After getting just 15 carries in a 30-9 loss to the Jaguars, Steelers tailback Le’Veon Bell told reporters he thought more touches was “the formula for winning.” Against the 5-0 Chiefs, he proved himself right.
Bell matched his previous week’s workload in just 26 minutes on Sunday, powering the Pittsburgh offense with his legs and tiring out a beat-up Kansas City defense. He broke the 100-yard barrier in the second quarter, forcing the Chiefs to load up the box, which created space for Ben Roethlisberger to unleash passes to weapons like Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster downfield.
At one point, Bell was straight-up dominating the Chiefs.
Bell finished the game with 32 carries, a season-high 179 yards, and a touchdown.
Of course, much of that early dominance can be chalked up to a smothering Steeler defense. Pittsburgh allowed only six total yards in the first half — eight passing and -2 on the ground. Kareem Hunt, the rookie tailback who had made history with 100-plus total yards in each of his first five games as a pro, was held to just 2.3 yards per carry. Tyreek Hill, the explosive wideout who torched the Patriots in Week 1, finished his day with just 34 receiving yards. All-Pro Travis Kelce clocked in with just four receptions and 37 yards.
Alex Smith worked some magic to put his team in scoring position with a 34-yard completion to Hunt on a broken play:
It was the biggest play on the team’s biggest drive of the afternoon — Kansas City’s longest drive before that was a meager 10 yards. An unsuccessful fourth-and-2 attempt from the Steeler 4 erased a big scoring opportunity, but it didn’t stop the Chiefs’ growing momentum.
Instead, that would happen after a Kansas City touchdown cut the Steeler lead to 12-10. Pittsburgh drove to midfield before facing a third-and-2 that threatened to give the ball back to a surging Alex Smith. Instead, Phillip Gaines whiffed on an interception and Antonio Brown made him pay.
Brown’s 51-yard touchdown gave his team a 19-10 lead, but the Chiefs battled back. A tiring Steeler defense suddenly looked mortal, making the steadfast unit of the first 2.5 quarters a memory. Smith drove his team 52 yards in 1:06 to kick a field goal, then watched his defense hold tight to force a Steeler three-and-out on the next possession.
A big punt return from Hill set the stage for some late-game magic, but Smith had come to the end of his spell book. The Chiefs drove to the Pittsburgh 40, but three incompletions and a sack put an end to Kansas City’s undefeated run.
What does this win mean for Pittsburgh?
The win was a resounding bounce back for the Steelers, who have had a weird 2017. Pittsburgh is 4-2 with victories over the Chiefs, Vikings, and Ravens. The team’s losses came against the Jaguars and Bears — which makes it nearly impossible to figure out exactly which Steeler team you’ll see in a given week. Even so, with the rest of the AFC North struggling — Baltimore spent its Sunday ALSO losing to the Bears in OT, while Cleveland and Cincinnati are Superfund sites disguised as NFL franchises — Pittsburgh looks like a sure bet for its fourth straight playoff appearance.
What does this loss mean for the Chiefs?
Sunday marked the Chiefs’ first opportunity to glean revenge against the team that ended their playoff run last fall, but they failed to earn redemption. Kansas City has now lost six of its last seven games against Pittsburgh. Ben Roethlisberger is undefeated against them in games he’s started and played all the way through.
The Chiefs suffered their first loss of the season, leaving the NFL devoid of undefeated teams and allowing Mercury Morris the one moment of genuine happiness he’s allowed all year. At 5-1, the Chiefs still look like the class of the AFC. The Steelers, however, may have laid the blueprint for beating them. Another Pittsburgh-Kansas City showdown would be exactly the game Andy Reid wants to avoid in the postseason.
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