The Steelers were favored to beat the Chiefs, but that didn’t happen. The main character was different, but the results turned out the same for the Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3). They lost to the Kansas City Chiefs (2-5) 23-13. The loss puts the Steelers farther behind the Cincinnati Bengals, who sit atop the AFC North at 6-0. The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Chiefs.
The loss came as a surprise to most. The Steelers’ defense had been playing at a championship level over the games that Ben Roethlisberger had missed. Big Ben’s status had been upgraded to questionable before the Chiefs game, but the decision to start Landry Jones had been made earlier in the week.
The Chiefs started the scoring with a field goal from Cairo Santos. Then it was the Steelers’ turn to score in the battle of the field goals. Jones calmly marched the Steelers downfield to tie the game.
With the Chiefs leading 6-3, Mike Tomlin, gambling on fourth-and-one, came up empty. DeAngelo Williams failed to pick up the yard at the Chief’s 32-yard line, and the Steelers missed a scoring chance with a possible 49-yard field goal try.
It looked like the game would be a defensive struggle, as each team had to settle for field goals in the first two quarters. The half ended with the Chiefs leading 9-3.
Landry Jones, making his first NFL start, lost three turnovers. The Steelers didn’t force any Kansas City turnovers. He was 16 of 29 for 209 yards and one touchdown to Martavis Bryant. LeVeon Bell rushed 17 times for 121 yards. Antonio Brown had six receptions for 124 yards but bobbled another that wound up being intercepted and later turned into the Chiefs first touchdown.
In his press conference this past week, Coach Mike Tomlin talked about the importance of converting on third down, something the offense has struggled with. That struggle continued against the Chiefs as the Steelers converted only two of 10 third downs, and the inability to move the chains proved costly.
“I thought when reviewing the tape that the most disturbing element of the performance on offense was our inability to convert third downs,” Tomlin said at his weekly press conference on Tuesday.
Jones missed on several big throws, and if not for excellent plays from Antonio Brown down the field, it could have been worse. He threw two interceptions and fumbled on the Steelers’ final drive. It was the first lost fumble of the year for the Steelers, and they doubled their total amount of giveaways on the year.
Many fans have been calling for the release of Jones. This game may very well be the writing on the wall for the former Oklahoma Sooner.
The Steelers scored on consecutive drives and closed to within 16-13 when Chris Boswell kicked his second field goal, from 36 yards, with 10:17 left in the game. Bell put them in position for that score with a 42-yard run to the 13.
But the Chiefs came right back to score their second touchdown of the game for a commanding 23-13 lead with 5:13 left. Twice, the Chiefs came up with big plays to keep the drive going. On third down at their 22-yard line, Alex Smith hit tight end Travis Kelce over the middle for a 26-yard gain. On the next play, West broke off a 36-yard run as Sean Spence missed the tackle.
Mike Tomlin has felt that the Steelers have been fragile all year. He spoke about the situation via USA Today.
“We are fragile, we acknowledge that,” said Tomlin. “But we aren’t looking to make excuses. We are going to deal with that state and make necessary adjustments, and put ourselves in a position to win, hopefully with a formula that highlights the assets of the guys that we do have,” he said.
The Steelers are fragile, and so is the future of Landry Jones.
[Feature Photo by Peter Aiken / Getty Images]