As you might imagine, there’s a lot of focus today on Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who has frankly been underrated all season even though it’s widely accepted that he is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
He went 23-for-30 for 258 yards and three touchdowns in an effortless performance three weeks ago against the Pittsburgh Steelers that put the game pretty much out of reach by halftime, already up 23-0 at that point, and not long after, with a 30-0 margin.
There were few things—if any—that the Steelers’ defense did well when they were faced with Mahomes last. They must hope that they have figured it out since then. At least they know what they’re supposed to do, as Cameron Heyward explained to Rich Eisen.
“We’ve got to get off on third downs. I think last time, they were able to sustain a big drive that was like 10 minutes long”, he said on Friday. “We’ve got to be ready for the prolonged plays that Patrick does that extends the plays and breaks coverage. Because our DBs shouldn’t be having to cover for 10 to 12 seconds. When he does that, he usually makes somebody pay”.
There were a number of plays like that from Mahomes where he was able to buy extra time, just by subtly manipulating the defense, though a lot of credit also must go to their offensive line, who kept the front in check pretty solidly. Even Heyward and T.J. Watt were pretty quiet.
That can’t be the case today. If they don’t make some noise and at least put Mahomes under pressure and force him to make bad throws, this is going to be yet another long postseason game. They have become experts at digging out big holes and being unable to claw all the way back out of them.
That’s where the offense also comes into play, of course, which Heyward acknowledged. “Our offense has got to put up some points. You’re playing a high-flying team, but we feel like we’ve got some really good players on offense as well”, he said.
If they don’t then it’s the end of an era with Ben Roethlisberger’s final game. He said in the same interview that he’d like to try to extend Roethlisberger’s retirement party all the way through the Super Bowl. It might not be in his hometown the way it was for Jerome Bettis, but I’m sure he’d love to play just about anywhere.