Massacre at Arrowhead: Steelers at Chiefs Game Recap

Post-Gazette: Peter Diana photo

Okay, so it wasn’t really a massacre. “Massacre” would be what the Dolphins did to the Texans in the first half (the score was 41-0 at the beginning of the 3rd quarter. And you have to say for Houston, they came back in the 2nd half and made it a game. Sort of.)

While the Steelers never led in this game, it never felt as if it was totally out of reach until quite near the end.

Homer J. had a lot to say this week. Here’s a amalgam of our observations. Homer begins with a host of questions:

Mike Tomlin says he chooses not to live in his fears. Sadly, Homer doesn’t have that luxury. With Roethlisberger and Vick out, and with the offensive line being a bit of a patchwork, my fears center around Landry Jones.

Kansas City has a fierce outside pass rush, and I’m relatively confident that Alejandro Villanueva can do a decent job, but the big concern is whether Cody Wallace is able to hold the center of the line so that Jones is able to step up in the pocket when the rush comes from the outside.

Also, the offensive line needs to establish a decent running game.

Will the week of practice produce a little better coordination between Jones and Antonio Brown?

Jones is a touch passer and Brown is a quick receiver who is built for a precision and timing passer. It’s not exactly a marriage made in heaven. (One of the announcers noted that Brown said if Jones is looking for him it’s already too late to throw the ball…)

On defense, Alex Smith throws dinks and dunks and doesn’t turn the ball over. That’s the kind of offense the Steelers have had problems with. 

We haven’t seen Ryan Shazier for weeks, but this could be a big week for him and everyone else who is quick. Quick linebackers are kryptonite for an offense like Kansas City’s. 

We all live in some of our fears when the Steelers face the Chiefs, because they have always played tough, physical football and have really knocked around our quarterbacks. 

So let’s see whether Homer’s fears were justified:

On the first Steelers series we saw something perhaps we didn’t anticipate: two pass attempts right off the bat. Apparently Kansas City didn’t anticipate them either, because Bryant picked up an easy 18 yards. But things went downhill from there, as an underthrown pass, a barely positive run, a false start penalty, and an incompletion led directly to a punt.

Berry’s punt was great, but the coverage wasn’t, and the Chiefs began the next drive at the Steelers 41. This would be a recurring theme—special teams didn’t give up a huge return, but the loss of Terence Garvin, who hadn’t even been showing up on the injury report, could have been part of the reason.

The “bend but don’t break” defense takes the field, and while they weren’t embarrassed for most of the game, they really missed Stephon Tuitt, for one, and struggled with a good tight end and a quarterback who seldom turns the ball over. You could say the same of Carson Palmer this year, but Palmer, along with “High Noon at the Okay Corral” Arians is willing to fling the ball down the field on a regular basis, thus giving the defense some opportunities. Alex Smith did little of either.

However, despite all of this, and despite the Chiefs only needing to go 59 yards for a touchdown, the defense held them to a field goal. This would be a recurring theme.

On the ensuing kickoff Dri Archer returned the ball 38 yards. If the Steelers are fortunate enough to face a team whose special teams give up a lot of yards, he may well take one to the house in the not-too-distant future.

It was great seeing DeAngelo Williams involved. He had a lovely conversion on 4th and 1. But given that one of the strengths of the Chiefs’ defense has been run stopping, I was a bit surprised to see the Steelers rely so heavily on the run game. Alas, perhaps one of the reasons became evident as the game progressed. At any rate, here are the total rushing yards for the teams the Chiefs have played. You may have heard of some of the backs:

Vikings: Total yardage: 84 on 35 carries (2.4 avg.) Adrian Peterson: 60 yards on 26 carries (2.3 avg.)

Bears: Total yardage: 87 on 26 carries (3.3 avg.) Matt Forte: 71 yards on 18 carries (3.9 avg.)

Bengals: Total yardage: 124 on 26 carries (4.8 avg.) Giovanni Bernard: 62 yards on 13 carries (4.8 avg.)

Broncos: Total yardage: 61 on 22 carries (2.8 avg.) C.J. Anderson: 27 yards on 12 carries (2.2 avg.)

Texans: Total yardage: 105 on 21 carries (4.7 avg.) Alfred Blue: 42 yards on 9 carries (4.7 avg.)

