Collier: Blunders all around take center stage

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Plenty of people found themselves wondering what exactly the Kansas City Chiefs were doing on Monday Night Football, but not too long after kickoff, several plausible answers popped into evidence.

They were beating the Steelers; that was the No. 1 answer on the board, jumping ahead 10-0.

They were potentially ruining a season other than their own, thumping Ben Roethlisberger into a hospital visit.

They were unleashing a season's worth of unused celebration dances at the most ridiculous times.

They were deliberately erecting the framework of the first loss on Monday night by the home team in Pittsburgh in more than 20 years.

But they're not the Chiefs for nothin'.

Up until Lawrence Timmons intercepted a Matt Cassel pass in overtime, positioning Shaun Suisham for a winning 23-yard field goal on the upswing of midnight, they were even hunting Romeo Crennel's first career win against the Steelers after eight consecutive losses as head coach of the Cleveland Browns and, temporarily, these perfectly dreadful Chiefs.

Frankly, for pure theatre, the bit about turning Heinz Field into Land of 1,000 Dances was not duplicated in a prime time show that likely sent most of the nation to bed before the 11 o'clock news.

The first big production came on the sack that sent Roethlisberger to the locker room early in the third quarter. The quarterback scrambled forward on the play, but retreated, feeling for more space in the pocket when he was sandwiched by outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. It was Houston, the second-year man out of Georgia and probably the best Chiefs defender already, who approached Roethlisberger from the front and smacked into his throwing shoulder just as Hali arrived.

Houston and Hali then began a mutual sack dance they'll perhaps recreate some night on Dancing With The Stars, a little no-touch tango that was apparently so mesmerizing that the spellbound officials could not find a single penalty flag, even though this very kind of conspiratorial, coordinated celebration is against the rules.

Once the real officials return, this kind of thing won't be tolerated.

Oh ... right.

But the Chiefs were just getting loose; the big production number was still to come.

On Leftwich's first series, a 10-10 tie still in place, Kansas City brought pressure up the middle and the quarterback's pass attempt went directly to the wet grass, where Houston scooped it up and carried it into the end zone for an apparent touchdown. Apparent if you mean there were no whistles and two officials were standing on the goal line with their arms raised.

In the back of the end zone, Houston was joined by a virtual chorus line of teammates, and the ensuing choreography this time drew multiple flags, the officials apparently unimpressed with the Chiefs' interpretation or precision.

The touchdown was overturned on review because the play was merely an incomplete pass, but the excessive celebration penalty for the ridiculous end zone dance gave the Steelers a first down.

Fortunately for Mike Tomlin's team, even though the dancing was over for the night, the Chiefs kept finding other ways to arrange their own demise, much as they had all season. They appeared to get off the field on third down on the first play of the fourth quarter, but instead committed two penalties on the same play, a holding violation on safety Abram Elam that was declined, and a personal foul against Hali for hitting Leftwich with his helmet, which was accepted and put the Steelers at the Chiefs 13.

Suisham gave the Steelers their first lead of the game four plays later, a slim 13-10 cushion that stood until the Chiefs' Ryan Succop hit a 46-yarder with two seconds showing on the game clock.

But if the Chiefs had done 100 or so crazy things before the 13-13 tie that forced overtime, they saved the best for the coin flip for the extra period. They won the toss and elected to receive, forgetting, obviously, that Cassel was still at quarterback, forgetting that he was 11 of 25 to that point and that he seemed increasingly bewildered.

So on the second play of overtime, a second-and-6 from the Kansas City 19, Cassel threw into the left flat for Dwayne Bowe, at least reportedly. It was an impossible play for Bowe, but easy pickin's for Timmons, who intercepted and rumbled toward the river.

Sweezy Money ended it abruptly, a 16-13 victory with a cost that might prove incalculable if the news on Roethlisberger's shoulder confirms a separation.

"I'll wait until I get the information and then I'll respond," said Tomlin, who wouldn't characterize his own level of concern. "I'll respond based on that information. I won't get into hypotheticals."

In addition to the quarterback's situation, the Steelers lost safety Ryan Clark to an apparent concussion late in the game, two players, Tomlin said, "who are critical to our efforts going ahead."

The Baltimore Ravens will be in town Sunday night. Should they find a Steelers team without No. 7 and with no Ryan Clark, the stage will be set again for the art of the dance. The Chiefs aren't really a tough act to follow.

mobilehome - genecollier

Gene Collier: gcollier@post-gazette.com.


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