In an embarrassing display of football, the Pittsburgh Steelers gave the Kansas City Chiefs an incredibly easy 36-10 win, and Pittsburgh now sits at 7-7-1. In this article I will provide data from Pro Football Focus and takeaways from watching the film.
Let’s start with the offense:
Only two starters received a 70+ grade, tight end Zach Gentry (73.3) and running back Najee Harris (71.6). Thought center J.C. Hassenauer’s grade was high and expected more below 50 grades than center Kendrick Green’s who was benched for the former on his horrendous performance. Tight end Pat Freiermuth’s absence was definitely felt in the passing game as well.
The Steelers got the ball to start and began with a toss to Harris, where tackle Chukwuma Okorafor and wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud missed their block and the Chiefs sniffed it out right away for a loss of two. On second and 12 Roethlisberger had just enough time to get the pass to wide receiver Diontae Johnson on a throw and impressive leaping/twisting catch for the gain of 18! The following first down run went for no gain, with Green whiffing and falling to the ground along with guards Trai Turner and John Leglue unable to get a push. On second and ten tackles Dan Moore and Okorafor pushed the pass rush up the arc well, giving Roethlisberger all day to throw but he confusingly pumped to Johnson who had stacked the cornerback and was open, instead targeted wide receiver James Washington working back to the ball late but unable to corral the low pass falling incomplete. Third and ten now and Roethlisberger dropped back but Moore was beat along with Turner with the former allowing the sack! Another frustrating short early drive.
Pittsburgh returned with 4:07 in the first quarter down by seven, running a flea flicker but Moore was beat to the inside pressuring Roethlisberger’s overthrow to McCloud for the interception! First play turnover, giving the Chiefs great field position.
With 1:00 left and quickly trailing by 14, Harris got the carry with pulling blocks from Turner and Derek Watt from the tight end position, but the former pushed to the ground and Gentry losing his block for only two yards. The final play of the quarter was a screen to Johnson with great blocks from McCloud, Gentry, and Okorafor for the nice run for 11 yards!
The drive continued to start the second quarter, faking the jet sweep to wide receiver Chase Claypool then throwing to the open Harris in the flat for a gain of five. On second and five Gentry and McCloud had good run blocks, but Harris hesitated instead of cutting to the open edge on the gain of one. Third and four now, Roethlisberger targeted McCloud who was hit and wrapped, jarring the ball lose and almost picked off on the bounce but thankfully falling incomplete. Another punt though, deficit is 14.
Down by 17 and 8:45 in the second quarter, Harris got a rare explosive run of 21 yards where Gentry had a nice pulling block allowing the bounce outside with a good block from Johnson as well! The following first down was another successful run by Harris, this time a five yarder with good blocks from Green and Turner along with Moore pushing the pile. On second and five Roethlisberger threw the quick slot screen to McCloud, but the defender reacted immediately for the tackle and three-yard loss. Third and eight now, Moore gets pushed back by former Steeler linebacker Melvin Ingram, but Roethlisberger unleashed a dart to Claypool that was bobbled but caught for the second explosive play of the drive, a 24-yard gain!
Roethlisberger went right back to Claypool on a good back shoulder catch and ten-yard gain! This set Pittsburgh up in the red zone for the first time, with Roethlisberger play actioning but failing to set his feet and throwing low and off the hands of McCloud and nearly picked again off the bounce. Second and ten was another incompletion, this time a little ahead and off the hand of Johnson. Third and ten now, Roethlisberger targeted Harris who was split out wide on the screen and McCloud lost his blocking cutting off the running lane despite good effort for no gain. Really frustrating play call, resulting in a missed field goal, still scoreless and down by 17.
With 2:13 left down by 23, crucial the offense gets points before the half, and start with a good interior push on the Harris run for five. Second and five at the two-minute warning, Roethlisberger throws a dump off pass to Harris, but the linebacker was right there on the gain of one. Third and four now, running the rub with Johnson and McCloud that doesn’t work, with the latter making the catch but only three yards. Big fourth down and loved the decision to go for it when we’ve seen Pittsburgh conservative in similar situations, but not the play call on a toss to Harris where Claypool slipping off and on the ground on his block which took out Turner, McCloud missing his as well, along with a swarm of defenders able to track the ball on the loss of three. Painful turnover on downs, still huge deficit.
