When the Steelers played the Chiefs in early October, the game was essentially over after 15 minutes, as the Steelers scored 22 points in the opening quarter. Sunday Night’s rematch in Kansas City was a much more tense affair, but the Steelers once again prevailed, this time winning 18-16. The Steelers have earned the right to move on to New England for next week’s game, while the Chiefs are back cleaning out their lockers. Below is a complete statistical analysis of the Steelers’ divisional-round playoff win.
All stats are official and from the NFL unless otherwise noted.
Running Game: Last week in his first NFL playoff game, Le’Veon Bell set the Steelers’ franchise record for rushing yards in a playoff game with 167 yards on 29 carries. On Sunday night, Bell broke his own record when he ran for 170 yards on 30 carries, good for a 5.7-yard average per carry. While Bell didn’t score in the game, he was a difference-maker for the Steelers, who were able to keep the Chiefs off balance and wear down their defense. A player of Bell’s caliber playing his best football at the most critical time of the year is a tremendous asset for the Steelers that should give them confidence for Sunday’s matchup in New England.
Passing: Ben Roethlisberger completed 20 of 31 passes for 224 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. It was by no means a dominating performance from Roethlisberger, but it was effective. The Chiefs’ strong secondary and perhaps the damp weather forced some errant throws from Roethlisberger as well as some drops by his receivers that may have resulted in points. But in the end, Roethlisberger sealed the win for the Steelers—buying time with his feet and throwing a dart to Antonio Brown for a game-clinching first down.
Brown was the Steelers’ leading receiver, with six receptions for 108 yards. The second-leading receiver was tight end Jesse James who had five catches for 83 yards. In total, six different Steelers caught a pass.
Defense: Andy Reid is a talented NFL coach with a well-earned reputation for offensive creativity. The Chiefs use many different formations and play-designs to get the ball to their playmakers, which can make defending them difficult. Fortunately for Pittsburgh, the Steelers’ defense was up to the task. The Steelers limited quarterback Alex Smith to 20 completions for 172 yards with one interception and one touchdown. The leading receiver for the Chiefs was tight end Travis Kelce with 77 yards on five receptions. The Steelers were able to hold Kansas City to only 61 yards rushing as a team, though Spencer Ware was able to score a touchdown.
The Chiefs scored the only two touchdowns of the game. On their opening possession, Alex Smith hit Albert Wilson with a five-yard pass to give the Chiefs a 7-3 lead. The Steelers surrendered a Cairo Santos field goal in the third quarter, but were able to keep Kansas City off of the scoreboard until late in the fourth quarter. Shortly after a Sean Davis penalty gave the Chiefs the ball deep in Steelers’ territory, Spencer Ware punched the ball in for a 1-yard score with 2:47 remaining. The Chiefs were trailing by eight and had to attempt a two-point conversion. After a holding penalty nullified what would have been a successful first attempt, Davis was able to redeem himself by knocking the ball away from Jeremy Maclin in the end zone to maintain a two-point lead for the Steelers.
The Steelers tallied one sack, five quarterback hits, one interception, one fumble, and two passes defended (Ryan Shazier and Bud Dupree). The leading tacklers for the Steelers were James Harrison and Ross Cockrell who each had six combined tackles.
Efficiency: The Steelers were 7 for 15 on third down while the Chiefs were only 2 for 9. The Steelers didn’t attempt any fourth-down conversions, but the Chiefs were successful on both of their attempts. The Steelers averaged 5.9 yards per play compared to 4.6 yards per play for the Chiefs.
The Red Zone: The Chiefs were 2 for 2 in the red zone, while the Steelers were 0 for 4.
Turnovers: The Steelers were able to get their hands on two turnovers, and surrendered only one.
Bud Dupree, who has been a force to reckon with in the Steelers’ two post-season games this year, was able to force Alex Smith to throw a duck that Ryan Shazier was able to squeeze for an interception. It was Shazier’s fourth-straight game with an interception, quite the feat for a linebacker.
With thirteen seconds remaining in the first half, Chardarick West lost his hold of the ball and fumbled a competed pass in the open field. Artie Burns recovered the ball for the Steelers. Unfortunately for the Steelers, neither turnover led to points.
After the Shazier interception, the Steelers drove down the field to 1st-and-goal from the Kansas City 5-yard line. But instead of opting to run the ball with Le’Veon Bell, Ben Roethlisberger tried to hit Brown in the end zone. Chiefs’ linebacker Frank Zombo tipped the pass at the line and Eric Berry intercepted the deflected ball in the end zone before it hit the ground. The Chiefs also were unable to get points out of their turnover.
Penalties: The Steelers committed only four penalties but gave up 53 yards. The Chiefs were only marginally worse, committing six penalties for 60 yards. The biggest play of the game was the holding call on the Chiefs two-point conversion attempt. Thanks to the holding call, the points came off the board and Kansas City failed on Alex Smith’s pass attempt which was knocked away by Davis. The Chiefs ended up losing by those missed two points.
Under Pressure: The Steelers were able to hit Alex Smith five times (James Harrison and Stephon Tuitt twice, Bud Dupree once). James Harrison recorded the only sack of the game for the Steelers. The sack was Harrsion’s 11th postseason sack, which ties him with LaMarr Woodley for the most sacks in Steelers’ postseason history. The Steelers’ pressure was effective in making Alex Smith get rid of the ball before he was prepared to, which led to several incompletions and an interception.
The Chiefs only sacked Roethlisberger once, when Jarvis Jenkins and Dee Ford combined to bring down the Steelers’ field general. Those two also recorded the only hits on Roethlisberger.
Kicking: For the second game in a month, Chris Boswell saved the Steelers when their offense faltered. Boswell scored all 18 points for Pittsburgh by kicking six field goals—an NFL post-season record. Boswell hit field goals from 22, 38, 36, 45, 43, and 43 yards away. Boswell’s combined field goal distance Sunday night was 227 yards, which is exactly how many yards were gained by the entire Chiefs’ offense. Boswell might not have scored as much as some people thought he would this season, and he may not have the strongest leg in the league, but he’s proven to be a reliable and accurate kicker capable of performing in high-pressure situations. Boswell didn’t exactly play great last week against Miami, but he rebounded this week.
The Steelers became the first team to win a playoff game without scoring a touchdown since 2006. The win was the Steelers’ 36th playoff victory, which is the most in NFL history. Their reward for the win is a trip to New England to face the Patriots in the AFC Championship game.
The Patriots have had the Steelers’ number since quarterback Tom Brady’s first year as a starter. But this is the first time the Steelers have played the Patriots with a healthy Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Le’Veon Bell since 2013. It will take big games from all three of those players for the Steelers to beat the Patriots in this, their first playoff game since the 2004 AFC Championship game.