Pittsburgh Steelers Blown Out in Miserable Week 16 Loss

Steelers Week 16

The Pittsburgh Steelers had a hard time getting anything going on Sunday. The Kansas City Chiefs, with their explosive offense, jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. Kansas City piled on the points against a helpless Steelers defense. Plus, Pittsburgh’s offense had no answer for the onslaught of the AFC West Champions. The Steelers drop to 7-7-1 after their brutal 36-10 road loss in Week 16. Pittsburgh now needs a few miracles if they want to sneak into the playoffs in the last two weeks of the regular season.

Pittsburgh Steelers Week 16 Loss to Kansas City a Miserable One

No Offensive Rhythm

Hard to Find Points

In Week 16, the Pittsburgh Steelers offense looked like it had no business being there. The unit failed to score any points until there were just three minutes left in the third quarter. Chris Boswell, the Pittsburgh kicker, knocked through a 34-yard field goal to put the Steelers on the board. However, their first points came way too late; at the time of Boswell’s field goal, the Steelers trailed 30-0. Two drives later, they put together a nice 17 play scoring drive. The drive was capped off by a Ben Roethlisberger passing touchdown to third-year wideout Diontae Johnson. This score was Johnson’s seventh of the season.

Early on in the game, the Steelers offense struggled, and at some times failed to get anything going. Runs and short passes (especially screen passes) were consistently stopped early on by a sound Kansas City defense. When Pittsburgh did try to throw the ball further, things also went badly. Roethlisberger was picked off on the first play of the second drive. He had a hard time finding his receivers, especially due to the great coverage by the Chiefs. But good defense was not the only thing holding back the Steelers. Their consistent bad play-calls, especially during critical situations, dug them into a deeper hole.

Two Major Problems

Two things have to get better in the last two weeks of the season: Matt Canada’s play calling and Big Ben’s reads. The Steelers offense has struggled under Matt Canada’s direction all year. They’ve struggled to find their real offensive identity, and as a result, have once again become one of the league’s worst offenses. Canada will have to get his offense to perform better in the next two weeks if he wants to keep his job within Pittsburgh’s organization.

Another problem the Steelers will have to fix is the reads on their pass plays. There were multiple instances in Sunday’s game where one receiver would be wide open but Roethlisberger would throw to a receiver who was being tightly covered by one or more defensive players. One notable instance was on a third-down play early in the second quarter. Roethlisberger chose to throw it to RayRay McCloud, who was being covered by two defenders and was a few yards short of a first down. However, Diontae Johnson was wide open on a drag route, as he had eluded his defender. Simply switching his view of the field would have allowed Roethlisberger to see Johnson and extend the drive.

Run Game, Especially Late, Looked Better

The Steelers run game had been especially poor in the past game against Tennessee. Najee Harris had just 18 yards in their Week 15 game. It looked, early on, as if Harris was going to be slowed once again. His first four carries went four a total of one yard. But, Harris was able to crank out 92 more yards on his last 15 carries, for an average of 6.1 yards per carry during that span. He finished with 19 carries and 93 yards, with an average of 4.9 yards per carry. Harris was used fairly often later in the game, and he was able to build up his stat line with some late-game carries.

Benny Snell, Pittsburgh’s backup running back, and Mason Rudolph, Pittsburgh’s backup quarterback, together added 37 more yards. Snell had 20 yards on five carries in his limited time. Rudolph had one scramble for 17 yards during his one drive that he played on late in the game. Overall, the Steelers finished with 130 rushing yards on the day.

Passing Game (Especially Blocking) Executed Poorly

While the Pittsburgh running game was proficient in Week 16, the same cannot be said for their passing game. Veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had only 159 passing yards. His measly yardage total was paired with one touchdown and one interception. Roethlisberger missed reads on several throws, and he also threw several bad balls.

The offensive line wasn’t great by any means, but they held their own later in the game. They gave up two sacks (including one that resulted in a fumble) and had trouble opening holes early on. But as they settled in, they did not give up any more sacks and were productive in the run the rest of the way. Some of it may have been from Kansas City letting up after being up by 30 points, but you have to give credit to a line that’s been battered with pressure and issues all year.

Run Defense Still Has Lots of Problems

There isn’t a whole lot to say about the run defense of Pittsburgh. They settled in and allowed just 3.6 yards per carry on 35 attempts throughout the whole game. They did miss several tackles, including one big one that led to Kansas City’s first touchdown. The unit did stop the Chiefs from collecting a lot of big runs, as the defense has been prone to giving up long runs. This Pittsburgh rush defense still has a lot of problems, but they seem to be getting better every week.

Secondary Carved Up by Patrick Mahomes

The Pittsburgh zone coverage was dissected by Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes is one of the best quarterbacks in all of football, so the secondary knew it was going to be tough from the start. He finished with 258 yards and three touchdowns, and he made several great throws that extended drives. He didn’t have any deep throws completed because of the Steelers coverage schemes, but his short and medium throws got the job done.

Byron Pringle finished as the Chiefs leading receiver in Week 16. He had six catches for 75 yards and two touchdowns against the Steelers. He was Kansas City’s leading receiver because Travis Kelce, the Pro Bowl tight end, was out for the game. Tyreek Hill was contained by Pittsburgh, as he had just two catches for 19 yards.

The Very Few Bright Spots

One of the few positives for the Steelers was Cam Heyward notching his eighth sack of the season. He has the second-most sacks on the team, behind only T.J. Watt, who has 17.5 sacks.

Minkah Fitzpatrick continued his underrated season with his 12 tackles in Week 16. Fitzpatrick now leads the team in tackles with 114 on the season, and he also had a pass deflection.

Ahkello Witherspoon also had a pass deflection, which was his sixth of the season. He has the second-most passes defended on the Steelers, and with two interceptions has also become one of the Steelers best corners.

Steelers Playoff Scenarios

The 36-10 Week 16 loss drops the Steelers to 7-7-1. The loss leaves them in third place in the AFC North and now 11th in the AFC Playoff Picture, thanks to the Miami Dolphins Monday Night Football Win. A Wild Card berth is fairly unlikely for the Steelers, so their only shot to make the playoffs is to win the division. Their path doesn’t seem too difficult, as they need just five game outcomes to go their way to clinch their second consecutive AFC North title.

Pittsburgh needs to win both of its final two games (vs Cleveland, at Baltimore) and needs the Cincinnati Bengals to lose out (vs Kansas City, at Cleveland). They would also need the Baltimore Ravens to lose their game against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 17. If all five of these outcomes go the Steelers way, they would be 9-7-1 and AFC North Champions. They would likely be the 4th seed in the AFC and would have to host a good wild-card team, such as Indianapolis or New England.

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The Last Two Weeks are Coming Up (and Fast)

These last two weeks will be very important for the Pittsburgh Steelers. As their season comes to a close, they will have to make one final push to make it to the playoffs in 2021. While the next two weeks seem to mainly be about making the playoffs, they are also about Ben Roethlisberger. The veteran quarterback has said that this is likely his last season, so a playoff push would be great for his going out. The Steelers will have to work quite a bit in the last few games, as divisional games are never easy. They will also have to rely on a few other teams, but the results seem pretty favorable for the Steelers.

Pittsburgh has a reasonable, manageable chance to make the playoffs, but they need to tighten up and hope for the best as their season comes to a close.

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