But run it they did, to increasingly good effect. They ended the day with 147 yards on 24 carries, for a spectacular 6.1 average. Bell had 124 of the yards, for an even more spectacular 7.3 yard average. Unfortunately, the drives were mostly lengthy on both sides, and the Steelers started running out of breathing room…

Homer’s first half thoughts: Offensive line has done a solid job protecting Jones and opening a few holes. Jones is who we thought he is. 

Defense has failed to put enough pressure on Smith. The failure of the front line has exposed the rest of the team. Steeler pass rush is seriously missing Tuitt. They are not getting enough pressure on Smith. Heyward is getting double teamed and maybe triple teamed. Heyward’s sack before the half will hopefully be a harbinger of what’s to come in the second half.

Haven’t seen much of Spence and Williams, and what I’ve seen of Jarvis Jones has been unimpressive. (To be fair to Jarvis Jones, he tipped the pass on 2nd and goal in the second series which then resulted in an incompletion, and the Steelers held the Chiefs to another field goal.) What I’ve seen of Cam Thomas and McLendon has been less than overwhelming.

Smith has been dinking and dunking us to death. Someone has to hit someone quickly and make a splash play.

Tomlin takes a knee from the 44 yard line??? I thought you choose not to live in your fears, Coach? 

THIRD QUARTER

Kansas City opened the half with the first three-and-out of the game. In the following series Homer notes:

Jones waits and waits and throws too late. Incomplete.

Time out with 11:42 to go in second half. Look of despair on Ben, Vick, and Tyler Murphy.  Wondering if Murphy is going to save the day. When things go bad, the quarterback on the bench is always Mr Fixit.

The grass is always greener, eh, Homer?

Great kick by Berry and coverage by Heyward-Bey puts ball on KC3.

After a rather shaky game last week Berry was solid. I’m really liking what I see from our young no-name kickers.

The next series was another three and out, and Antonio Brown fair-caught the punt on the 37. Here we go Steelers!

And there it goes, Steelers. A quick pass to Brown which he juggled got knocked into the air, where a diving Eric Berry made a beautiful catch for the interception. As Homer notes:

As he ball is intercepted, you can see Doug Legursky on sideline holding his hands to his helmet. The Big Legursky speaks to the heart of Steeler Nation. Freak play. Long, long afternoon. But still in it. 

At least the defense held KC on the first two drives. And KC hasn’t been able to run the ball at all so far.

Kansas City finally got something going, and since they got the ball on the Steelers 47, you would think they ought to. After a couple of short runs and a long pass (for Smith at least, who is averaging something like 4 yards per attempt this season,) Homer observes:

Heyward was interfered with and tackled while ball was in the air!!! What a horrible call by the officials. Complete to 3 yard line.

This naturally resulted in three runs for a touchdown:

This is waaay too painful. I guess now all the people who were blaming Tomlin for not playing Jones earlier will now blame Tomlin for playing Jones. 

On the ensuing kickoff Homer notes:

Archer returns to 23.  He seems to have a complete lack of field awareness. He seems to decide where to go before the play, and goes there, no matter where the coverage and blocking might be. 

That’s a really interesting observation from Homer. There was a lot of talk from the television announcers about Bell’s patience. I think probably everyone has figured out he is a patient runner by now, despite the fact that he is so young. Have I missed anything? Oh, right, his quick burst and his vision. Dri Archer has one of those three, it seems like. I still expect to see him take one to the house this season. But clearly there is a mental game that isn’t quite coming to him yet.

This series began with a short Bell run and a 41-yard bomb from Jones to Brown. (As a writer it is certainly easier to type “Jones” rather than Roethlisberger, but if I were typing Roethlisberger a billion times I would probably be writing about a win. But my point is, “Jones to Brown” sounds as if we’re using alias, perhaps because the players are in the witness protection program. If we only had Steve Smith on the team the effect would be complete.)

Homer observes:

Jones throws Flacco-like rainbow to AB to the KC 35. 

Steelers burn another time out….after long plays, the NFL should delay the starting of the play clock to give both teams a chance to get down the field.

And finally, we get another Bryant touchdown.

