KANSAS CITY, Mo. _ Rookie strong safety Sean Davis was called for a critical penalty and bounced back to make a crucial play, all in a span of eight hold-your-breath snaps late in the fourth quarter with a trip to the AFC Championship Game potentially hanging in the balance.
"The NFL playoffs, it's crazy," Davis acknowledged after the Steelers had hung on and beaten the Chiefs, 18-16, on Sunday night at Arrowhead Stadium.
The penalty Davis incurred was an unnecessary roughness call for a blow to the head of wide receiver Chris Conley that turned an incompletion on third-and-9 into a first-and-10 at the Steelers' 12-yard line.
The play Davis made was on a pass intended for wide receiver Jeremy Maclin on Kansas City's second attempt at a game-tying two-point conversion with just under three minutes left in the fourth quarter.
In between, Davis had left the game briefly with an injury.
He'd also had what Mike Tomlin described as "a moment" with the Steelers' head coach.
"Just relax and play ball," Davis said of Tomlin's message. "Don't worry about it, don't blink, don't freak out. You live to fight another down."
Davis and the Steelers did so.
Now, they live to fight another week at New England.
"It's big-time ball but I feel like I'm growing, playing my role, trying to make the plays when they come to me," Davis said. "I'm not afraid of NFL playoff ball. I feel like I stepped up. I have to continue to do that."
Game action from the AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
THE CALL HE'S BEEN WAITING FOR:** The Chiefs' first attempt at a game-tying, two-point conversion resulted in a catch in the end zone by tight end Demetrius Harris.
But offensive tackle Eric Fisher was called for holding linebacker William Gay.
"That is a holding call that I get maybe once every blue moon," Harrison acknowledged. "I don't know how it's not called more often.
"When the guy's arm is wrapped around your neck, I believe that's a hold."
The Steelers, well-practiced in that aspect of what Tomlin refers to as situational football, successfully defended the Chiefs' second two-point attempt.
"We do 'Seven Shots' every day where we do seven plays at the 2, two-point conversions against our offense," Harrison said. "We got another opportunity to go out there. We did what we had to do."
ANOTHER WEEK, ANOTHER RECORD: One week after setting a Steelers' postseason record with 167 rushing yards against the Dolphins, running back Le'Veon Bell rushed for 170 yards on 30 carries.
"The O-line did a great job of opening holes, really allowing me to pick my spots, not allowing penetration," Bell said. "I always tell those guys, just allow me to mess with the linebackers, let me get to the line of scrimmage and the rest will be history. Those guys did the perfect job."
The offensive line was as appreciative of Bell as Bell was of the offensive line.
"He's the best in the league at what he does, there's no denying him," offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert said. "When we get on a roll he's unstoppable. As long as we do our job up front and (quarterback) Ben (Roethlisberger) puts us in great positions, we'll get the job done."
THEN AND NOW: The Patriots beat the Steelers, 27-16, on Oct. 23 at Heinz Field.
The Steelers reflected, briefly, on getting another crack at the Pats and on playing for a trip to Super Bowl LI after beating the Chiefs.
Bell: "I think I'm a lot more confident. I think our team's confident. We feel like we can beat anybody right now. Obviously, it's going to be a great challenge. When they came to our house they beat us. We have a little chip on our shoulders. We feel like we owe those guys one. We have to go out there and play our 'A' game, probably even better than our 'A' game, to beat those guys."
Center Maurkice Pouncey: "We just grew. You get maturity throughout the year. You go through so many different adversities. But this team's strong, and as you can see they're willing to fight."
Gilbert: "It's not revenge, it's not redemption at all. We bought another week so we can all play together and just enjoy each other and grind. We've been working our tails off in practice and every guy's feeling the energy. I'm just excited to play. As long as we get a shot to play we have a shot, and we have that shot."
THEY SAID IT:** "They went down the field on us on the first possession and the guys didn't blink. They're to be given credit for that. That might have been the first time we gave up a touchdown on the first possession of a game all season, but boy, I liked the look in their eye, the resolve. But it was more than that. They took that look, they took that resolve and continued to play at a high level." _ Tomlin on the defense.
"We wanted to minimize our exposure to him. We weren't going to kick the ball out of bounds and give 'em field position at the 40. After that first squib (kickoff), it didn't get through, the guy fielded the ball, they got, I think, to the 45-yard line. We figured we'd make 'em beat us as opposed to giving real estate so we kicked it away and the guys did a great job covering." _ Tomlin on holding KC's Tyreek Hill to an average of 18 yards on four kickoff returns.
"Kudos to Chris Boswell, he delivered for us big time." _ Gilbert on the Steelers' kicker.
"It continues to be good, solid team defense, guys staying in their roles, staying in their gaps and making the play when it comes to them." _ Cornerback Stephon Tuitt on the defense.