Steelers vs. Chiefs: 5 Things We Learned from Pittsburgh's 13-9 Win
A win might be a win, but this win will be one of the most troublesome victories of the season for a Pittsburgh Steelers team that just never seems to step back from the ledge. After escaping Arrowhead Stadium 13-9 on Sunday night, the Steelers have a lot of work to do before facing the Cincinnati Bengals in Pittsburgh next Sunday.
Here's a look at what we just learned about the Pittsburgh Steelers, who've improved to 8-3 and remain in a de facto tie with the Baltimore Ravens for first place in the AFC North division.
Rusty Is the Word
Whether it's due to the bye week or something else, the Pittsburgh Steelers were incredibly rusty on Sunday night.
This is easily the second worst game this team has played all season. I would say it reminds me a lot of the team's loss to Houston while also being only slightly less awful than the blowout in Week 1 against Baltimore.
Two penalties for too many men on the field are among the indicators. I thought Ed Hochuli did his usual job of over-officiating the game. He loves to get television time and show off his biceps and his ego act has gotten old, but the Steelers were very sloppy regardless.
The Steelers, in some statistical ways, were very dominant during the game. Their offense moved the ball regularly and they had some good plays wiped away by penalties. Their defense had long stretches where they were crushing. Still, the Chiefs stayed alarmingly in the game.
Escaping with a 13-9 win is more an indictment of how bad the Chiefs were than any reflection on the Steelers playing well. They were pretty bad. The only bright spot was that they finally forced a bunch of turnovers (four). That also is an indictment of the Chiefs, however.
Any other team would have beaten Pittsburgh. Luck was on their side.
Bruce Arians Doesn't Know Much about Leads
A few weeks ago, I talked about Bruce Arians' propensity for protecting minuscule leads. On Sunday night, Arians again chose to protect the most questionable and fragile of leads.
It's got to stop. There's an old rule in football about playing not to lose. It gets you in trouble. Arians, and really by extension Mike Tomlin, continue to believe far too much in their defense to close out games.
Let's forget for a minute that this game should never have been close. The Steelers far outstrip the Chiefs in talent and ability. This game was close because of how sloppy the Steelers played and how much the officials chose to get involved.
Still, with a seven and then four-point lead in the fourth quarter, Bruce Arians went ultra-conservative and tried to run clock with Rashard Mendenhall taking first down and most second-down carries and then allowing Ben Roethlisberger to throw out patterns on third down.
This doesn't work. The Steelers, sooner or later, have to grow up, put on some big boy pants and put a team away with their offensive talent. Until that happens, I hold out no hope for them to win a Super Bowl.
Time for Troy To Wise Up
I thought it in 2008, but I didn't say anything. I was sure of it in 2009 but still held my tongue. I'm not going to keep quiet now.
Troy Polamalu needs to learn how to play smart. It's wonderful to have a player who plays with that utter lack of care for himself. He's the total team player. But he's going to prematurely end his career or endanger his life if he doesn't stop tackling with his face.
Polamalu does it all the time. He dives to make plays and often ends up with a knee to the nose or a stinger as a reward for the big tackle. He left the game against Kansas City with the same kind of play.
I'm sure Polamalu will find his way back to the field next week or the week after, but how long is it before he has to be carted off? It's time for him to play smarter.
Todd Haley might just have found a way for teams to counteract the Pittsburgh defense: the no-huddle.
Double-edged sword, anyone?
The no-huddle is how Pittsburgh wins games on offense (when they're allowed to use it, which they weren't against the Chiefs). It may just be how teams start to attack the Steelers.
Kansas City's offensive production was mostly the result of their continual (and by continual I mean the entire game) usage of the no-huddle.
In fact, had any other quarterback been operating the opposing offense, the Steelers likely would have been blown out. It was that bad. They had no answer for the Chiefs.
Why does it work? Well, by definition, the no-huddle forces a defense to keep their personnel on the field without a rest and also limits the formations that can be thrown in at the spur of the moment.
That ruins the Steelers, who love to use exotic blitz schemes and continuously changing formations. Haley's game plan was the perfect answer for it and is something that the Steelers will have to watch for from now on.
Maybe this is too much to ask, but maybe Bruce Arians could have learned something from Haley's plan. His team could shred anyone with the same setup. But that's probably too much to ask of the tunnel-visioned offensive coordinator.
Big Ben Doesn't Need Health
If you didn't know it already, Ben Roethlisberger once again showed that he needs no help from his body.
I'm starting to wonder if he should just be injured all season long. Roethlisberger actually, if it's possible, looked stronger with a broken thumb on his throwing hand. The same injury that has sidelined Jay Cutler indefinitely (I'll again question Cutler's toughness) has only made Big Ben a better player.
Roethlisberger's prowess on Sunday night will be lost in the hoopla surrounding the team's awful game plan offensively and defensively i.e., Bruce Arians' pigheaded need to run the ball when leading by any margin and the sloppy play of the team overall. That's unfortunate.
Roethlisberger was on target all night and would've thrown another touchdown pass if not for Mike Wallace's uncharacteristically dropped pass. Drops were a problem in this game and probably goes back more to sloppy rust than anything.
Either way, the Steelers have quite the quarterback. Asked after the game if his thumb was alright, Roethlisberger said "It's still attached, so it'll be fine."
That is all you need to know.