One more shot with 18 seconds before half but long field from their own 29-yard line, and of course it’s a short pass with Harris able to make one guy miss but unable to get out of bounds forcing the timeout. Another frustrating short target and the Chiefs weren’t even playing prevent coverage, this one to Gentry for a ten-yard gain. Roethlisberger did look deep here, but Moore was pushed back by Ingram forcing the quick dump off to Harris for five yards to end the half. Shutout in the first half, with drive results of: punt, interception, punt, turnover on downs, half. Running out of adjectives, just horrendous.
The offense returned at 13:26 off a short punt with a Harris run for eight yards with a good push from the interior for a gain of eight. On second and two Johnson ran a stellar pivot route but a mind boggling and unforced fumble recovered by the defense! What else can go wrong?
Sorry I asked, off another KC touchdown the scoreless Pittsburgh offense returned with 8:53 in the third quarter to a Harris run with a good block from Gentry and Green on the six-yard gain. On second and four Roethlisberger connected with McCloud on the drag for a refreshing conversion with YAC from space created by Gentry’s route for 17 yards! Harris saw another good run lane here hitting the hole quickly with Moore sealing the edge for six yards. On second and four Harris ran again, this time providing a great hurdle and breaking tackles on another six-yard gain and finally some momentum from the offense.
Roethlisberger held on to the following first down pass searching and finally throwing short with late push allowed by Green to Claypool who worked back to make the grab on the four-yard gain and fifth straight successful play. On second and six running back Benny Snell was able to find the edge despite two defenders in the backfield, one from Leglue being beat and the other was Moore being pushed back, able to get a nice gain but unfortunately negated by a hold on Green. Following the third penalty of the game on second and 14, Harris got the carry but worked to the sideline instead of getting north/south limiting the gain to three but good effort through tacklers. On third down, KC was penalized for offsides luckily negating another miscue by Johnson on a focus drop. Third and six now, McCloud ran a great out route and catch but a boneheaded taunting penalty (fourth on team) following the play setting the following play back 15 yards!
This rare long drive continued with a Harris run behind Leglue with Turner pushing him for six yards. On second and four Moore was beat on a spin move by Ingram, getting the hit on Roethlisberger’s deep throw to Claypool high off his hand incomplete. Third and four now, and unfortunately this pass was also incomplete, through Harris’ hands setting up a necessary go for it on fourth and four. Roethlisberger went to Claypool deep again, and the defender bailed him out with a big pass interference penalty of 21 yards and in the red zone!
On first down from the 11 Johnson ran an out route, but the pass was behind and nearly intercepted. Instead, second and ten same result of an incompletion to McCloud with an odd release/timing and unable to locate the target. Third and ten now, and an infuriating third straight incompletion to Harris in the end zone where he seemingly let up on his route looking for a call, uncharacteristic and leads to fourth down. The frustration does not end here with a Leglue false start and fifth team penalty, forcing a field goal instead of touchdown opportunity. Three penalty drive, taking way too much time to only cut the deficit to 27-point near the end of the third quarter, consolation prize is no shutout.
The offense finally got the ball back with 11:50 in the game but down again by 30, with Roethlisberger faking the handoff and reverse but hit for the strip sack immediately with Green being humiliated off the line allowing the free rusher, and KC recovering with Green at least making the touchdown saving tackle. Third turnover of the game, two were the first play of a drive, and another on the second play, so sickening to see our Steelers play this way.
With 9:37 left, the deficit at 33, the Steelers offense put together a meaningless long drive so forgive me for not going into as much detail as usual here. Five third down conversions from here to the end of the game, and a measly two prior. For any of you that check successful play stats, it’s important to note that ten successful plays came on this meaningless drive, all but two were six yards or fewer, one of them a Harris 11-yard run and the second a 15-yard Johnson touchdown on fourth and four! This drive took way too long at six plus minutes for any long shot comeback, still trail by 26.
With 2:16 left quarterback Mason Rudolph got some time, starting with a wide-open target to Gentry for seven. At the two-minute warning he found wide receiver Cody White, also wide-open on a four-yard gain. On first down stood tall in the pocket despite pressure for a good pass to Gentry but dropped, and Snell had a good block skyrocketing the defender in the air. On second down Rudolph showed of his legs as we saw in his last game, this time for 17 yards eluding two defenders from pressure allowed by Moore and Hassenauer. The following first down a free rusher came and Rudolph showed strong hands not allowing the strip and getting rid of the ball on a floater incomplete. The next was a dump off to Snell who ran out of bounds for six yards. On third and four Snell got the carry for two. Fourth and two, Rudolph hung in the pocket again and found Gentry for the fourth down conversion and six yards. After a spike to stop the clock, he found Gentry again, another short target for 12 that ended the game, Steelers lose 36-10.
