Skip to main content

After Further Review: No choice but to get over it

It was just an observation from a play-by-play guy, so it shouldn't be accepted as definitive.

But since it was Jim Nantz of CBS, and since he was talking about the Steelers, its validity was worth considering.

"Physically, emotionally it's just not there."

Nantz offered that up after Byron Pringle caught a short pass from Patrick Mahomes, made Cam Sutton miss with one cutback and then eluded Minkah Fitzpatrick and Robert Spillane with another on the way to an all-too-easy, 16-yard, catch-and-run touchdown that, coupled with replacement kicker Elliott Fry's extra point, upped the Kansas City lead to 30-0 midway through the third quarter.

It ended at 36-10 on Sunday afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium.

And it played out in a manner that suggested, as Nantz had maintained, the Steelers were physically and emotionally spent.

Game action photos from the Steelers' Week 16 game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium

That's why the Steelers' response was compelling, as well.

It came too late to avoid a fourth consecutive loss on the road in which at least 36 points had been surrendered, too late to prevent the Steelers from falling to 7-7-1 on the season, and too late to maintain the No. 7 position in the AFC playoff standings (the last Wild Card spot) the Steelers had actually occupied briefly on Sunday in the wake of losses by the Ravens and Chargers.

But it was nonetheless delivered, and most emphatically by a locker room voice that commands attention and respect.

"Excuse my language, but I ain't accepting (expletive)," Cam Heyward announced.

There's no reason anyone else should, either.

What happened to the Steelers at Arrowhead wasn't atypical.

There's a reason the venue has hosted the last three AFC Championship Games in succession.

The Steelers' contributions to the game getting out of hand as quickly as it did included Heyward jumping offside on an early third-and-11 in the red zone, Robert Spillane coming downhill unblocked and then missing the tackle on what became a Clyde Edwards-Helaire touchdown run, Ben Roethlisberger floating a pass under duress over Ray-Ray McCloud on a flea-flicker that turned into an interception, and Diontae Johnson catching a pass that secured a first down and then dropping the ball in the open field (there was no forced fumble by the Chiefs' defense, just a fumble recovery).

That's not who those guys are individually any more than the "shellacking" (Heyward's characterization) absorbed at the hands of the team that has represented the AFC in the last two Super Bowls is reflective of who the Steelers are collectively.

It was in relation to a game at Arrowhead against the Chiefs in Week 16.

But defining for the visitors?

Their body of work maintains otherwise.

And the Steelers still have two regular-season games remaining to confirm as much while letting the playoff chips fall where they may.

"I'm not ready to throw in no damn towel," Heyward continued.

There was also this from Fitzpatrick when the subject of maintaining confidence in the wake of what transpired in Kansas City was raised: "I know I haven't lost my confidence. I'm a professional football player. We go out there and compete. I don't think anyone has lost confidence."

There's no reason anyone should have given the final two regular-season games are against teams the Steelers have already beaten.

Their margin for error may be thin. And they ought to know by now they can't turn the ball over, they can't allow four red zone touchdowns on five red zone possessions against the other team's varsity offense, and that they've gotta do something significant to win in the kicking game.

But they've done all of those things previously, albeit not consistently enough.

And the emotional tank, even if as empty as Nantz observed, may not be as difficult to replenish as 36-10 suggested.

"We might be young enough that it doesn't sink in, in a good way, if that makes sense," Roethlisberger offered.

What should sink in is apparently what did.

It's not where they are now that matters.

It's not the sting of how things played out against the Chiefs.

It's where they go from here.

Related Content