Seven gut reactions from the Pittsburgh Steelers week 4 win against the Kansas City Chiefs:
1 – Tonight seemed like the polar opposite of Week 3 against the Philadelphia Eagles as the Steelers were able to seize the momentum and keep it for all four quarters. Ben Roethlisberger hit nine different players in the passing game and threw five touchdowns. The wide receivers got open and were reliable targets, even Darrius Heyward-Bey, who’s not exactly known for his hands, had a 31-yard touchdown reception on a deep crossing route to start the scoring early in the first quarter.
2 – This game was a perfect example of how no team is immune to self-inflicted wounds. The Chiefs had seven penalties and they were costly. While the Steelers received nine penalties there was a noticeable difference between the two teams; the Steelers were able to overcome the majority of their penalties while the Chiefs’ penalties constantly killed drives. Don’t get me wrong, the Steelers also had some drive ending penalties, but others weren’t as damaging. For example, Antonio Brown’s penalty for his end zone celebration cost the Steelers 15 yards but it didn’t kill the drive because he had already scored.
3 – The defense was like night and day compared to last week. They finally put together four quarters of mostly solid tackling and it showed in the final score. There was one screen in particular that the Chiefs ran in the second quarter that was identical to the Eagles play-calling from last week. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith threw to tight end Travis Kelce, who out-weighs Steelers cornerback William Gay by almost 60 pounds, but the defensive back made a technically sound tackle without issue on a much larger player, something he struggled with last week. Also, shout out to linebacker Vince Williams. With the game well out of reach, and just over two minutes left, Chiefs running back Spencer Ware broke off a 46 yard run. It looked like he was going to score and with the Steelers winning 43-7, it seemed insignificant, but Williams, who started in place of Ryan Shazier, chased Ware down and made the tackle. These are examples of how the defense needs to continue to play. This pursuit and hunger separates good defenses from average ones and the Steelers defense had been missing that edge through the first three weeks of the season and boy was I glad to see it on display tonight.
4 – Winning the turnover battle makes life good. With the Steelers up 8-0. The defense made sure the offense started their next three possessions in Chiefs territory. First, Ware fumbled and Steelers cornerback Ross Cockrell made the recovery. Next came a shanked kick from Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt. Lastly, Smith had a pass tipped by Steelers end Cameron Heyward that was intercepted by Jarvis Jones. The offense converted all three possessions into touchdowns and the score was 29-0 before the Chiefs got out of the first quarter.
5 – The Steelers defense was able to get consistent pressure on the quarterback tonight for the first time all season. They finished with four sacks, but more importantly Smith never felt comfortable in the pocket and spent much of the night running for his life. Heyward had a dominant pass rush tonight, registering three of the Steelers four sacks. Perhaps more importantly, the Steelers defense hit Smith six times. The combination of this pressure and solid coverage from the secondary prevented Smith from getting into a rhythm and it was apparent.
6 – Is there any doubt that the Chiefs firing of Todd Haley during the 2011 season is still a sore spot? Haley came out with an offensive game plan that went for the jugular and he never let up. The result? 300 passing yards for five touchdowns by Roethlisberger to nine different targets and 151 rushing yards by the Steelers backfield. Roethlisberger used all three of the Steelers tight ends as targets, something he implemented effectively against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. He also targeted the Steelers running backs seven times for 36 yards. Haley’s offense has a lot of weapons and it’s almost impossible to cover them all and he made sure the Chiefs noticed tonight.
7 – There was a lot of speculation around both team’s backfields tonight. The Chiefs announced the return of pro bowl running back Jamaal Charles after an ACL tear last season sidelined him. Likewise, the Steelers were welcoming back their pro bowl running back Le’Veon Bell from a suspension. But the difference in output was staggering. Charles had two carries for seven yards while Bell racked up 144 yards rushing on 18 carries and 34 yards receiving on five receptions. He was a welcome boost to an already powerful offense. Bell might be the difference between the Steelers having a powerful offense and an unstoppable one.
All things considered the Steelers provided a glimpse of what they can be this season; an unstoppable offense with a solid defense. They soundly beat an AFC playoff contender tonight and put the rest of the NFL on notice that last week was an aberration, not the norm.
What was your gut reaction to Week 4?