Steelers display unpredictable passing game in loss to Chiefs

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

Offensive coordinator Todd Haley showed in the Steelers' 26-20 (OT) loss to Kansas City passes can come from any range to any receiver on the field at any time.

The game plan appeared to center around the idea of balance in the Steelers' third preseason game - a 26-20 (OT) loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

It just ended without that sense of balance for the first teamers.

The Steelers got the ball after forcing a Chiefs punt on the first possession. After running back Jonathan Dwyer went nowhere on his first carry, the Steelers had wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders (right) and Antonio Brown (left) split wide, both of them running fly patterns.

The free safety trailed Sanders, and Brown flat-out burned Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith down the left sideline. The result was a 49-yard completion, and Roethlisberger looked like he was throwing that way the whole time.

He looked comfortable. The playcall was a good one, considering the situation - a double-tight end formation on second-and-long. The Steelers sprung on the Chiefs' defense right away; aggressive and confident.

In all the effort the Steelers have taken this offseason to establish themselves as a physical running team, it's a wonder if that message wasn't delivered for the sake of using it to set up these kinds of plays. Roethlisberger doesn't appear to have the option to check into long routes - and protection continues to be an issue - but Brown and Sanders are faster and more elusive than their opponents seem to think in many games. Rookie wide receiver Markus Wheaton is a dangerous inside receiver but he's been making plays outside the numbers this preseason, and seems to improve with each game.

What does any of this mean for the Steelers' regular season opener against the Titans?

We don't really know, and that's exactly what the Steelers want to establish. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley - sometimes to a fault - wants to have that element of surprise at all times.

The passing game's impressive performance wasn't as much a surprise to those who have watched it, but the Chiefs' secondary looked a bit miffed.

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