“I am proud of this team. We had some guys filling in, doing an awesome job. This is not an easy place to play, and a great team we played against. I am just proud of everybody the way we pulled through against this team.” — Ben.
From Teresa Varley at Steelers.com this evening:
It came down to the last minute, but the Steelers pulled out a key AFC win, taking down the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs, 19-13. The Steelers improved their record to 4-2 on the season, and maintain the lead in the AFC North.
After the Steelers lost to the Jaguars last week, Coach Mike Tomlin said, “I’m interested in how we respond.”
Well, his players responded.
Le’Veon Bell carried the ball 32 times for 179 yards and a touchdown, while Antonio Brown had eight receptions for 155 yards and a circus catch for a touchdown.
The defense swarmed all day, never allowing the Chiefs to get in sync and containing one of the league’s most potent offenses.
The Steelers got the ball to start the game, and moved it early in the drive. Ben Roethlisberger connected with JuJu Smith-Schuster for five yards, and Antonio Brown for 12 yards. Le’Veon Bell carried the ball three times for 10 yards, but after that struggled. Bell was hit for a four-yard loss, but then James Conner added an 11-yard run. On third-and-three from the Chiefs 34-yard line Dee Ford broke free from his block and sacked Roethlisberger for a seven-yard loss, knocking them out of field goal range and forcing a punt.
Things got interesting after the punt. After a holding call the Chiefs were pinned back at their own nine-yard line. Center Zach Fulton snapped the ball over Alex Smith’s head and out of the end zone, giving the Steelers a safety and a 2-0 lead.
The Steelers had a huge opportunity in front of them with the ensuing free kick, but from the looks of things Brown lost sight of the ball in the sun, and Jehu Chesson recovered the ball at the Steelers’ 32-yard line.
With great field position handed to them, the Chiefs now looked to be the team with the huge opportunity. But the defense wouldn’t have it. Kareem Hunt could manage only a three-yard gain, and then T.J. Watt pushed him out of bounds after a one-yard reception. The Chiefs had to settle for a 46-yard field goal by Harrison Butker, taking a 3-2 lead.
With the ball back, the offense went to work. Bell pounded it out on the ground, and the Chiefs couldn’t stop him. Bell carried the ball eight times for 65 yards on a drive that would finish with him taking it for a three-yard touchdown run, to give the Steelers a 9-3 lead.
The defense continued to be dominant on the ensuing drive, aided by Mike Hiltonknocking Tyreek Hill for a nine-yard loss, and eventually forcing another punt.
The Chiefs got their biggest play of the half when Marcus Peters intercepted Roethlisberger at the 42-yard line, and returned it 10 yards to the Steelers 48-yard line. The defense stepped up again, forcing a three-and-out and a punt.
Dustin Colquitt pinned the Steelers at their own one-yard line on the punt, but Roethlisberger quickly got them out of trouble when he hit Vance McDonald for a 26-yard gain. Roethlisberger added completions to Smith-Schuster for 15 yards and Brown for 26 yards. Bell added a 17-yard run to the Chiefs’ two-yard line, but they couldn’t punch it in the end zone. Boswell hit a 24-yard field goal, giving the Steelers a 12-3 lead they would take into the half. The Steelers dominated the stat sheet for the half, with 232 yards of total offense, while the Chiefs managed only six yards.
“The old cowboy’s got a little left in him.” — Ben, referring to himself.
The defense picked up where they left off in the first half, forcing a three-and-out on the opening possession of the second half as they continued to stymie the Chiefs offense. On the Chiefs next possession, the defense was equally menacing, allowing just one first down on the four-play drive that ended in another punt without going anywhere.
Roethlisberger got the offense clicking again with a 30-yard pass to a wide-open Brown, Smith-Schuster pulled in a 12-yard reception, but Bell’s 26-yard run was negated by a holding call on B.J. Finney, starting for the injured Ramon Foster. Brown got some of the yardage back on a 17-yard reception, when he held on despite being upended, but an incompletion to Bell forced a punt.
Taking over at their own 10-yard line, the Chiefs offense got moving for the first time all day. Smith hit Hill for 10 yards, then Hunt for 19 yards. Smith then hit Hunt, who broke free for a 37-yard gain. A roughing the passer penalty on Mike Mitchell was tacked on, giving the Chiefs a first down at the 12-yard line. But when you challenge this defense, they answer. Hunt was stuffed on third down, and the Chiefs chose to go for it on fourth-and-two. Smith’s pass to Demetrius Harris was incomplete in the end zone when Sean Davis wrestled the ball out of his hands.
While they were unable to sustain a scoring drive on their next possession, the Steelers moved the ball deep out of their own territory and flipped the field, with the Chiefs taking over at their 18-yard line. This time, though, they would take it all the way. Smith engineered an eight-play, 82-yard drive, that finished with a 57-yard touchdown pass to De’Anthony Thomas, to cut the lead to 12-10.
When the going got tough, the Steelers’ offense got going. And it was one play that said it all. On third-and-two from the 49-yard line, Roethlisberger aired it out, and truth be told it looked like it was either going to fall incomplete or be intercepted. But somehow Brown, between two defenders, never lost focus and pulled in the ball that tipped off a defenders helmet and then took off for a 51-yard touchdown, extending the Steelers lead to 19-10.
The Chiefs battled back, with Butker’s 33-yard field goal closing the gap to 19-13.
The Chiefs got the ball one more time, and with just 1:42 to play and one timeout, and Hill on the sidelines after taking a hit on the punt return, it didn’t look promising. And it wasn’t. The defense stepped up, with James Harrison sacking Smith for an eight-yard loss on third down, and then held on fourth-and-18, securing the win.
You can read more and watch video of Ben’s post-game interview here.