Now for the defense:
Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (78.5) and linebacker Alex Highsmith (71) were the only 70+ grades of the Pittsburgh starters and an unexceptable nine players posted below 50 grades, with defensive lineman Henry Mondeaux at the bottom at 29.6! The defense really missed lineman Chris Wormley, although it likely wouldn’t have changed the outcome too much.
Pittsburgh’s defense came on for the first time at 12:17, starting with a run stop for no gain from defensive lineman Isaiahh Loudermilk and linebacker Joe Schobert but noted a big cutback lane the rusher thankfully missed. On second and ten linebacker T.J. Watt was unblocked on the next run for an easy tackle along with a nice long arm from defensive lineman Cameron Heyward to combine for the tackle on the gain of three. Third and seven now, and quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ first pass was to Tyreek Hill who got space in front of cornerback Joe Haden playing outside leverage allowing the gain of ten and first down. The following pass from empty formation was a pivot route by Byron Pringle against linebacker Robert Spillane (speed mismatch) on the catch and YAC for 11 yards with safety Minkah Fitzpatrick combining on the tackle.
The drive continued with another 11-yard gain to the backup tight end (no Travis Kelce due to COVID) who got open in the zone past linebacker Joe Schobert in a wide-open lane over the middle with Fitzpatrick making another tackle but third straight ten+ gain! Heyward set the edge on the first down run with good overall run fits from Schobert and Spillane, and good tackle by defensive lineman Montravius Adams despite a tug on his jersey on the four-yard gain. On second and six Haden was playing eight yards off of Hill, who ran a speed out for the easy catch and run for nine yards and the first down. Mahomes went play action then threw to the back over the middle where cornerback Arthur Maulet got the hit but allowed extra yards before Spillane could combine on the tackle on the gain of 13. Another first down and sixth straight successful play.
This set Kansas City up in the red zone on this long drive where Mahomes threw behind the line to the back with Haden and Schobert running to the ball well and the latter making the tackle for a loss of one! On second and 11, Mahomes threw to another speedy receiver Mecole Hardman with Schobert in coverage falling incomplete. Third and 11 was unfortunately an offsides on Heyward, the first penalty for Pittsburgh at a critical position in the red zone. Third and six now, and nice spin move from linebacker Alex Highsmith getting into Mahomes space on the throw to the inside pivot route by the tight end with safety Terrell Edmunds in coverage and quick hit with Fitzpatrick combining to keep him short of the sticks on the tackle!
Kansas City decided to go for it on fourth and one from the three-yard line, where lineman Henry Mondeaux was pushed back for a big run lane and first down, nearly making it over the goal line where Edmunds and Fitzpatrick combining to stop him short. The Chiefs ran again on first and goal where Maulet did a great job splitting two wide receivers blocks to hit the back behind the line for no gain! On second and goal Mondeaux, Adams, and Highsmith all ended up on the ground with Spillane reacting for the hit behind the line, but not wrapping up allowing the broken tackle and waltz in for the touchdown. Eight+ minute drive, marching down easily, Steelers down seven.
The defense was forced to return in bad field position after one play on the offenses turnover, and started with an encroachment penalty on Adams setting up first and five. Pringle got open deep here with Fitzpatrick closing to make a great pass breakup at the catch point! On second and five the Chiefs went back to the ground where Highsmith set the edge and Heyward got of his block to make the tackle on the gain of three. Third and two now, Spillane and Haden both went with the underneath receiver leaving Pringle wide open for the easy catch, gain of 18, and conversion with the latter and Edmunds combining for the tackle.
On first down Highsmith forced Mahomes to step up with linebacker Taco Charlton getting a hand on him and the former continuing to hustle getting the strip sack that an offensive lineman caught for no gain! The Chiefs got another big gain on second down to the back in the flat with Maulet blocked on the 18-yard gain where Fitzpatrick finally pushed him out. Now in the red zone, Mahomes had centuries to throw off play action allowing Pringle to work open between Haden and linebacker Derrek Tuszka for the easy touchdown. Another terrible first quarter on both sides of the ball, an upsetting theme nearly every week, down by 14 early.
