ReFo: Chiefs @ Steelers, Week 16
With playoff implications for both clubs, it was the Steelers who punched their collective ticket to the postseason while Kansas City is now in desperate need of outside help. Pittsburgh put forth one of its strongest defensive showings, holding the Chiefs out of the end zone despite six trips inside the Pittsburgh 30-yard line. With this win the Steelers have guaranteed a playoff spot, and with another win next Sunday night they can claim the AFC North division title as well.
Against a secondary that’s been exploited at times, Kansas City couldn’t get much going through the air as pass plays were continually derailed by heaps of pressure as three Steelers tallied six or more quarterback disruptions. With Jamaal Charles and the run game not especially effective, the Chiefs’ inability to fully utilize their wide receivers (still no touchdown catches by wideouts this year) became readily apparent as Kansas City was forced to settle for short field goals instead of cashing in for more. Down but not out, the Chiefs must correct their inability to finish drives before next week’s home finale against San Diego and pray for a bit of luck in the outcomes of a few other games.
Kansas City Chiefs –Performances of Note
Justin Houston, OLB: +3.1
Breakdown: There wasn’t much pressure to be had by Houston in this game, though the Chiefs’ defensive scheming played its part as the outside ‘backer rushed the passer on just half of Pittsburgh’s 28 passing plays. Even without gaudy pass-rushing numbers, Houston set the edge well and made a handful of tackles near the line of scrimmage while working against Heath Miller.
Signature Stat: Houston has recorded at least two pressures in every game since Week 3, and has only graded below +1.0 once in that 14-week span.
Dwayne Bowe, WR: +1.3
Breakdown: Without a catch longer than 13 yards, Bowe worked the short area of the field, managing to move the chains a few times but was a nonfactor in the red zone. He caught six of the seven balls thrown his way, but that crucial incompletion was on an end zone fade where Antwon Blake knocked the ball free before Bowe could secure the catch.
Signature Stat: Bowe scored more touchdowns in 2010 (15) than he has in the nearly four full years since (14).
Jeff Linkenbach, LG: -4.5
Breakdown: Getting the nod at left guard for the second straight week, Linkenbach did little show he was more deserving than the previous starter Mike McGlynn. Allowing a whopping six pressures (two sacks, a hit, three hurries), the former Colt won’t soon forget his meeting with Cameron Heyward.
Signature Play: Facing a fresh set of downs at 7:24 in the first quarter, Linkenbach offered little resistance as Heyward ran him over en route to a sack of Alex Smith.
Pittsburgh Steelers –Performances of Note
Cameron Heyward, DE: +4.9
Breakdown: In a largely adversarial game, Heyward was primarily responsible for Linkenbach’s misfortune. Earning a career-high pass rushing grade (+4.1), Heyward set up camp in the Chiefs’ backfield, recording six pressures and three defensive stops.
Signature Play: On the fourth quarter’s opening play, Heyward split the double team of Linkenbach and Eric Fisher, bowled over Charles in the backfield, then tore off after Smith, forcing a hurried throw that fell incomplete.
James Harrison, OLB: +5.9
Breakdown: This isn’t a career year by Harrison’s lofty standards, but sitting at +14.4 on the season the 36-year-old went from retired to outplaying most of the league in a remarkably short time frame. Brushing off his knee injury of the last few weeks as if it never happened, Harrison found slight resistance among Kansas City’s offensive line, setting a season-high with four defensive stops.
Signature Play: Following the two-minute warning of the first half, Harrison ran over Fisher to bury De’Anthony Thomas 6 yards in the backfield.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB: +3.6
Breakdown: Attempting just 25 passes, Big Ben made the most of them, averaging 12.2 yards per completion. He had no trouble finding the open receiver when the Chiefs chose to blitz, completing six of seven for 63 yards against extra pass rushers.
Signature Stat: Roethlisberger was accurate on 19 of his 23 aimed throws (82.6%) and now comes in at sixth on the season with an Accuracy Percentage of 75.7%.
PFF Game Ball
There were two deserving candidates on the Steelers’ defense, but James Harrison just edges out Heyward with an outstanding display at any age.