The first time the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Kansas City Chiefs squared off, it quite frankly didn’t stay competitive for very long. It was 14-0 by the end of the first quarter, 23-0 by halftime, and 30-0 before the Steelers even got on the board, with a late field goal in the third quarter.
Not many people expect this game to go the same way as it did the first time around, outside of, perhaps, Nick Wright and a certain section of the Steelers fanbase. The Chiefs certainly are not preparing themselves with the assumption that they will be authoring a blowout.
“Obviously, a couple weeks ago the game didn’t go the way that they wanted it to”, safety Tyrann Mathieu said earlier this week. “I don’t think we’re necessarily expecting it to be that kind of a ball game. Just watching these guys the last couple weeks, even before we played them a couple weeks ago, this was a big fourth-quarter, second-half team. For us, coming into this game, we understand it’s going to be a four-quarter game, possibly could be more”.
The Steelers are, of course, coming off of those ‘possibly could be more’ games, recording an overtime victory over the Baltimore Ravens to keep their playoff hopes alive in the final week of the regular season. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and a couple of his skill players such as rookies Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth made the crucial plays to set up a game-winning field goal. Ray-Ray McCloud’s 4th-and-8 conversion and the throw Roethlisberger made to get him the ball got Mathieu’s attention, among other plays.
“You’re dealing with a quarterback that really has all the experience in the world”, he said of Roethlisberger. “He’s won two championships, he’s been to the playoffs a bunch, and then he has some great talent around him as well. So, we’ve got our work cut out for us”.
While Roethlisberger hasn’t had a spectacular season by any stretch of the imagination, he has had some fine quarters, many of them in the fourth, and the fact that the Steelers have won seven games this season when tied or trailing in the fourth quarter (out of the nine games in which they won) speaks to the fact that the 39-year-old can still make the key plays.
That’s something Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has noticed, as well. “If you look at the big-time throws, he’s made to keep their season alive, we know it’s going to be a great challenge for us”, he told reporters heading into Sunday’s game.
The Steelers will likely need a handful of those big-time throws from the outgoing future Hall of Famer in this one if they mean to come out of it with a win—and prevent head coach Mike Tomlin from dropping to a losing postseason record.