2021 Steelers Season Recall: Kansas City complicates Pittsburgh postseason push

Steel City Underground presents our 2021 Steelers Recall: a look back at Pittsburgh Steelers games and storylines from last season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers Week 16 game at the Kansas City Chiefs may have been more of a catalyst for change in the 2022 season than most people realize.

The game was a constant struggle for the Steelers, as Ben Roethlisberger could only put up some fourth quarter garbage time stats and even Chris Boswell missed a field goal in Arrowhead’s windy conditions.

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The 36-10 Chiefs beating (that was 36-3 until the Roethlisberger to Diontae Johnson touchdown with 2:54 remaining in the game) had most fans and critics feeling that the Steelers playoff hopes were all but dead. Up next on the schedule were two final AFC North division games, one apiece against the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens.

The Browns game was just announced as Big Ben’s “farewell” game, which set forth the winds of change, while the Ravens, formerly in the top spot in the entire AFC, were slowly fading but still a formidable opponent within their own stadium.

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That wasn’t the only fallout from this game, as offensive line coach Adrian Klemm immediately took a similar position with the University of Oregon, and would, uncharacteristically for pro coaches, not finish the Steelers season.

There wasn’t much else to take from this game, sadly. The Steelers possessions were as follows:

  • Punt
  • Interception
  • Punt
  • Missed Field Goal
  • Turnover on Downs
  • End of Half
  • Fumble
  • Field Goal (first points)
  • Fumble
  • Touchdown
  • End of Game

The sheer lack of ball movement prompted Mike Tomlin to say the following about his offensive coordinator, Matt Canada:

“I have no reservations about the play-calling component of his job and what he’s done. But I also will acknowledge there’s probably a learning curve at every job that pertains to the National Football League.

A college equipment man that becomes a pro equipment man, his job is somewhat different as I’m sure someone that covers college football in your space, it becomes significantly different when they cover professional football. I think that’s a reasonable discussion regardless of what we’re talking about in our ecosystem that is football.”

Contrarily, the Chiefs scored 30 unanswered points through the third quarter, as the Steelers defense did better against the run than usual, if you can call 127 yards versus the 200+ they had been giving up, as “better”. However, they also allowed QB Patrick Mahomes to post a 135.1 rating, completing 76.7% of his passes for 258 yards and 3 touchdowns – and no interceptions.

Mahomes only needed 30 attempts to put up the points, as the Steelers offense once again sputtered behind Roethlisberger, who would throw a single touchdown and a pick, with only 159 passing yards.

Najee Harris, who ran for 93 yards and a 4.9 average, couldn’t save Klemm’s fate. Benny Snell also added another 20 yards, an otherwise bright spot for a Steelers run game that had been brutal many times throughout the season.

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T.J. Watt was held without a sack as he pursued the NFL record, but his counterpart Alex Highsmith, as well as captain Cameron Heyward, each added one. The pressure on Mahomes was otherwise nonexistent.

The loss would drop the Steelers to 7-7-1 on the season with their playoff hopes in severe jeopardy as they would need to defeat two division rivals and get some extra help around the conference in order to snag the AFC’s final postseason spot.

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