After a less-than-inspiring two weeks to close the regular season, the Kansas City Chiefs appeared set to underwhelm once again after a slow start in their Wild Card playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night. But by the end of the game, the result was similar to the Chiefs’ blowout win against Pittsburgh three weeks before: a 42-21 victory that was not nearly as close as the final score would indicate.
Pittsburgh won the coin toss and elected to receive to start the game. The Steelers started with a three-and-out, which the Chiefs then matched. The Steelers second possession ended with another three-and-out, forcing the third punt in the game’s first five minutes.
Mecole Hardman returned the punt to start the Chiefs’ second drive at the Steelers' 21-yard line. Patrick Mahomes opened the drive with a pass to Jerrick McKinnon to take the ball to the 40. On the next set of downs, Mahomes threw to Byron Pringle on third down, but Pringle was tackled a yard short of the line of gain, forcing another punt. Ray-Ray McCloud called for a fair catch at the Steelers' 18-yard line.
Steelers running back Najee Harris gained five yards on first down. Roethlisberger followed with a three-yard pass to tight end Pat Freiermuth to bring up third-and-2. Chiefs defensive tackle Tershawn Wharton then sacked Ben Roethlisberger for an 11-yard loss.
To make matters worse for the Steelers, Hardman returned the ensuing punt 48 yards to the Chiefs 30-yard line. Unfortunately, the Chiefs were unable to take advantage of the prime field position when Mahomes threw an interception to Steelers linebacker Devin Bush to bring the Pittsburgh offense back out at their own 30.
After gaining a first down on two plays, a short first-down gain, an incomplete pass and a false start quickly made it third-and-13 for the Steelers. Roethlisberger then overthrew JuJu Smith-Schuster to force another punt. The Chiefs took over at their own 19-yard line.
After gaining a first down, the Chiefs found themselves in a third-and-long after a false start before Mahomes found Robinson for a 15-yard gain. The Chiefs were unable to advance on the next set of downs; Townsend returned to the field for his third punt of the game. The scoreless first quarter came to an end as McCloud called for a fair catch at the Steelers’ 19-yard line.
The Steelers advanced to the 39-yard line by alternating short rushes by Harris and short throws to Diontae Johnson. Roethlisberger again overthrew Johnson deep on third-and-2 to bring up another punt. Pressley Harvin kicked the ball to the Kansas City 14-yard line, and the ball went out of bounds.
Running back Derrick Gore’s first carry went only for two yards, but Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt was called for a facemask to add 15 yards to the carry. The Chiefs then lined up for a trick play. Hardman took a direct snap and handed the ball to Williams — who then fumbled the ball, which Watt recovered and returned for a touchdown, giving the Steelers a 7-0 lead.
To start the Chiefs’ next drive, Mahomes found Tyreek Hill for a 20-yard gain to the 44-yard line. A 14-yard screen to McKinnon took the ball to the Steelers’ 40-yard line. Mahomes then scrambled 23 yards to the 22-yard line. Travis Kelce caught a 15-yard pass to set up first-and-goal at the nine-yard line. Two plays later, Mahomes threw an underhanded pass to McKinnon for a touchdown to tie the game at 7-7.
Pittsburgh went three-and-out yet again to force their sixth punt of the first half. Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward made a spectacular breakup of a deep pass intended for wide receiver Chase Claypool. The Chiefs took possession of the ball at their own 26-yard line.
A 31-yard catch-and-run by Kelce quickly took the Chiefs into Pittsburgh territory. McKinnon then carried the ball on consecutive snaps for 15 and 13 yards to enter the red zone. On the first play after the two-minute warning, Mahomes found Pringle for a 12-yard touchdown pass to give Kansas City a 14-7 lead.
The Chiefs kicked off from the 50-yard line due to a roughing-the-passer call on the touchdown throw. McCloud took the kick at the 1-yard-line and was only able to advance to the Steelers’ 14. The Chiefs defense forced another three-and-out to give the offense another possession before halftime. The Chiefs took over at their own 20 after Hill ran backwards for an 8-yard loss on the punt.
McKinnon caught a 15-yard pass to bring the ball to the 35-yard line. Mahomes then threw a deep pass to Robinson for 27 yards to the Pittsburgh 38 — but Mahomes was sacked for a 10-yard loss on the next play. On third-and-20, from the 48, Mahomes scrambled to extend the play and found Kelce for a spectacular touchdown to make the halftime score 21-7 after the Steelers kneeled to end the half.
The Chiefs began the second half at the Steelers 32-yard line after a kickoff return by Pringle. After McKinnon ran for a first down, Mahomes threw a 29-yard pass to Robinson to take the ball to the Steelers 26-yard line. The drive appeared to stall after Mahomes was sacked for a 10-yard loss — but he then found McKinnon for a 23-yard gain on third-and-12 to take the ball to the Steelers’ 5-yard line. A short pass to Hill appeared to score a touchdown, but it was overturned on review. Mahomes then finished the drive by throwing a touchdown pass to backup guard Nick Allegretti, who lined up as an eligible receiver and mauled Watt on the way to extending the lead to 28-7.
