The Pittsburgh Steelers are hopefully facing their last game of the season without Ben Roethlisberger, even though that have managed to go 2-1, and very nearly 3-0, without him. In doing so, they endured a heavily labored showing from Mike Vick for about 11 quarters before Landry Jones played most of the last two, throwing for 168 yards and two touchdowns for a come from behind win.
Jones is making the first start of his career today against a 1-5 Kansas City Chiefs team absent its two biggest playmakers on offense. Running back Jamaal Charles tore his ACL and is out for the season, while wide receiver Jeremy Maclin is missing the game due to a concussion.
That said, the Chiefs have a tenacious defense that will no doubt be looking to stress a banged up offensive line featuring the first career start of left tackle Alejandro Villanueva. And the Steelers are also without Stephon Tuitt along the defensive line and Will Allen, for the second straight game, on the back end.
With Vick out, the Steelers promoted rookie UDFA QB/WR Tyler Murphy to back up Jones. In an actual game that matters. And Chris Hubbard is the backup tackle.
The Steelers’ inactives for the game are as follows:
QB Mike Vick
DE Stephon Tuitt
QB Ben Roethlisberger
S Will Allen
LB Terence Garvin
TE Jesse James
T Byron Stingily
And for the Chiefs:
DE Mike Devito
LB Ramik Wilson
QB Aaron Murray
TE Brian Parker
WR Jeremy Maclin
CB Marcus Cooper
OL Jah Reid
The Steelers won the toss and chose to receive. Jones looked to throw on first down and connected with Martavis Bryant for a first down. A deep shot to Bryant fell incomplete, and Le’Veon Bell was stopped after two yards on second down. From the 36 after a false start, Jones looked for Bryant again incomplete. On offense, the Chiefs found early success, quickly marching inside the 20, but the Steelers were able to make a stop on third and three from the 11-yard line to hold to a field goal.
Starting back up from the 33 after a Dri Archer return, Bell picked up five yards on first down. After an incompletion, Jones connected with Antonio Brown to move the chains. From the Chiefs’ 41, Bell picked up six yards. After another three-yard run from Bell, it was DeAngelo Williams to pick up the third and one. But Williams came up just short on third and one from the 16. The Steelers went for it on fourth and short, and this time the veteran converted.
With Bell back in, the starter picked up three yards on first down. Jones found Markus Wheaton to set up third and two as the six, but he threw incomplete to Williams on third down. Chris Boswell tied the game with a chip shot field goal.
After a touchback, Alex Smith had time to throw to hit Chris Conley for 25 yards. But Bud Dupree blew up the run for a loss of four on the next play. On the first play of the second quarter, Smith completed to Travis Kelce for the first down across midfield.
Smith scrambled on first down and slid for about a seven-yard gain, with some extracurricular activity following, involving Steve McLendon. The Chiefs were flagged for unnecessary roughness, which subtracted 15 yards from the end of Smith’s run, making it second and about 18. But Smith and Kelce were able to hook up again, nearly picking up the first-down yardage in one short. On third and short, the Chiefs easily converted and then some on the ground inside the 30.
Smith threw behind his running back on first down from the 27 for an incompletion. Knile Davis was brought down after a two-yard gain to set up a third and long situation. Once again, it was Kelce coming through, Smith finding him for a big gain to set up first and goal from the nine. The back West carried for five yards on first down up the middle, but Smith’s pass intended for him was tipped on second down. On third and goal, West was stopped for no gain to hold the Chiefs to another field goal.
On first down from the 20, Bell was able to break free for a 20+ yarder off the left side. On the second play of the drive, the Chiefs were flagged for illegal hands to the face. Bell followed up with runs of six and seven yards into Chiefs space. From the 41, however, he was limited to about two yards. After a three-yard run, it was third and five from the 35-yard line. Bell was a short shy of the first on the ground out of a two-back set, but Mike Tomlin kept the offense on the field. Williams got the carry, but was stopped for no gain as the Steelers turned it over on downs.
A bit hit from Cameron Heyward kept a screen pass to two yards on first down, with West picking up four yards on the ground. On third and four, Smith got the ball out to Conley for the first down on a nine-yard completion. A couple of big missed tackles resulted in a big 40-yard gain inside the 20-yard line, a rare explosive play allowed by this defense. A first-down pass to Kelce went for no gain. On second down, Dupree was able to get a hand on the ball out of Smith’s arm to bat it down.
On third and 10, Smith’s pass to Conley was well short of the first as the Chiefs settled for a third straight field goal. It was Brandon Boykin on the tackle, replacing Antwon Blake, who was taken to the locker room to be evaluated for a possible concussion. The Steelers used a timeout with 1:05 remaining in the hopes of scoring before halftime.
Archer returned his second kick of the day, bringing it out to about the 24. With 53 seconds and two timeouts, Jones completed to Brown for a 21-yard gain to the 45. Jones was incomplete to Wheaton on his second throw of the drive. On second and 10, Jones was forced to throw the ball away. Jones’ third and 10 pass was intercepted by Derrick Johnson and returned to the 31-yard line, an unfortunate break just before halftime.
After nine-yard pass, Heyward hit Smith for a sack for a loss of five yards back to the 36-yard line as the Chiefs burned their last timeout. On third and six, the throw was bobbled and fell incomplete. The 54-yard field goal attempt was wide and incomplete, but Kansas City will start the second half with the ball.