focus and body control was phenomenal as he was avoiding the second defender while catching the deflection one handed. Chances are, if Brown catches the ball cleanly, he gets tackled on the spot. Brown had eight receptions for 155 yards and a touchdown for the day, including the catch of the week.
Defense Shuts Down Kareem Hunt and an explosive Chiefs Offense
Hunt was leading the NFL in yards per carry, averaging just over six, coming into this game. The Steelers defense held him to 21 yards on nine attempts. Their dominance wasn’t just limited to Hunt though. The entire Chiefs offense had difficulty cracking the Steelers defense until the fourth quarter. The Steelers defense was as dominating as it gets in the first half, holding the Chiefs to one first down and -21 yards of offense.
Of the Chiefs five first half possessions, only two netted positive yards. Their second and fourth drives netted four yards apiece, while the other three yielded a yardage total of -29. Holding the league’s most explosive offense to 251 total yards is a statement making performance. Everyone maintained their gaps and held their coverages. They didn’t miss tackles or commit mental errors. The defense played their best game of the season against a quarterback having an MVP season.
The defense got to Alex Smith quite a bit, sacking him three times. James Harrison recorded one sack, with Vince Williams recording the other two. Smith could only get the ball to wide receiver Tyreek Hill five times for 34 yards. Artie Burns, besides two blown assignments, and Joe Haden locked down Smith’s targets, keeping the damage minimal. The young Steelers defense was the star of the game, showing just how good they can be.
This was the Steelers statement game for the first half of the season, and they made a loud one. This team isn’t going away, nor are they a divided group. They have been unified by the turmoil surrounding them (mostly a national media creation). Beware to those who slammed the Steelers casket shut and started shoveling dirt on them, they are coming for you next.