STEELERS 20, CHIEFS 12
Steelers' record: 10-5
One year ago: 7-8
Series record (including playoffs): Steelers lead, 20-10
The Pittsburgh Steelers hosted the Kansas City Chiefs at Heinz Field for Week 16.
Win and they're in. That was the situation in which the Steelers found themselves during the week of preparation for this game against the Kansas City Chiefs, also a team with a chance to make the playoffs.
There was a lot of buzz about the opportunity to secure a spot in the postseason for the first time since the 2011 season, but it wasn't part of the message Coach Mike Tomlin was delivering to the players throughout the week.
"I think everybody's aware of (the playoff implications). I usually don't talk about the obvious," said Tomlin.
Instead, he focused on what has been the focus all along – the particulars of his team's performance.
"For us, it's about how we're going to produce the result that we desire," said Tomlin. "For us, we play good football when we don't turn it over, and that's going to be a tough challenge because of the Chiefs' pass rush and the turnovers their rush creates. So we have to do a good job of protecting the quarterback and the football. On defense, we have to minimize the impact of their running game and Jamaal Charles. If we can make them somewhat one-dimensional, we have an opportunity to minimize them."
The Steelers certainly gave Tomlin what he was looking for in terms of stopping the Chiefs running game, because Charles had 29 yards on nine carries, and as a team Kansas City finished with 39 yards and a 2.8 average.
Other areas in which the Steelers lived up to Tomlin's expectations were in the turnover battle, where the Steelers had one takeaway and no turnovers; and in protecting the passer, where Roethlisberger was sacked only once.
The Steelers held a 10-6 lead, and with 27 seconds left in the first half, the Chiefs were faced with a fourth-and-1 from the Pittsburgh 12-yard line. Coach Andy Reid decided to go for the first down, and the play called for Jamaal Charles to get the football. But Lawrence Timmons met Charles in the backfield, with James Harrison and Will Allen then joining in to stop him for no gain and turn the ball over on downs to the Steelers.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT I**
No team has owned the red zone in 2014 like the Kansas City Chiefs. Coming into Sunday's game against the Steelers, the Chiefs ranked No. 2 in the NFL in red zone offense and No. 1 in red zone defense. The Chiefs offense was converting 67.5 percent (27 touchdowns in 40 possessions), and the defense was allowing opponents to convert 38.3 percent (18 touchdowns in 47 possessions).
In the first half of the game, the Steelers were the more efficient team in the red zone, both offensively and defensively. Le'Veon Bell's 1-yard touchdown run allowed the Steelers to finish 1-for-2 in the red zone, while the Steelers defense forced Kansas City to settle for field goals of 35 and 25 yards before stuffing Jamaal Charles on a fourth-and-1 from the Pittsburgh 12-yard line in the final seconds of the second quarter.
As for the final red zone totals, the Steelers offense was 2-for-4 in the red zone, including 2-for-2 in goal-to-go situations. The Steelers defense blanked the Kansas City offense in its four trips into the red zone.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT II
The Chiefs finished with more net yards and more first downs, but the Steelers converted 50 percent on third downs (5-of-10) to 43 percent for Kansas City (6-for-14).
IT WAS OVER WHEN
The Chiefs last gasp was an onside kick attempt with 1:37 remaining in a game the Steelers led, 20-12. On the attempt, Chiefs kicker Cairo Santos drilled the ball to the right of the formation. Will Johnson was in perfect position, recovered the ball, and set up three kneel-downs by Ben Roethlisberger to ice the outcome and secure a spot in the playoffs for the Steelers.