After more than 30 years of futility in Pittsburgh, the Chiefs finally broke through in a thoroughly entertaining 42-37 victory over the Steelers.
Patrick Mahomes continued to show why head coach Andy Reid loves him, throwing for six touchdown passes. Of course, thanks to the still shaky defense, Kansas City needed every one of them. The Chiefs led by as much as 21 points and still had to hold on for dear life to get the win.
Before the game, Sports Al Dente looked at three key matchups that would shape the game. How did the Chiefs do in those areas? (Spoiler alert: Pretty, pretty good.)
Ben Roethlisberger vs. His Right Arm
After Roethlisberger hurt his elbow in the Steelers tie with Cleveland, there was every reason to believe that he would be limited in this game. Then again, Big Ben has had plenty of success over the years against Kansas City.
Turns out that history (and perhaps the Chiefs defense) were more important than the banged-up elbow. His arm, um, looked plenty good enough.
Ben finds @JJames18_ for the score.
KC 21 | PIT 7 pic.twitter.com/qVEktw2yPH
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 16, 2018
Roethlisberger completed 39-of-60 passes for 452 yards and three scores. Thirteen of those balls went to JuJu Smith-Schuster, who had 121 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Jesse James topped that with 138 yards and a score of his own.
Starting 2-0 is great, but at some point, Kansas City’s defense has put up some resistance to opposing quarterbacks. Through the two games, they’ve given up 73 receptions for 876 yards and six touchdowns. That level of generosity, if it continues, will start biting the Chiefs sooner or later.
Travis Kelce vs. Jon Bostic
Mahomes didn’t look Kelce’s way often in Kansas City’s opening win, so there was some concern that the All-Pro tight end might become an afterthought with the young quarterback. Well, the Pro Bowler was on the front burner against Pittsburgh.
SEND IT 📬 pic.twitter.com/d6Qzkup215
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) September 16, 2018
Against a Pittsburgh defense that typically doesn’t give up much to opposing tight ends, Kelce finished with seven catches for 109 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Bostic and his inside linebacker counterpart Vince Williams own some of the responsibility for Kelce’s big day. However, it was the Steelers safety tandem of Sean Davis and Morgan Burnett that were mostly victimized.
Kelce is the weapon that can make Kansas City’s offense nearly unstoppable. If Mahomes can consistently find his tight end on slants, the Chiefs turn into a “pick your poison” proposition for opposing defenses.
Although the pregame focus was on the right side of the Chiefs line, the entire group has played a role in Mahomes setting a record with 10 touchdowns in the season’s first two weeks.
Last week, against Cleveland, the Steelers T.J. Watt, Heyward, and Dupree were in the Browns backfield all day. Kansas City’s line didn’t allow that to happen. For the second week in a row, they allowed just one sack.
Mahomes had time to allow plays to develop like his red zone strike to Demarcus Robinson.
Just as importantly, the line helped get Kareem Hunt going at least a little bit. The second-year runner averaged 4.2 yards a carry and finished with 75 yards. He was also caught in the end zone for a safety, but that rushing total is at least moving in the right direction. Plus, he scored his first touchdown of the season on a 5-yard toss from Mahomes.
The scary part is that there’s another level that the Chiefs offense can get to if Hunt breaks out.
After two road wins, Kansas City finally gets to play at home next week, when they welcome Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers. Here’s hoping the scoreboard operator at Arrowhead is ready for that one.