Just when it seemed like the Pittsburgh Steelers were learning how to win without Ben Roethlisberger, the team managed a dud of a performance on the road in a 23-13 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
The defense was in bend but don’t break mode from the outset, as the Chiefs marched the ball 48 yards in ten plays on their first drive for a 3-0 lead. Landry Jones responded by helping guide the offense down the field on the strength of Le’Veon Bell’s running to tie the game at 3-3 when Chris Boswell hit a 24-harder near the end of the 1st quarter.
The Chiefs would again drive at will on the Steelers, only to see the possession falter at the Steelers three-yard line. Cairo Santos’ second field goal of the game made it 6-3 Kansas City with nine minutes left in the first half.
Pittsburgh could have tied the game at 6 with a field goal, but they elected to go for it on 4th-and-one from the Chiefs 32-yard line. DeAngelo Williams was stuffed for no gain, giving the Chiefs the opportunity to march down the field and take a 9-3 lead with 1:05 left in the first half.
Jones then proceeded to throw his first NFL interception, as Derrick Johnson leapt to snag a high toss and returned it to the Steelers 40. A Cam Heyward sack helped force a 54-yard attempt that Santos missed wide right.
Trailing 9-3, the team’s exchanged punts before Jones’ throw to Antonio Brown over the middle popped up into the air and was intercepted by Eric Berry. The turnover launched a nine-play, 53-yard drive, capped by Charcandrick West leaping over the goal line from a yard out.
Jones would answer however, hitting Martavis Bryant from 19 yards out for a touchdown to cut the Chiefs lead to 16-10 near the end of the third quarter.
A huge Ryan Shazier sack on the Chiefs ensuing drive helped get the Steelers offense the ball back quickly, and a 42-yard Bell run gave Pittsburgh a first-and-ten at the Chiefs 13. After Bell gained three yards on first down and Jones overthrew Bryant on the fade route, Tamba Hali busted inside on a tackle-end twist to drop Jones for an eight-yard loss. Boswell’s 36-yard field goal made it 16-13, but Pittsburgh had lost a huge opportunity to gain the lead.
Smith answered by finding Kelce for 26 yards over Lawrence Timmons, followed by West rumbling for 36 yards down the right sideline thanks to a few Steelers missed tackles. Smith then found a wide open Chris Conley for a touchdown on 1st-and-goal, extending the Chiefs lead to 23-13.
Down ten points with just over five minutes left, Jones and the Steelers offense moved far too methodically down the field, with the drive eventually coming to an end when Hali beat Alejandro Villanueva around the edge for a strip-sack of Jones with 2:11 remaining. With the Steelers down to one timeout, the Chiefs drained the clock and escaped with a 23-13 home victory.
Jones wasn’t awful, completing 16-29 passes for 209 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions, The team will undoubtedly welcome Roethlisberger’s return to the lineup however, hopefully by next week. Brown was undoubtedly grateful for Jones’ presence, snagging six passes for 124 yards, most on remarkable adjustments in the air. Bel was again spectacular, despite only getting 17 carries. The dynamic back managed to turn those opportunities into 124 yards rushing, adding four catches for 16 yards as well.
3rd downs killed Pittsburgh, as the team converted just 2-of-10 chances while allowing Kansas City to gain a first down on 9-of-16 tries. Combine those numbers with losing the turnover battle 3-to-0, and you get a disappointing loss as the Steelers fall to 4-3 on the season. The undefeated Cincinnati Bengals are up next on the schedule, as Pittsburgh returns home for a 1 p.m. kickoff next Sunday.