The Steelers dug themselves into a hole early, and weren't able to fully get out of it, losing to the Chiefs, 42-37, at Heinz Field.
"A disappointing performance," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "Just not good enough really in all three phases. Not enough detail, not enough big-play making or execution, winning those one-on-one downs. And we didn't play penalty free enough. I thought penalties were an issue for us early on in terms of stopping us the first three possessions of the game. I thought penalties were a factor for us defensively in the second half. Not good enough today. We have a lot of work to do."
The Chiefs scored on their first three possessions to go up 21-0, while the Steelers offense wasn't able to muster anything early on. Despite fighting back to tie the game, 21-21, and again, 28-28, they couldn't hold off the Chiefs.
The offense started slow, but came to life late with Ben Roethlisberger completing 39 passes for 452 yards and three touchdowns. Jesse James, the Steelers Digest Player of the Week, had five receptions for 138 yards and a touchdown, while JuJu Smith-Schuster had 13 receptions for 121 yards.
"We had to score points. When you get in a hole like that you have to score points and score quick," said Roethlisberger. "It makes you run the no-huddle and throw the ball every play pretty much.
"I am proud of the way the guys fought to the very end."
The Chiefs got off to a fast start thanks to special teams. The Steelers went three-and-out on their first possession, forcing a Jordan Berry punt. Berry's punt, which was kicked away from Tyreek Hill, was fielded by De'Anthony Thomas. Thomas returned it 31 yards, then fumbled, forced by Cameron Sutton, and recovered his own fumble and returned it 12 more yards to the Steelers 10-yard line.
The Chiefs took advantage of the excellent field position. An offensive pass interference call on Travis Kelce backed them up a little bit, but Patrick Mahomes hit Chris Conley in the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown, putting the Chiefs up 7-0 in the early going.
The Steelers offense struggled on their next possession, losing three yards on the drive, and once again Berry was called upon. His second punt of the day traveled only 39 yards, but a holding call pushed it back 10 more yards. The Chiefs weren't deterred as their offense kept clicking and the drive was capped by a 19-yard touchdown pass from Mahones to Kelce to extend the Chiefs lead to 14-0.
Roethlisberger and company came to life on the next drive. Roethlisberger hit James for 14 yards, and James Conner got 22 yards on the catch and run. Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown for 19 yards, but after that the drive stalled. Chris Boswell's 49-yard field goal attempt went wide left, and the Steelers walked away empty handed.
The lead was extended to 21-0 when Mahones hit Kareem Hunt for a five-yard touchdown.
With their backs against the wall, it looked like things might get even worse on the Steelers next drive. Roethlisberger was sacked by Justin Houston, who forced a fumble that Chris Jones recovered and took in for a touchdown. But a holding call on Orlando Scandrick negated the play, and gave the Steelers new life. Smith-Schuster came up with three key catches, going for 19, 12 and 14 yards. Roethlisberger aired it out to Jesse James, who pulled in a 26-yard touchdown grab to get the Steelers on the board and close the gap to 21-7.
A fired-up defense shut down the Chiefs, with Dan McCullers getting to Mahomes for his first sack of the season and the Chiefs were forced to punt.
The momentum continued to swing in the Steelers direction. Roethlisberger led the offense on an 11-play, 85-yard drive that was aided by a 14-yard catch by Ryan Switzer and 20-yard grab by Jesse James. Smith-Schuster caught one for nine yards, Vance McDonald pulled in an 11-yard reception, and Smith-Schuster added an 11-yard catch to the four-yard line. Roethlisberger capped the drive with a two-yard touchdown pass to Smith-Schuster, to cut the lead to 21-13 after Boswell's extra point went wide right.
Another defensive stop, meant another opportunity for Roethlisberger to get the team back in the game. And that is exactly what he did. Starting at their own 10-yard line Roethlisberger engineered a precision drive with key receptions by Jesse James for 31 yards, and Antonio Brown for 10 yards. Roethlisberger capped the drive hitting James Washington for a 14-yard touchdown, his first NFL catch. The Steelers went for two, and tied it up, 21-21, heading into halftime when Roethlisberger hit Conner in the flat.
The Chiefs came out in the second half in the same manner they did in the first half, scoring on their first possession when Mahomes found a wide-open Kelce for a 25-yard touchdown to take back the lead, 28-21.
Not to be outdone, the Steelers came right back. Smith-Schuster had catches of 15 and 21 yards, and Roosevelt Nix had a 19-yard catch to the Chiefs five-yard line. The Steelers were aided by a pass interference call on Steven Nelson, which negated his own interception. Conner took it in from the one-yard line to tie the game again, 28-28.
The back and forth continued on the next drive when the Chiefs went 75 yards on seven plays, ending on a three-yard touchdown pass to Demarcus Robinson that was originally ruled incomplete, but the Chiefs challenged the call on the field and it was overturned, putting them back on top 35-28.
The Chiefs added to their lead on their next drive, with Mahomes finding Hill for a 29-yard scoring strike, giving them a 42-28 edge.
After the offense couldn't move the ball, Jordan Berry buried the Chiefs deep at the one-yard line. The defense stepped up when Artie Burns and Morgan Burnett tackled Hunt in the end zone for a safety.
The Steelers pulled to within a touchdown late in the game when Roethlisberger scrambled for a three-yard touchdown, but it they weren't able to complete the comeback.
A look at how they scored:
First Quarter: Steelers 0, Chiefs 7
Scoring Play: Patrick Mahomes 15-yard touchdown pass to Chris Conley.
Scoring Summary: 2-10-1:03
First Quarter: Steelers 0, Chiefs 14
Scoring Play: Patrick Mahomes 19-yard touchdown pass to Travis Kelce.
Scoring Summary: 5-71-2:32
First Quarter: Steelers 0, Chiefs 21
Scoring Play: Patrick Mahomes five-yard touchdown pass to Kareem Hunt.
Scoring Summary: 6-61-2:40
Second Quarter: Steelers 7, Chiefs 21
Scoring Play: Ben Roethlisberger 26-yard touchdown pass to Jesse James.
Scoring Summary: 6-81-3:04
Second Quarter: Steelers 13, Chiefs 21
Scoring Play: Ben Roethlisberger two-yard touchdown pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster. (Chris Boswell's kick failed – wide right)
Scoring Summary: 11-85-5:41
Second Quarter: Steelers 21, Chiefs 21
Scoring Play: Ben Roethlisberger 14-yard touchdown pass to James Washington. Roethlisberger to James Conner for two-point conversion.
Scoring Summary: 10-90-2:48
Third Quarter: Steelers 21, Chiefs 28
Scoring Play: Patrick Mahones 25-yard pass to Travis Kelce.
Scoring Summary: 5-75-2:18
Third Quarter: Steelers 28, Chiefs 28
Scoring Play: James Conner one-yard touchdown run.
Scoring Summary: 11-75-5:30
Third Quarter: Steelers 28, Chiefs 35
Scoring Play: Patrick Mahomes three-yard touchdown pass to Demarcus Robinson.
Scoring Summary: 7-75-3:57
Fourth Quarter: Steelers 30, Chiefs 42
Scoring Play: Kareem Hunt tackle in the end zone for a safety (Artie Burns, Morgan Burnett).
Fourth Quarter: Steelers 37, Chiefs 42
Scoring Play: Ben Roethlisberger three-yard touchdown run.
Scoring Summary: 9-66-3:04