Should the Steelers miss the playoffs this season by one game, today is the game you will be able to point to as the dagger in the heart. The Steelers gave up a 61 yard completion to receiver Chris Chambers in overtime to set up a game winning 22 yard field goal by Ryan Succop and the Chiefs beat the Steelers 27-24. The loss drops the Steelers to 6-4 on the season.
The game got off to an ominous but familiar start as Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. The touchdown return is the fourth this season that the Steelers have allowed. This after linebacker Donovan Woods was promoted from the practice squad to help on special teams.
The Steelers dominated the first half outside of the touchdown return by holding the Chiefs to just 47 total yards of total offense. The Steelers held a 17-7 halftime lead after 2 Ben Roethlisberger touchdown passes to Hines Ward and Heath Miller. The start of the second half is when things started to turn sour as Chiefs linebacker Andy Studebaker intercepted a Roethlisberger pass on the opening drive. The Chiefs turned into 7 points in just 7 plays as quarterback Matt Cassel hit Leonard Pope for a 21 yard touchdown.
After both teams traded 3 and outs, the Steelers were driving deep into Chiefs territory when Studebaker intercepted another pass of Roethlisberger in the endzone and returned it 94 yards to the Steelers 8. The Steelers defense held the Chiefs out of the endzone and the Chiefs had to settle for a Succop 27 yard field goal which tied the game at 17.
The Steelers defense forced a Chiefs turnover when linebacker Lawrence Timmons sacked Cassel and jarred the ball loose. James Harrison recovered at the Chiefs 27 yard line and the Steelers were back in business. 5 plays later, Roethlisberger hit running back Rashard Mendenhall with an 8 yard touchdown pass. It was Mendenhall\’s first touchdown reception of his career.
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The Chiefs answered with an 8 play drive that covered 91 yards and included 2 huge 3rd down conversions. The drive concluded with a Cassel to Charles touchdown pass and the game was once again tied at 24. Neither team could convert their remaining regulation possessions and the game went to overtime.
The Steelers won the toss and were driving when Roethlisberger was sacked at midfield and injured on the play. Roethlisberger took a knee to the helmet and was forced out with concussion like symptoms. Backup quarterback Charlie Batch relieved Roethlisberger, but the drive stalled after some questionable play calling and the Steelers punted. The Chiefs ran 3 plays before Chambers caught a pass in the short middle of the field and rambled into field goal range.
The Steelers wasted a 128 yard receiving day from Hines Ward and a solid game from Mendenhall, who finished with 80 yards on the ground and 36 yards through the air. Tight end Heath Miller and receiver Santonio Holmes each chipped in 7 catches as well on the day. In the end, it was a combination of the turnovers and the late game defensive play that did the Steelers in.
To make matters worse, the Steelers lost a valuable chance of gaining ground in the division as the leading Cincinnati Bengals lost to the Oakland Raiders later in the day. The Steelers remain 2 games behind the Bengals now and are currently in the last Wild Card spot if the season were to end today.
In addition to the Roethlisberger injury, starting left guard Chris Kemoeatu suffered a MCL sprain in his right knee which may sideline him a few weeks. Mike Tomlin will update all injuries on Tuesday during his weekly press conference.