Monday, January 16, 2017

Post-Steelers/Chiefs thoughts

By Dale Lolley
January 16, 2017
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, right, catches a pass in front of Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston (50) during the first half of an NFL divisional playoff football game Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017, in Kansas City, Mo.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown catches a pass in front of Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston (50) during the first half of an NFL divisional playoff football game Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017, in Kansas City, Mo. (Ed Zurga/AP Photo)

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So now the Steelers get a shot to face off against the big, bad New England Patriots for a shot to go to the Super Bowl.
Would you have wanted it any other way?
I wrote two weeks ago that this playoff run was going to be one of the defining moments for Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger.
They’ve done very well thus far.
Tomlin has done a masterful job of getting the most out of his team and Roethlisberger, while he’s thrown three interceptions in the first two playoff games, has done enough to get this team two wins.
Now, they’ll get another shot at beating the Patriots in the postseason, something Roethlisberger hasn’t done in one previous try, and something Tomlin has never had a chance to do.
The Steelers haven’t faced New England in the postseason since 2004, when Roethlisberger was a rookie.
He’s grown as a player since then. And he also didn’t have Le’Veon Bell to hand the ball of to.
Roethlisberger is now 13-6 all-time in the playoffs. Of current quarterbacks, only Tom Brady has been better.
Roethlisberger wasn’t perfect in this game by any stretch. If he lays the ball out for Antonio Brown working against linebacker Justin Houston, that’s a touchdown in the first half.
But he was good enough.
@ Speaking of Bell, what more can be said about him. He set the team postseason rushing record in his first playoff game and then broke it again Sunday against the Chiefs, gaining 170 yards on 30 carries in the 18-16 win.
Perhaps just as important, he helped the Steelers’ defense as Pittsburgh held a 34:13-25:47 time of possession advantage.
@ The red zone offense was lacking in this one, but that has been a strength of this Kansas City defense.
But the Steelers won’t be able to go to New England and go 0-4 in the red zone and hope to win.
@ Sean Davis deserves a game ball for his defensive efforts and the way he bounced back after a penalty that gave Kansas City a first down at the Pittsburgh 12 late in the game.
There isn’t much a defensive player can do in that situation. Davis made a play on receiver Chris Conley as he went to the ground and made contact with his shoulder to Conley’s head.
That’s a no-no.
But he didn’t have a rookie flashback to the game against Dallas, when he was penalized for a facemask that proved to be costly.
He went out and broke up Kansas City’s game-tying two-point conversion try.
@ James Harrison continues to amaze. Six tackles, three of which were for a loss, a sack and two QB pressures.
He just continues to play at a high level
But his biggest play might have come on Kansas City’s first two-point try when he drew a holding penalty on Eric Fisher. KC was successful on the first attempt and then had to try again from the 12, setting the stage for Davis to make a play.
@ The Steelers, after trying to pooch the ball on their first kickoff attempt, decided to challenge their coverage units to stop speedy return man Tyreek Hill.
Hill averaged 18 yards on his four kick returns and was a non-factor in that part of the game.
On Pittsburgh’s one punt, Jordan Berry booted it out of bounds.
Add in Chris Boswell’s playoff-record six field goals and it was a good day for the special teams.
@ When asked if Roethlisberger had a run-pass option on a third-and-four play at the two-minute warning, Tomlin simply replied, “We play to win.”
Roethlisberger rolled to his right and got the ball to Brown, who ran a drag route across the formation.
Kansas City had three guys lined up over Brown in the slot just before the snap. But that little pitch-and-catch for seven yards was pretty much unstoppable.
@ Jesse James had perhaps the game of his life catching the ball in this one, snaring five of his six targets for 83 yards.
@ I’m not sure what was going on with the Chiefs and their chippiness.
Ross Cockrell said he said nothing to Travis Kelce before Kelce decked him and drew a 15-yard penalty. He also said Kelce didn’t say anything to him. He just came over and shoved him - after the Chiefs had called a timeout.
Then we saw Marcus Peters and Brown go at it at one point and corner Terrence Mitchell went after Brown after the game.
“That’s what happens when guys lose,” said Brown. “They take it personally.
“I’m not an MMA fighter. I’m a football player and we leave it all on the field.”

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