Coming off the worst defeat of the Mike Tomlin-era, a 34-3 blowout at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles, the Pittsburgh Steelers hosted the Kansas City Chiefs at Heinz Field on Sunday night in nationally-televised match-up and came within eight seconds of the biggest win of the Tomlin-era. The Steelers dominated the Chiefs from the outset, putting up a franchise-record 22 points in the first quarter, on their way to a 43-14 win.
The defense slowed the Chiefs offense on the opening drive with a sack on the fourth play of the game, just their second on the season, and they would add three more along with two turnovers. It was, by far, the best defensive showing of the season as the Steelers were able to consistently pressure Alex Smith, blitzing much more frequently than they had in their first three games and giving up only two meaningless fourth quarter touchdowns.
The offense showed its quick-strike capability turning the two first quarter turnovers into touchdowns with three-play and one-play drives. In total the Steelers three first quarter touchdown drives took only 2:14. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 300 yards and five touchdowns and finished with a 152.5 passer rating, Le’Veon Bell made a sparking debut with 178 yards from scrimmage in his first game in eleven months and Antonio Brown caught two TDs. It was the first game the three started and finished together since week 16, 2014.
*The only similarity between this game and the Eagles game was the Steelers again came out with a long list of injuries. Starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert had his lower leg rolled up on at the end of the first half and left with a mid-foot injury and did not return. Darrius Heyward-Bey suffered a shoulder injury, Jarvis Jones injured his left ankle, Anthony Chickillo his left knee and Ryan Harris suffered a hematoma.
Starters Ramon Foster, Eli Rogers on offense and Ryan Shazier and Robert Golden on defense were inactive with injuries.. Cody Wallace, Roosevelt Nix and Senquez Golson were also inactive and have yet to dress for a game this season. Golson is likely to miss the first half of the season with a lisfranc injury.
About as good a display as you can hope to see.
*A perfect passer rating is 158.3 and Ben Roethlisberger finished at 152.5. He completed passes to nine different receivers and had as many touchdowns as he did incompletions. His best throw of the night came on the second play of the second quarter with the Steelers facing a 3rd-and-5 at their own 13. Ben made a perfect back-shoulder throw to Antonio Brown for an 18-yard gain on the left sideline. It was covered as well as it could be covered, but was still completed because that level of execution can’t be stopped. Ben wasn’t perfect. On the Steelers first play he completed a pass to Sammie Coates for a 47-yard gain, but the ball was underthrown. If he hits Coates in-stride it’s an easy 95-yard touchdown. He was also off target on three or four other throws, but overall he was excellent.
*Le’Veon Bell returned after being out 11 months due to injury and suspension and looked as good as ever. He’s currently 30th in the NFL in rushing. He’s played one game. He finished with 178 yards from scrimmage, with 144 of those coming on the ground in 18 carries. His 44-yard run in the middle of the 4th quarter showed all of his talents—vision, patience, burst, cut-back ability and speed. There isn’t a better back in the game. Todd Haley lined him up in a variety of different spots in the formation (he basically played wide receiver in the first quarter), which will make things even harder for opposing defenses going forward.
*The offensive line was good and B.J. Finney was very solid in his first career start at right guard filling in for Ramon Foster.
*The Steelers receivers made a bunch of good, contested catches. Brown was only targeted five times, but had four catches including an excellent shoe-top catch to convert a third down. Sammie Coates made an excellent adjustment on the first play for a 47-yard catch and even caught a pass that wasn’t a WR screen or a go routed and Markus Wheaton caught a 2-point conversion and a TD after a brutal week last week.
*A couple penalties is about all I can come up with.
What a difference pressure makes. The Steelers front seven was excellent and once they were able to play with a lead, they dominated the Chiefs, who lack both the QB and explosive playmakers to comeback from a big deficit.
*Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt had underperformed through the first three weeks of the season. The were beasts on Sunday night. Heyward had six tackles, three sacks and tipped the pass that Jarvis Jones intercepted. Tuitt only had one tackle, but he got consistent pressure on Smith, defensed two passes and caused the fumble that set-up the Steelers first TD. Outstanding.
*Vince Williams. Talk about filling up a stat sheet. Vince had a career day. 15 tackles, 13 of them solo, a sack, 2 tackles for loss and a special teams tackle. Williams most impressive play, however, may have come when the game was well in hand. With 3:18 left in the game and the Steelers up 43-7, the Chiefs had the ball on their own 40 facing 2nd-and-8. Spencer Ward took the handoff and got through the hole and down the right sideline. Vince Williams ran him down and tackled him at the Steelers 14 after a 46-yard gain. Great hustle.
*Jordan Dangerfield, Artie Burns and Justin Gilbert all did good things. Dangerfield, like Finney, made his first career start and filled in more than capably in his first defensive snaps—ever. Burns showed explosive speed and recovery skill in breaking up a deep ball with perfect technique after the receiver got past him. Gilbert was excellent playing on top of TE Travis Kelce making it difficult for him to get a free release off the line.
*Again, not much to say. The best the Steelers have played across the board.
*The Steelers kickoff coverage was outstanding. Steven Johnson, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Tyler Matakevich among others did an excellent job of pinning the Chiefs deep in their own territory.
*Did Jordan Berry actually have a not outstanding punt? Nah. Ok, maybe one.
After getting out-coached in all facets of the game last week, Mike Tomlin and his staff deserve a ton of credit for getting things turned around quickly and coming up with a great game plan on both sides of the ball and having the team ready to play.
*The Steelers blitzed more than they have any time this season. And it was effective. It will be interesting to see if Keith Butler continues to dial it up more as the season moves on.
*After not taking out any starters in the blowout loss last week, Tomlin did take out Ben, Maurkice Pouncey, Brown, Bell, Heyward, Tuitt and possibly a few more, (though they didn’t have many healthy players left by the end). I still feel it was a mistake to not pull players last week when the result was determined. The risk/reward was heavily skewed to the risk side. Good choice this week.
*Tomlin finally went for 2 after the Steelers first touchdown. First time this season and 1-1 after going 8-11 last year. Let’s see more.
*Pretty flawless here as well.
Big Officiating Calls:
*Nobody still has any idea what a catch is or whether guys are in or out of bounds.
Up Next: The Steelers are again home Sunday to take on the New York Jets (1-3) who lost at home 27-17 to the Seattle Seahawks Sunday. Apparently things aren’t going well in New York. The Kickoff at Heinz Field is scheduled for 1:00 pm EST.
Reminder: You can hear me on the postgame show with Charlie Batch across the Steelers Football Network (WDVE, ESPN, steelers.com or the Steelers Gameday app) after every Steelers game and on weekdays on ESPN Pittsburgh 970 and 106.3 FM from 4-7 pm. You can follow me on twitter @DavidMTodd.