Brown’s wild, game-clinching touchdown bounced off Kansas City Chiefscornerback Phillip Gaines‘ hands and head and into Browns’ arms, who did the rest for a sideline-streaking, 51-yard score with 3 minutes, 24 seconds left. Brown’s description of how he got the ball was as miraculous as the play itself.
“Called God and asked him,” he said.
After weeks of anthem drama, Gatorade-cooler drama and does-the-QB-still-have-it drama, the Steelers put it all to sleep by defeating the Chiefs 19-13, and looking like themselves again behind Le’Veon Bell‘s staggering 179 yards and a late-game sack by James Harrison.
The Chiefs’ 5-0 start didn’t faze the Steelers, who liked this matchup to start the week. They felt their offensive line could win up front on Kansas City’s 20th-ranked rushing defense and let Bell exhaust the defense. Roethlisberger had won five straight against Kansas City and getting a sixth would calm the storylines about his poor play.
“I guess this old cowboy’s got a little bit left in him,” Roethlisberger said when asked if he had a told-you-so response coming off his five-interception performance in Week 5 against Jacksonville.
But the Steelers didn’t need vintage Big Ben — at least not Sunday. They needed steady Roethlisberger, which they got. The Steelers had a stingy defense that allowed one first down in the first half. And they had Bell, who was right when he said last week that dedicating to the run is “a formula for winning.”
That’s how this team won last year, and that’s mostly how it’ll win this year.
Need evidence that Bell is all the way back? Five of Bell’s first 19 carries went for 10 yards or more. The Steelers utilized pulling guards and two-tight end sets to spring Bell open on the perimeter, giving him the chance to work the outside or cut back inside.
“He was in the hole all night,” guard David DeCastro of Bell. “He was making those cuts and running like the Le’Veon we know.”
The Steelers’ defensive players barely got any sleep this week thinking about their poor showing vs. Jacksonville, Tuitt said.
“We just wanted to show the world what we really are,” he said.
Roethlisberger (17-of-25, 252 yards, one touchdown, one interception) made his share of impressive throws. Touch passes to Brown and Vance McDonald over the middle created crucial first downs. Roethlisberger’s only interception came on a miscommunication with Brown, who ran a hitch instead of a slant for an easy first down.
But the uninspired Chiefs were all but asking the Steelers to put them away early in the second half. The Steelers couldn’t quite do it, opting for a punt on the Chiefs’ 35-yard line on fourth-and-2 with a $12 million running back with 124 yards at that point. Coach Mike Tomlin likely didn’t want to give the Chiefs any momentum, but the game felt like Pittsburgh was up by 25, even though it never was.
The Steelers had two touchdown chances in the second quarter but messed around in the red zone, which has become an odd habit. An ugly defensive sequence on third-and-8 didn’t help: Safety Mike Mitchell missed on a sack, then drew a penalty for going low on Alex Smith after the pass, gift-wrapping the Chiefs into the red zone.
That’s when the Steelers punctuated a dominant defensive day. The Steelers’ defense faced fourth-and-2 from their own 4-yard line, up 12-3 early in the fourth. The Chiefs decided to go for it, threatening the Steelers’ near-shutout of one of the NFL’s best offenses. Smith dropped back, rolled to his left and targeted Demetrius Harris over the middle. Safety Sean Davis made a clutch, body-contorting play to knock the ball out as Harris was landing. He nearly had an interception, but no matter: The stop punctuated a dominant day for the Steelers.
Now, at 4-2, the Steelers remain atop the AFC North with the Cincinnati Bengals coming to town Sunday.
“We are excited about being in the thick of it,” coach Mike Tomlin said.