Kansas City linebacker Willie Gay Jr. forced a fumble from Harris on the first play of the Steelers’ next drive, and defensive lineman Frank Clark recovered it at the 29. Mahomes quickly found Hill for a touchdown to make the score 35-7.
With less than seven minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Steelers finally ran their first play in Kansas City territory. Roethlisberger led a five-minute drive that ended with a touchdown pass to Johnson, bringing the score to 35-14.
The next Kansas City drive was focused on short, clock-chewing plays until Hardman took a short pass 41 yards to the Steelers 14 yard line. Mahomes scrambled to the 5-yard line to set up third-and-inches as the third quarter expired. After fullback Michael Burton converted the short gain, Kelce lined up under center and threw a touchdown to Pringle, giving the Chiefs their second 28-point lead at 42-14.
The Chiefs’ defense celebrated what appeared to be a L’Jarius Sneed interception on the ensuing Steelers drive, only to see the play negated by a personal foul against Chiefs defensive end Alex Okafor. Roethlisberger led another scoring drive, finding James Washington for a 15-yard touchdown pass to narrow the Chiefs lead to 42-21 — though the drive took more than six minutes off of the clock. Demarcus Robinson recovered an onside kick at midfield to start the Chiefs’ next drive.
The Chiefs were able to take three more minutes off of the clock with short plays until Mahomes was sacked on third down to set up Townsend’s first punt of the second half. The Steelers took possession at their own 19-yard line with 4:24 remaining in the game.
Still moving methodically, the Steelers advanced the ball into Chiefs territory at the two-minute warning. After advancing to the Chiefs 44-yard line, defensive end Mike Danna sacked Roethlisberger for a 3-yard loss. The Steelers were then able to advance the ball to the 14-yard line before taking their final timeout in an attempt to set up a final touchdown in what would likely be the last play of Roethlisberger’s career. Linebacker Ben Niemann stopped tight end Zach Gentry at the 3-yard line to end the game — and set up a rematch of the 2020 AFC Championship game next weekend against the Buffalo Bills.
Cornerback Rashad Fenton was added to the injury report as questionable with a back injury during before the game. Fenton was ruled inactive shortly after.
Mecole Hardman had a 48-yard punt return in the first quarter.
Harrison Butker did not attempt a field goal, but was a perfect six of six on extra-point attempts.
The Chiefs chose to enforce a roughing-the-passer penalty on their second touchdown on the kickoff, moving it to the 50-yard line. Butker executed a perfect kick to the one, eventually forcing the Steelers to start from their own 14-yard line at the end of the half. The poor field position allowed the Chiefs to get an extra possession before half-time, which ended with Kelce’s touchdown.
|Yards per play||3.9||7.4|
|Yards per rush||2.80||4.80|
|Passing Gross Yards||215||406|
|Passing Net Yards||201||372|
|Yards per pass||4.40||8.70|
|Rushing first downs||3||6|
|Passing first downs||15||19|
|Penalty first downs||1||1|
|Third down (Made/Att/Pct)||7/16/44%||8/12/67%|
|Fourth down (Made/Att/Pct)||2/2/100%||0/0/0%|
|Goal to go (Made/Att/Pct)||0/0/0%||3/3/100%|
|Red Zone (Made/Att/Pct)||2/3/67%||4/4/100%|
|Extra Points (Made/Att)||3/3||6/6|
|Field Goals (Made/Att)||0/0||0/0|
|Two-Point Conv (Made/Att)||0/0||0/0|
|Gross Punting Avg Yds||49.7||34.5|
|Net Punting Avg Yds||40.9||31.3|
|Total Rtn Yds (No KOs)||23||62|
|Punt Returns (Num/Yds)||2/13||4/62|
|Kickoff Returns (Num/Yds)||3/66||2/50|
|Int Returns (Num/Yds)||1/10||0/0|
|Time of Possession||30:00||30:00|
|Benny Snell Jr.||2||15||7.5||0||8|
|Benny Snell Jr.||2||16||8.0||0||11||2||14|
|CHIEFS FUMBLES||FUM||LOST||FF||REC |
|STEELERS FUMBLES||FUM||LOST||FF||REC |
|Benny Snell Jr.||0||0||0||1||0||0||0|
|Melvin Ingram III||1||1||0||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Montravius Adams Sr.||2||2||0||1.0||10.0||0||1||0||1||0||0||0|
|Benny Snell Jr.||0||0||0||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1|
|CHIEFS KICK RET||NO||YDS||AVG||LG||TD|
|STEELERS KICK RET||NO||YDS||AVG||LG||TD|
|CHIEFS PUNT RET||NO||YDS||AVG||LG||TD|
|STEELERS PUNT RET||NO||YDS||AVG||LG||TD|
|Pressley Harvin III||7||348||49.7||0||1||56|