I had a bad feeling about the Steelers’ matchup with Kansas City on Monday night, and although the team pulled out the close 16-13 overtime win, the game went about as badly as it possibly could without a loss.
Pittsburgh has had this inexplicable knack in the Mike Tomlin era for not taking bad opponents seriously, as we saw in the Oakland and Tennessee losses earlier this year, and this game was no exception.
The difference in this one was the much-discussed injury to Ben Roethlisberger. Justin Houston’s hit on the quarterback looked innocuous enough, but it proved to cause both a serious shoulder sprain and a rib dislocation, which appear to be causing him immense pain.
He’s been officially ruled out for this weekend’s game against Baltimore, proving that this team really is cursed injury-wise. The Steelers face the Ravens two times in the next three weeks as they look to climb back into the division race, and this timing for Ben’s injury couldn’t possibly be worse.
But beyond the injury, the game was frustrating if not completely hopeless.
The Chiefs have been so bad this year mostly due to constant turnovers, yet the Steelers didn’t do a whole lot to force any mistakes. Matt Cassel threw one interception, but against the league’s top-ranked pass defense, I was hoping for multiple picks en route to a dominating performance, but neither of those things seem to be the team’s M.O. this season.
The defense as a whole still played pretty well, allowing just 260 yards total, and they only allowed the Chiefs to score those 13 points because of Isaac Redman’s costly fumble and a sloppy performance on the team’s first drive. Granted, neither of these mistakes should’ve happened against an offense as bad as KC’s, but it still explains their performance a little.
The offense, however, was a mess even before Ben went out. Jonathan Dwyer didn’t look like he was comfortable returning from his injury, while Redman’s turnover ensured that he’d be benched quickly, even though he seemed productive in the early going.
The absence of Antonio Brown made a bigger difference than I thought it would as well. Heath Miller provided an excellent mid-range target in the same way Brown did, but Emmanuel Sanders can’t stretch the field the same way he can, allowing the Chiefs to key on Mike Wallace a little more.
Despite his acrobatic touchdown catch, it’s not like Wallace had a great game either. He was targeted eight times and caught just three balls, continuing to look inconsistent from game to game.
Now all that’s left is to hope that Byron Leftwich doesn’t look as horrible against the Ravens as he did against the Chiefs, which seems unlikely. He only completed 50% of his passes, and I remain uncertain that he can work in Todd Haley’s quick pass offense given how long it takes him just to get rid of the ball.
I can dream that the Steelers run game and home field advantage help them out enough on Sunday to grind out a win, but it just doesn’t seem likely. Instead, I’m already looking toward the away game in Baltimore as a possible return time for Roethlisberger and a chance for the team to stay in the division race.
Ben claims the rib injury is his primary concern at the moment, and that he can throw without too much shoulder pain, but the rib may require the most rest. If the team can go 1-1 without him over the next two weeks, I can live with it, but if he can’t return in two weeks, we’ll all remember this as the week that a very promising Steelers season got derailed.
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