The Steelers went into Arrowhead Stadium looking to tame the Kansas City Chiefs. They were favored to win, and the Chiefs were without their main weapon, Jamaal Charles. Third-year quarterback Landry Jones made his anticipated first NFL start. Everything was in place for a Steelers blowout. Instead, the Black & Gold left Kansas City with a 23-13 loss and tons of questions.
Was Landry Jones Ready for his primetime showdown?
The week prior to his start, social media was buzzing with the anticipation of Jones being in control of the Steelers offense. Jones took over for an injured Michael Vick and delivered a knockout punch to the Arizona Cardinals. His energy and knowledge of the offense was phenomenal. It seemed as though the Steelers had found the man. He was dubbed “Big Ben’s Little Brother” and the torch had passed. He was to be the savior of a unit that had struggled under Vick.
Though Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin centered the game plan around Jones, it seemed to lack the firepower that was present at the end of the Arizona game. The aerial attack that fans were waiting on didn’t show up. Was that by design, or did Jones have problems reading the defense?
There can be something said about the Chiefs being fired up for the game. With the media attention on the Steelers and little to no information on the Chiefs, perfect conditions for a trap game were born. On paper, the Steelers had the superior team. But when it came to heart and execution, the Chiefs were better.
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.
Some of the questions have answers that are obvious. The Steelers were playing on the road, against a team that has a deceptively dominant defense. The Chiefs were without Charles, but they had a speedy Charcandrick West to fill the void. West’s 110 grounds made the Steelers’ talented front seven seem questionable. According to Football Outsiders, the Steelers’ rush defense was ranked No. 5 in the NFL. That leaves the door wide open for more questions.
The Steelers offensive line looked overwhelmed at times. Massive (6-foot-9) left tackle Alejandro Villanueva held his own for most of the game but was exposed by Tamba Hali’s speed rush on a fourth quarter sack that ended any hope of a Steelers comeback.
Going forward, the Steelers have a lot to consider. Sunday’s game, against the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals, is likely to expose more weaknesses that have to be addressed immediately. Dalton and the Bengals are stockpiled with passing weapons that are much better than what the Steelers faced at Arrowhead.
Getting Roethlisberger back on the field is a huge plus for the Steelers, but the bigger question is his mobility. Having his drive, leadership, and determination will undoubtedly help Pittsburgh in the heart area. But will he be able to out run a Bengals’ pass rush that has a healthy Geno Atkins and long-armed Michael Johnson, not to mention the presence of Carlos Dunlap and his 6.5 sacks?
Mike Tomlin has been aware of the Steelers situation for a while. Injuries have been mounting for the team, and he considers them to be at a fragile state. As Pittsburgh moves forward, the questions will have to be acknowledged and addressed. Otherwise, rushing the return of Big Ben could be the wrong move.
[Feature Photo by Jamie Squire / Getty Images]