The Steelers did not know the seriousness of the injury to Ben Roethlisberger's right shoulder as they were leaving Heinz Field early this morning, but they knew one thing -- they had just avoided what would have been an embarrassing upset to another bad AFC team.
Linebacker Lawrence Timmons capped one of his best games of the season by intercepting Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel on the second play of overtime to set up a Shaun Suisham 23-yard field goal to win it, 16-13.
"We'll take it and we won't apologize for it either," Mike Tomlin said after the Steelers' defense allowed yet another fourth-quarter lead to evaporate and then saved the day in overtime.
"Words can't describe that," Timmons said after he intercepted Cassel on the second play of overtime and returned it 23 yards to the five. "I got butterflies."
Suisham came on immediately to end the game and save the Steelers, 12 1/2-point favorites, from a monumental upset to the Chiefs, who managed their first lead in regulation this season but still sunk to 1-8.
The Steelers' fourth consecutive victory raised their record to 6-3 as they prepare for a showdown Sunday against their archrival Baltimore Ravens, who are in first place at 7-2 in the AFC North Division.
"As soon as that field goal goes through there, it's Baltimore Time," linebacker Larry Foote said.
However, Roethlisberger may not be able to play in that game. He left early in the third quarter with a right shoulder injury. He went to the hospital for a MRI. The Steelers sounded ready to play without him.
"It's why they have me here," said backup Byron Leftwich, who guided the Steelers to a fourth-quarter Suisham field goal that put them ahead for the first time in the game, 13-10.
Roethlisberger was hurt with 13:40 to go in the third quarter when he was sacked by Justin Houston, whose helmet jammed into the quarterback's right shoulder.
He was 9 of 18 for 84 yards and one touchdown to that point.
With Leftwich at the controls, the Steelers picked up two big third downs -- two thanks to Kansas City penalties -- on way to a 73-yard drive that ended with Suisham's 31-yard field goal.
It gave the Steelers their first lead of the game, 13-10 with 12:37 to go.
The Steelers and Kansas City ended regulation tied 13-13 when the Chiefs' Ryan Succop, who missed one earlier from 33 yards, kicked a 46-yard field goal with no time left to send the game into overtime.
Kansas City, with no time outs, drove 52 yards in the final 1:51 to tie it. Cassel completed a 27-yard pass to Dwayne Bowe on fourth down to the Steelers' 28.
The Chiefs hustled up to the line of scrimmage and Cassel spiked the ball with two seconds left to stop the clock. Succop then kicked his second field goal of the game.
The Steelers defense gave up fourth-quarter leads in three previous losses this season, including to two losing teams, the Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans on the road.
They did manage to win their 15th consecutive Monday night home game, but it may have been their most difficult in that 21-year stretch.
The Chiefs, who entered the game at near NFL-record pace with 29 turnovers, had none Monday night until Timmons' interception.
Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown on a day in which Cassel was typically bad -- he was 11 of 26 for 154 yards, two Brett Keisel sacks and the one killer interception by Timmons.
The Steelers were not as productive on the ground after a good three-game run. Isaac Redman started but lost a fumble in the first quarter and finished with just eight carries. Jonathan Dwyer carried 19 times for 56 yards and the Steelers
Leftwich went 7 of 14 for 73 yards passing in the game.
The Steelers got two breaks in the third quarter as Kansas City had two touchdowns nullified, one by a penalty and one by video review, and missed a 33-yard field goal.
Cassel threw a short pass to Dwayne Bowe. It was nullified by a holding penalty. Succop then knocked a 33-yard field goal try wide right.
Leftwich entered for the first time this season and on his third play, his dropped the ball as his arm moved forward. As they did with Roethlisberger last week, the officials on the field let it stand as a fumble and linebacker Houston returned it 21 yards for a touchdown, which was overturned by video review and called an incomplete pass.
The Steelers erased a 10-0 Chiefs lead to tie them by halftime, 10-10.
Mike Wallace, who dropped what would have been a 44-yard touchdown reception five plays earlier, made a spectacular catch of a 7-yard pass in the right corner of the end zone for a touchdown that gave the Steelers the tie and brought them back from 10 points behind.
On first down, Wallace hauled in Roethlisberger's pass with his right hand behind cornerback Brandon Flowers. As he fell to the ground, the ball wedged between his two knees as he then rolled out of bounds. The play was reviewed and the call stood as a touchdown.
"You don't script that," Wallace said. "You just have to roll with it."
Kansas City, which took its first lead in regulation time of the season at 7-0 in the first quarter, stretched it to 10-0 early in the second quarter after Redman fumbled at his 10 and Succop kicked a 22-yard field goal.
Suisham ended the next drive with his first field goal of the day, from 35 yards, after the Steelers' 43-yard drive fizzled at the Kansas City 17.
It was 10-3 Kansas City with 9:02 left in the first half.
Earlier, Kansas City's second drive of the night produced the Chiefs' first lead in regulation this season (their only win came vs. the New Orleans Saints in overtime).
It took them only four plays to cover 70 yards with Charles running the final 12 up the middle past Ziggy Hood and Will Allen for the score and a 7-0 lead.
"We didn't perform very well," Tomlin said. "We accept responsibility for that. We're not going to make excuses. ... We did do enough to win, though."
Ed Bouchette: email@example.com and Twitter @EdBouchette. First Published November 13, 2012 2:15 AM