After the touchdown the defense kicked it up a notch. Bam! Lawrence Timmons and Ryan Shazier bury Alex Smith at the 9 yard line in a sack that was pure poetry. 3rd and 14.

In the ensuing possession, we got to see Le’Veon Bell’s patience, quick initial burst, vision, and oh, a great stiff arm. All these good things translated into a 42 yard run.

Unfortunately the Chiefs’ defense stiffened up after being embarrassed, and a huge sack on third down held the Steelers to a field goal.

The Chiefs answered with a touchdown, in what would be the last score of the game. They had a little help from the referees:

Moats was hooked and held deep in the backfield on the run for a first down.

It was as plain as can be. Refs missed it.

It’s time for a two-minute drill. Jones is in the no-huddle, but as Homer says:

[They are wasting] enormous amounts of time between plays with clock running….Jones seems to be doing his best Donovan McNabb imitation. 

And finally: 

Tamba Hali beats Villanueva and strip sacks Jones before his arm goes forward. Game. Set. Match. Ouch.

Takeaways from this game:

Three, by the Chiefs’ defense. Buh dah bum. Here’s Homer’s:

If Landry Jones is the answer, we need find another question. He received excellent protection for most of the game and most of his completions were high. He didn’t seem to be able to check off his receivers. His most successful passes were Flacco-like rainbow prayers that were answered. 

The defense missed Tuitt – especially in the first half. There was not enough pressure up the middle. Smith was able to pick them apart because he wasn’t running for his life. The linebackers and secondary need the front guys to create havoc. Smith had too much time. 

See you soon, Ben.

HOMER J’S REPORT CARD: 

Quarterback: Landry Jones gets C- or D+. One interception not his fault. But he was underwhelming. He is who we thought he is. 

Running Backs: A-. Le’Veon never quit and never stopped producing. 

Offensive Line: C+. Two disastrous sacks. Wallace failed to pick up Hali on the stunt that killed the 4th qtr TD drive. Villanueva played well until the killer strip sack. They opened some holes and otherwise gave Jones time. 

Wide Receivers: B They did fine when they got the ball. Good thing they can stretch, because the passes were always too high.

Defensive Line:  C-. Played well against the run for 3 1/2 quarters, but no push and no pressure.

Line Backers:   C-. They didn’t have any big plays. Got dinked and dunked for too many first downs and had real problems guarded Kelce, who ate them alive

Secondary: C-. Mitchell had a couple of good hits, but – again – they couldn’t shut down KC on third and five or more. 

Special Teams: B. Boswell continues to be excellent. Berry kicked well. Return game was inept. 

Coaching: C-. Tomlin took a team with a third string quarterback (or even fourth string, depending on how you look at it) and a patchwork offensive line and without his second best defensive lineman, against a team that matched up well. Didn’t like this match-up before it started. Steelers stayed in the game despite Jones’ shortcomings, which became more obvious as the game went on. The Steelers’ defense made some solid halftime adjustments. 

Momma Rollett’s Report Card: (Patent pending)

Momma is too tenderhearted to give letter grades. It seems harsh, somehow. So she is going to start giving various achievement awards. Don’t tell James Harrison, though. He’ll make the guys give them back.*

Effort Award: Le’Veon Bell, who did his darnedest to carry the whole team on his back along with the ball. His failure to do so does not count against him, as the combined weight of just the offense is considerably over a ton.

Citizenship Award: Shared by Steve McLendon, for making sure the refs saw the Kansas City guy first during the scrum, and Mike Mitchell, for not responding to the taunting offensive lineman, who then took the Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty. Well done, gentlemen!

Work Habits: (Otherwise known as the Heart and Hustle award.) Alejandro Villanueva, for his blocking 40 yards down the field on Bell’s big run. You’ve gotta love a hustling big man.

*Not that he would have much room for criticism. His line on the stat sheet reads: Tackles: 1. Sacks: 0. Fumbles: 0. Etc…

One comment

  • Gotta shake my head on this one guys. To me, with the state of the O-line and starting Landry we needed the D to step-up more than anything else and they didn’t. I could point to our horrible third down conversions on offense, but without Ben orchestrating the O its what I’ve come to expect based o these last couple of weeks. Ultimately we need the D to get stops and try and get us the ball on shorter fields and that didn’t happen nearly often enough.

    Like

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