With 13:46 in the second quarter Loudermilk was pushed to the ground and Schobert was blocked out on the first down run for eight yards where Fitzpatrick and Spillane made the tackle. Watt came off with his rib injury bothering him, and on second and two slot corner Tre Norwood came on the blitz with Highsmith dropping in zone coverage along with Spillane allowing the easy catch and first down. The following first down run went for 12 yards with Loudermilk on the ground again and a big hole with Schobert, Edmunds, and Spillane unable to get off blocks and Fitzpatrick finally making the tackle.
Too easy for the Chiefs, another first down run Edmunds hesitated off the juke from the back but made the tackle after a gain of five. On second and five Pringle ran a short stick in front of Spillane who made the tackle on the gain of three. Third and two now and Hardman got the catch on the drag route with Spillane and Norwood in coverage, the former attempting to tip the ball and missing allowing YAC with the latter diving and barely making the shoestring tackle saving a possible touchdown but allowing a 14-yard gain!
Off the conversion Watt returned and Adams got the quarterback hit on Mahomes’ that was thankfully overthrown inside the 10-yard line with Norwood beat in coverage. On second and ten Watt turned the run inside with Spillane making the tackle but allowing the back to churn for a gain of five yards. Third and five now, and Watt was doubled late on the pass where Mahomes had all day to extend the play, targeting Spillane in coverage on a wide receiver again but good close from Fitzpatrick to provide the incompletion and third down stop! Good hold to a field goal, deficit now 17.
The defense returned off the missed field goal with 5:03 in the second quarter, Mahomes play actioned then threw the wide-open dump off pass with Norwood missing a tackle, then Fitzpatrick and Spillane combined for the tackle on the gain of eight. On second and two Loudermilk hit the rusher at the line but churned through getting just enough for the first down. Pittsburgh provided good run fills here limiting it to three yards with Schobert and Spillane combining for the tackle. On second and seven, Watt and Adams were pushed past Mahomes allowing him to step up, where Haden ran to him thinking scramble which allowed the back to run a go late and Fitzpatrick unable to react in time for a back-breaking 50-yard gain!
Like a knife in the side and in the red zone now, Mahomes went to the back for the fifth straight play on a three-yard pass with Haden making a solid tackle. On second and seven, Norwood came on the blitz leaving Hardman uncovered off the line for the short target where Hill debatably got away with a holding block on Haden, then jukes Edmunds forcing a missed tackle on the poor angle for the easy touchdown. Can’t stop the bleeding, deficit now 23 after the missed extra point.
1:23 left until halftime, still down 23-0, and poor field position. Mahomes easily finds the receiver in the zone for nine yards with Spillane on the tackle. On second and one Edmunds made a good hit on the rusher at the line of scrimmage but able to churn for two yards and a first down with Heyward combining for the tackle. With 42 seconds left Heyward easily ran past the blocker forcing Mahomes to throw the pass away. The Chiefs then had a false start, which was their first penalty of the game! On second and 15 the pass went to the back in the flat following Highsmith’s pass rush, with cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon missing an opportunity and linebacker Ulysees Gilbert pushing him out on the gain of four. Third and 11 now, Watt was able to flush Mahomes out of the pocket, who targeted the receiver in the end zone where Witherspoon had a great pass breakup thankfully holding Kansas City. Extremely lucky the field goal was missed by the backup kicker, still down 23. Three touchdowns and two field goals allowed, only one punt from their backup (the usual starters brother), can’t take advantage of Kelce being out, embarrassing.
The third quarter began with a seven-yard run with Schobert making contact but outmuscled on the churn for seven yards. On second and three Schobert lost his footing but turned the run inside where Loudermilk worked off his block for the tackle just short of the first despite the runner nearly churning to get it. On third down Kansas City was penalized for illegal formation negating a fake toss handoff that would have gained the first. Third and six now and Mahomes went deep to Hardman where Fitzpatrick nearly got a pick with Norwood beat, but finally a needed stand and three and out forced, still down 23.
The defense returned after two plays following Johnsons unforced fumble, defending a six-yard run where Heyward got good penetration, but the runner cut back behind Maulet blocked to the ground with Schobert and Loudermilk combining for the tackle. On second and four Mahomes threw from empty formation to the wide receiver in front of the zone against Schobert who was stiff armed and allowed the first down. The following run was a rare defensive success, with Loudermilk and Schobert combining to tackle the three-yard gain. On second and seven the tight end motioned to set up the screen to Hardman on that side, where Haden was blocked allowing him to accelerate on the edge for the nine-yard gain with Fitzpatrick pushing him out.
