If former Hall of Fame Boston Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez would be asked his assessment of the Kansas City-Pittsburgh football rivalry, he would probably respond by saying, “the Steelers are the Chiefs daddy.”
Of course, that would be in reference to the New York Yankees having their way with Pedro, who uttered the infamous phrase, “I just tip my cap and call the Yankees my daddy” and it became a chant that cannonaded throughout Yankee Stadium during the 2004 American League playoffs and comes up everytime the Red Sox and Yankees get together.
Yes, the Chiefs cannot solve the Steelers’ puzzle. This is three wins in two years by the Steelers, two of them in Arrowhead no less. And there were no surprises, as the Steelers pounded away with Le’Veon Bell, who would break Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record if he played all 16 games against the Chiefs.
Sunday’s 19-13 loss — it felt more like 39-13 — exposed the flaws the Chiefs had successfully masked through five weeks of the season in starting 5-0.
First and foremost, the Chiefs are sieve-like against the run. You would need both hands and both feet to count up the number of missed tackles they had on Bell, who slithered his way to another monster game, this one being 179 yards.
Secondly, there was little pressure on Ben Roethlisberger, who is little more than a statue in the pocket. Big Ben really didn’t throw it much (which is too bad because he’s my Fantasy Football quarterback), but he didn’t have to. Bell just kept gobbling up huge chunks of yards, one reason the Chiefs barely touched the ball in the first half.
The other area exposed on Sunday was the Chiefs’ battered offensive line. In fairness, they’re without two starters and are inexperienced to begin with. Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz are the only true veterans and Pittsburgh took advantage to tee off on Alex Smith, who will still be feeling the effects on Thursday when the Chiefs play another punch-in-the-mouth team in arch-rival Oakland.
Smith had been effective in running the ball, but Pittsburgh covered all flanks. It also stuffed Kareem Hunt, whose only yards basically came on pass receptions.
And Smith, because of the fierce pass rush, was inaccurate for the first time this year. After entering the game hitting on 77 percent of his passes, he was 19 of 34, but there were some drops.
Andy Reid didn’t help his cause by eschewing a field goal in the second half on a 4th-and-2 and going for a touchdown. His real error was the play before where he went ultra-conservative by running Hunt into the middle of the line. With all the gadget plays he has at his disposal, it seemed quite vanilla to run Hunt into a stacked front.
Had KC taken the points, all it would have needed was a field goal on its final drive to go overtime.
We all knew the Chiefs weren’t going to go 16-0. Like every NFL team, including the super powers like the Patriots, they have their weaknesses. Injuries are starting to catch up to them and you’re just not going to be as good without your frontline players. Chris Conley and Albert Wilson were also missing from the receiving corps on Sunday and while De’Anthony Thomas did catch a TD pass, people have to realize he doesn’t block nearly as well as the physical Conley and Wilson, one reason Hunt has been able to run for so many yards as they are effective blockers on the edge.
Stunningly, Denver and Oakland — like Kansas City — also both lost at home. The Broncos perhaps saw New York’s 0-5 record and didn’t come out with the intensity they needed and like the Chiefs, they were hit right in the mouth by a physical defense. Oakland’s loss was huge because it was its fourth straight and it was a divisional game against the Chargers, who now have caught the Raiders for third.
If the Chiefs can go into Oakland on Thursday night and find a way to win, that could be the final nail for the Raiders, who were the trendy pick to win the division after they added battering ram Marshawn Lynch.