The Pittsburgh Steelers are leading 12-7 heading into the second half, but the overwhelming feeling is that it should be much more than that, as they have continually failed in the red zone, including an interception from the five-yard line on first and goal. The offense has had to settle for a quartet of field goals, but they passed up the chance to attempt a 58-yarder at the end of the first half.
Le’Veon Bell does have 101 rushing yards in the first half on 18 carries, and yet they turned to the passing game in the red zone, which has not panned out. Antonio Brown did have a touchdown stripped out of his grasp late by Marcus Peters. Brown has 101 receiving yards as well.
On the plus side, the Chiefs have not scored since their opening possession, when a foolish squib kick attempt allowed them to start at their own 45-yard line. Their offense looked deadly early on, but has settled of late, turning the ball over twice and being forced to punt a couple times.
This time, instead of squibbing or bombing it, Boswell booted the kickoff to the goal line, and the coverage reached Tyreek Hill at the 24. Pressure from James Harrison and Stephon Tuitt nearly got to Alex Smith, forcing him to throw the ball away as Tuitt was roping him down. On second down, Harrison made the stop on the back for a loss of one. On third and 11, Smith went down the seam to Travis Kelce, with Ross Cockrell getting the ball in his back for an incompletion.
The punt was fielded by Antonio Brown with little room to return, only able to get to the 26. Bell ran for about 35 yards on the first play for the offense, dragging defenders much of the way. From the 36, Bell added another easy six off the left guard. And he picked up four to move the chains on the next play. After an incompletion and a run off the left side for no gain, Roethlisberger on third and 10 checked down to Bell for no gain. Yet another drive stalls inside the Chiefs’ 30, for the sixth time. Boswell tied an NFL record with his fifth field goal of the game to make it 15-7.
Once again, the Steelers’ kickoff coverage did well in containing Hill, tackling him at about the 21-yard line. Smith faked a handoff to two players before throwing high to Ware in the backfield. He had to leap to make the catch, falling to the ground, where he was tackled for a loss of three. But on second down, Cockrell this time was flagged for pass interference. Tomlin argued the ball was uncatchable, and he was probably right.
The penalty pushed the Chiefs to the 38. Ware was bottled up after a two-yard gain on the next play. On second down, Smith scrambled for a short gain to make it third and three. Ware took the direct handoff and ran up the gut for the first down, howeer.
Across midfield, Smith’s pass was off the mark looking for Hill. Shazier forced Hill out of bounds on a jet sweep after eight yards. On third and two, however, Smith couldn’t get the snap off, taking a big delay of game to make it third and seven from the 44. Harrison got around Eric Fisher for the sack, his 11th of his postseason career, tying LaMarr Woodley at 11 for the most in team history. He has a sack in four consecutive postseason games, and two and a half so far this year.
After a great punt that went out at the two, Bell got the handoff on first down and was stopped for no gain. On second down, however, he found a hole and was able to pick up eight or nine. On third and one, Bell couldn’t find any room to maneuver, stopped for no gain. Jordan Berry‘s punt went out of bounds at the Steelers’ 46.
Smith threw a bomb to Kelce down the field, but he couldn’t bring it in. On second down, Smith scrambled for about five. On third and five, the Steelers looked like they had a sack, but the Chiefs, with the play clock running out, had called a timeout first. But after the whistle had blown, Kelce shoved Cockrell hard to the ground, drawing a 15-yard penalty, which set up third and 20 back to their own 44. And yet Smith threw it down the right sideline for Maclin, breaking to the sticks for 20 yards and the first down.
Now to the 36, West was wrestled down a loss. A quick pass to Conley added seven. On third and four, William Gay was in coverage on Albert Wilson to influence an incompletion. Cairo Santos came on the field for the Chiefs’ first field goal attempt was good, making it a 15-10 game, with less than a touchdown margin once again. That was the Chiefs’ first score since their opening drive, and both came off of short fields.
Sammie Coates fielded the kickoff and returned it to the 30-yard line. That is an improvement after they started their last drive from the two. On first down, Bell picked up just one yard on the final play of the third quarter. Roethlisberger took to the air to find Eli Rogers for 14 to the 45. Back to the ground, Bell added another three yards. A quick screen to Demarcus Ayers picked up the needed seven just short of the first down across midfield. Bell got the first on the next play.
Roethlisberger found Jesse James wide open in the middle of the field off the pump fake for 23 yards to the 21. Bell added another two yards, giving him 168 on the day, breaking his own Steelers postseason rushing record that he set in his first career playoff game last week.
On second and eight, from the 19, Roethlisberger tried to find Rogers working down the seam. It was a bit high, but the receiver couldn’t adjust to the ball. On third down, Roethlisberger took his first sack of the game. Boswell was good from 43 out, making his sixth of the game, a postseason record. The lead is now eight points again at 18-10, and yet another drive stalled in the red zone.
Boswell’s kickoff went five yards deep, and Hill bobbled it in the end zone, forcing him to take a knee. Smith looked right, then left, then straight to find Kelce, who worked up the field for 24 to the 49-yard line. Ware took it up the middle for 10 to the Steelers’ side of the field. From the 41, Smith looked deep for Maclin, but couldn’t hit him with Burns trailing. That was a missed throw for a possible touchdown.
On second down, Smith went deep again, but this was short and Burns defended it. Ware was flagged for a facemask and the Steelers accepted the penalty, setting up second and 25. Kelce picked up 17 for third and eight. Late pressure was able to force Smith to throw it away due to the coverage downfield. They went for it on fourth and eight, however, and converted to Conley to the 26.
Hill picked up three around the left side as Harrison caught a breather. A screen to the right side was wrapped up in the backfield to set up third and nine. On an incomplete pass down the field, Sean Davis drew a helmet to helmet hit at the goal line. Conley remained down after the hit. The penalty moved the ball to the 12-yard line.
A screen in the flat to West picked up six. Davis had his facemask smashed into his face and had to come off for a play for Dangerfield. Gay tripped up Kelce on a shovel pass up the gut after two. On third and two, Smith had nowhere to go and threw it out of bounds. On fourth and two from the four, misdirection led to a pass to the fullback to set up first and goal.
From the one, Ware had little difficulty punching it into the end zone to make it 18-16, pending a two-point conversion attempt. Demetrius Harris caught the two-point conversion with ease, but Harrison drew a holding call against Fisher, putting the Chiefs back to the 12. Davis and Timmons were able to get there to defend the pass into the end zone.
The Chiefs were able to pin the Steelers back deep on the kickoff, with the coverage chasing Gilbert down inside the 10. The Steelers were up close against the line to defend an onside kick, which allowed the Chiefs’ coverage to come through largely unabated.
From the five, shockingly, Bell got the handoff, with three receivers on the field, but he was limited to just two yards. Roethlisberger used play-action to throw the ball to Rogers, but he only managed to pick up five yards, setting up third and three on the opposite side of the two-minute warning. Roethlisberger rolled out to his right and hit Brown for the first down, but he went out of bounds. But it didn’t matter. That’s it. Three knees, and the Steelers are going to Foxboro for the AFC Championship game.