The following first down was another Chiefs successful run with a huge hole between Mondeaux and Highsmith with the latter and Fitzpatrick making the tackle on the eight-yard gain. On second and two from the red zone, Tuszka was blocked to the ground, but Haden set the edge well, with the rusher running over Mondeaux who combined for the tackle with defensive tackle Carlos Davis on the three-yard gain and first down. The following first down was a slant to Pringle with Sutton in coverage and a missed tackle, then ducking Fitzpatrick for a second miss along with Spillane falling for the easy YAC and second touchdown of the game! Embarrassing and infuriating display of football, can’t overcome another offensive turnover, now down by 30!
With 3:34 left in the third quarter, KC ran for seven straight successful plays, none of which had Watt on the field. The first was a ten yarder with a huge hole between Heyward and Loudermilk where Spillane finally made the tackle. The next went between Heyward and Tuszka with Loudermilk tackling the four-yard gain. On second and six Tuszka ran past the play along with Adams in the backfield with the latter chasing the runner for the tackle on the six-yard gain. Heyward had a shot in the backfield but couldn’t make the play on the following first down along with Tuszka falling down, allowing the edge for seven yards with Fitzpatrick and Spillane combining for the tackle. On second and three Adams and Loudermilk were blocked to the ground with Highsmith making the tackle on the gain of two. Third and one now, Schobert missed an opportunity but unable to get there and easy lane for the conversion between Adams and Edmunds along with Mondeaux on the ground and Fitzpatrick finally making the tackle on the seven-yard gain to close the quarter.
Adams was on the ground again on this first down run with Charlton working through a double team to combine on the tackle with Maulet. On second and six the Chiefs finally passed, with two vertical routes on the right with Haden and Fitzpatrick running with the inside receiver allowing Pringle to get free for a dumbfounding 22-yard gain! On first down in the red zone and Watt back on the field, the defense finally provided their first stop on a run for no gain with Heyward and Highsmith combining to tackle the no gainer. On second and ten Davis was blocked to the ground, but Spillane made a good play to stand up the runner and finish the tackle for only one yard. Third and nine now and Mahomes stepped up rather quickly allowing Heyward to capitalize with a sack! This at least held them to a field goal, but back to a 30-point deficit and game well at hand.
The defense returned after one play off the offenses third quick turnover, and the Chiefs brought in their backups up by 30. The quarterback fumbled the snap but was able to recover, then fumbled again on second and goal on the way to hand off recovering it again. On third and goal he was finally able to hand it off to the back for the gain of 2 resulting in a field goal. Deficit 33.
With 2:47 left in the game KC ran three times, content on punting with the 26-point lead and the game well at hand.
Last let’s look at special teams:
I realized there are overlapping dots, but the graph allows us to see the best/worst grades at each snap count. Tuszka highlights the grades at 82.2 with Kevin Rader (73.4) and Trey Edmunds (73.3) above 70 grades. The below 50 grades were James Pierre (47.5), Snell (38), and long snapper Christian Kuntz (29.6)!
Punter Corliss Waitman came on for his first opportunity at the end of the short opening drive with Pressley Harvin out for personal reasons, and the left footer started with a nice 58 yarder to the nine-yard line that was returned for 18 yards with Spillane spinning off his block but missing the angle and Tuszka dove which steered the returner out of bounds. McCloud’s first kick return came with 1:05 in the first quarter, but Kansas City had good coverage limiting the return to 19 yards. With 13:53 in the second quarter Waitman’s second punt was a booming 63 yarder, but unfortunately bounced into the end zone. Chris Boswell got his first field goal opportunity with 5:09 in the second quarter, missing a huge 36 yarder and failing to add much needed points!
Boswell did make his second field goal with 3:37 in the third quarter, a 34 yarder but huge deficit of 27 needing a touchdown. With 11:53 McCloud took the kick return from the one-yard line for a nice 29-yard return, but the game was well at hand. McCloud’s kickoff return with 9:41 left went to the two-yard line with only a 13-yard return. Boswell kicked off after the too little too late touchdown to the five-yard line and returned for 20 yards, with Ulysees Gilbert pushing the returner out.
STEELERS VS. CHIEFS WEEK 16 SNAPS AND SEASON TOTALS:
Thanks for reading and let me know your thoughts in the comments!