Steelers Season Ends in 42-21 loss to Chiefs in Wild Card Round
KANSAS CITY, MO-Like the classic story of Cinderella, the clock struck Twelve on the Pittsburgh Steelers. In a season in which they overcame their struggles and finished 9-7-1 and getting the final Wild Card Playoff spot was a scenario that only a Fairy Godmother could dream up. But the Steelers ‘Stagecoach’ turned into a ‘pumpkin’ at Arrowhead Stadium as they fell to the defending AFC Champion KC Chiefs 42-21.
“As opposed to coming in here talking about the things we didn’t do and how we fell short, I think the classy things to do is complement the Kansas City Chiefs.” Said Head Coach Mike Tomlin. “They have a really good football team; they have an explosive football team, and they did a good job tonight.”
QB Patrick Mahomes shook off his first quarter struggles to pass for 404 yards and 5 TDs to lead his team to its second victory over the Steelers in nearly a month. The Chiefs also beat the Steelers 36-10 on December 26. Two of his TDs went to WR Byron Pringle (5 rec, 37 yards), and one to TE Travis Kelce (5 rec, 108), RB Jerric McKinnon (6 rec, 81), WR Tyreek Hill (5 rec, 57) and offensive lineman Nick Allegretti, who was receiver eligible.
But in the first and a portion of the second quarter, the Steelers had the momentum, thanks to Pro-Bowl LB TJ Watt as he led his team to a 7-0 lead after he recovered a fumble and returned it 24 yards. Watt also tipped a Mahomes pass that was intercepted by fellow LB Devin Bush. But it was very short-lived as Mahomes, and the Chiefs then scored 28 unanswered points before halftime.
Meanwhile, the Steelers offense struggled to get established as QB Ben Roethlisberger was unable to connect with his receivers and RB Najee Harris could not find a dent in the Chiefs defense. But in the fourth quarter, Big Ben was able to lead the offense to 14 points in the 3rd and 4th quarter, (TD passes to WRs Diontae Johnson and James Washington) but the game was well out of hand.
“Gameplans are irrelevant. We didn’t execute nearly well enough. We didn’t,” said Tomlin. “I mean, it was several minutes into the third quarter, and we had two first downs. You’re just not going to keep pace with a lot of people like that, particularly an offense as explosive as the one that Kansas City has.”
In what was likely his final postseason game, Big Ben passed for 215 yards (29/44) with 2 TDs and zero interceptions. Big Ben also made history as he passed Hall of Famers Brett Favre and
Joe Montana for the third-most career passing yards in playoffs (5,972) and trails only Hall of Famer Peyton Manning and future Hall of Famer Tom Brady in that category.
“I’m proud to play with these guys. “I hope that that I’m able to pass down the legacy of what it is to be a Steeler from Dan Rooney. Said Big Ben “God has blessed me with an ability to throw a football, blessed me to play in the greatest city. It was meant to be that I was gonna wear black and gold. Just a bunch of guys that fought for each other, that fought their butts off and just competed. It wasn’t always pretty, but there are a lot of games that we found a way. I’m so proud of this group of men and the way they fight for each other, for the black and gold, for our fans. It’s just been an honor to play with them.”
When asked about what he was thinking about next, Big Ben replied “We’ve got snow. The kids are already planning tubing and sledding stuff. Being a husband and father, you never take a day off.”
Ben Roethlisberger addresses the media: pic.twitter.com/l3eeMO4MQY
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 17, 2022
“We’ve had a guy in No. 7 that can give you chance.” Said DT Cam Heyward “When you started the season, you said, ‘That’s a Super Bowl winning quarterback.”
Tomlin on Big Ben: “He was 7. It’s been an honor and a pleasure. I don’t have the words.”
It was an unhappy ending to this game, but certainly not an unhappy ending to the Steelers 2021 season as they overcame their struggles and many odds to finish 9-7-1 and earn a trip to the postseason. Several media experts predicted that this would be Tomlin’s worst season as a Steelers coach and that he would suffer his first losing season, but as always, he would not allow his team to give up as he led them from a 1-3 start and kept them smiling in the face of adversity.
Now the Steelers will face an offseason with the responsibility of looking for a new QB and fixing a porous offensive line and addressing other needs so they can get ready for the 2022 season.
“If we’re gonna carve out a niche in this thing and push through the AFC, then we’re gonna have to deal with the likes of that bunch (Kansas City).” Said Tomlin
Notes: Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Shuster returned to action after missing most of the season due to injury and caught 5 passes for 26 yards.
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