By Stephen Stone (@SrStoneSports)
Cold Hard Football Facts' AFC North Sniper
Let’s concentrate on this sloppy performance by what I thought was the best team in the division and one of the tops in the AFC.
Luckily Pittsburgh didn’t make us wait the way the Rams and 49ers did yesterday. Luckily Matt Cassel gave the game away early on in overtime. Steve Suisham’s game-winning field goal gave Pittsburgh a 16-13 win.
Here are five takeaways from the game.
1. The Chiefs took a lead!
Besides Roethlisberger’s injury, that was the biggest story from tonight’s contest. Kansas City hasn’t held an in-game lead all season, but six and a half minutes into the first quarter, Jamaal Charles went 12 yards and scored the game’s first touchdown. The Chiefs brought the game to 10-0 before the Steelers tied it up and eventually took the lead.
The fact is, the Chiefs aren’t a bad team offensively. Jamaal Charles Dwayne Bowe are two dynamic playmakers. There’s no way they should have struggled the way they did. Who would have thunk they would finally break through with a score against a Steelers defense that is coming on strong. That’s football. I can’t decide if Kansas City was more game than we thought or if Pittsburgh was really bad tonight. I’m guessing a bit of both with a slight emphasis on the latter.
2. If the Steelers are without Roethlisberger for an extended period of time, they might be ok.
The two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback didn’t come back out in the second half and left the stadium early on. The commentary is going to be about Pittsburgh’s ability to persevere without their offensive leader and, despite two upcoming games against Baltimore, their chances may be better than initially thought.
Since the beginning of his career, the Steelers are 9-5 in games in which he didn’t lead the team in passing yards. Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich have served as Big Ben’s backups for years, and both have been serviceable. Ugly as it was, the Steelers should enjoy tonight’s win and look ahead with optimism.
But it wasn’t all good for the Steelers. They never should have been in this situation. One of the reasons they couldn’t put away the Chiefs was because...
3. Pittsburgh’s recently resurgent running game stalled.
After early-season struggles, the Steelers had gotten into a groove on the ground. In the team’s last three games prior to tonight, Pittsburgh enjoyed performances of 122 yards from Johnathon Dwyer, 107 yards from Dwyer and 147 yards from Redman. Both fell way short of the century mark tonight.
Take away a 14 yard gain by Roethlisberger and the Steelers averaged an abysmal 2.9 yards per carry. That might get things done against the Chiefs, but it won’t do the job going forward in the AFC, especially as the schedule tightens up in the coming weeks.
4. Pittsburgh held Kansas City to a quarterback rating of 46.
This was the fifth straight game in which the Steelers held the opposing quarterback to a rating of 75 or lower. Yes, it was only Matt Cassel, but to shut down so many passing games - particularly in this era - is nothing short of remarkable.
The Steelers are in the top 10 in Defensive Real Quarterback Rating and Defensive Passer Rating and, now that Cassel and the Chiefs are their latest victim, the team is sitting at 6-3. Pittsburgh’s win over the Chiefs was its ninth against Kansas City coach Romeo Crennel, who is now 0-9 lifetime against the Steelers. In the Super Bowl era, Crennel’s mark against the Steelers is the worst by any head coach against any other team in the league.
5. Ben Roethlisberger is 30!
Ok, so it didn't happen today. In fact, Big Ben's birthday was back in March. But if you listened to Jon Gruden's analysis, you would have thought it was his birthday party. Before he left the game with a right shoulder injury, much was made about the fact that Big Ben has turned the big three-oh. Gruden must have brought it up 15 times.
I know he got hurt tonight and he probably feels Father Time creeping up on him, but I have good news for Roethlisberger: besides him, the last four quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl are Peyton, Eli, Brees and Rodgers. Three of them won their Super Bowl after turning 30 (in Eli's case, his second championship.) When he comes back, he may be in prime position to win one more ring.