Report Card: Steelers earn a C+ against the Chiefs
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Ben Roethlisberger left in the third quarter with a right shoulder injury and did not return. After a slow start, he managed to bring the Steelers back from a 10-0 deficit with a 7-yard touchdown pass -- a drive that included a 14-yard scramble on third down. Byron Leftwich made his first appearance of the season and was a sporadic 7 of 17 for 73 yards. He needed a replay review to overturn what would have been a touchdown return of a fumble
After producing three consecutive 100-yard rushers for the first time in five years, the Steelers had trouble finding one back to gain consistent yards. Jonathan Dwyer returned after a one-game absence and had 56 yards on 19 carries, including 38 in the second quarter when he replaced Isaac Redman. Dwyer's 17-yard run helped set up the first touchdown. Redman did not return in the first half after his fumble at his 10 led to a Chiefs field goal and a 10-0 deficit.
The absence of injured Antonio Brown seemed to be significant. Mike Wallace had only two catches for 14 yards in the first half, but one was a magnificent one-handed catch for a 7-yard touchdown. Emmanuel Sanders had a big 31-yard catch-and-run on third-and-9 to keep alive a drive that led to the go-ahead field goal. Tight end Heath Miller had four catches for 47 yards early, but was largely quiet after that..
The running game that averaged 155 yards the past three games was nonexistent against the Chiefs. The Steelers finished with 95 yards on 29 attempts, averaging just 3.3 yards per carry. Nobody could block LB Derrick Johnson, especially on a failed fourth-and-1 run at midfield in the third quarter. Guard Willie Colon had the double-whammy of being penalized for holding and unsportsmanlike conduct, one play before Redman's fumble.
A big game by end Brett Keisel, who had both sacks on quarterback Matt Cassel and also forced a third-down incompletion. The Chiefs had little trouble creasing the defensive front and consistently gaining yards. Jamal Charles had 65 of his 89 rushing yards in the first half, when he averaged 4.6 yards per carry. The biggest ignominy of allowing a 12-yard scoring run to Charles was that it marked the first time all season the Chiefs had a lead in regulation.
The Chiefs lead the league in turnovers (29), including an NFL-high 18 by Cassel, but the defense didn't force a takeaway until Lawrence Timmons' interception in overtime, setting up the winning field goal. It was the culmination of a big game by Timmons, who was very active, both against the rush and applying pressure. But he was lucky that a 22-yard touchdown by Dwayne Bowe was negated by penalty because Timmons missed the tackle.
After allowing just 402 yards passing in the previous three games, the league's No. 1-ranked pass defense held Cassel to seven completions for 92 yards until the last drive. And that included a 38-yard catch-and-run on the second possession in which safety Ryan Clark missed a tackle. Then they allowed him to complete four passes for 62 yards on the final possession to tie the score at the end of regulation.
The loss of Brown was especially apparent on punt returns because the Steelers got little production from Chris Rainey and David Gilreath. But the offense was bailed out by Shaun Suisham, who had field goals of 35 and 31 yards in regulation and the winning 23-yarder in OT. Suisham is 20 of 21 on the season. The other good news: The Steelers did not allow any significant returns by the Chiefs. And, when he needed a good punt, Drew Butler delivered a 58-yarder with 1:51 remaining.
The Steelers were fortunate not to lose another game to a team with just one victory. It was not the kind of offense expected against Todd Haley's former team, who had allowed an average of 30 points per game. The running game was sporadic and the passing game lacks confidence without Roethlisberger. And when the defense needed a stop on the Chiefs' final possession, it didn't deliver. That's what happened in the other three losses. But Timmons' big play in overtime got everyone off the hook.
First Published November 13, 2012 12:54 am