Humiliating loss to Chiefs another lowlight for Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger reacts to a penalty call during the second half of an NFL football game aKansas City Chiefs Sunday, Dec. 26, 2021, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

How did the Steelers humiliate themselves in Kansas City? Let us count the ways.

We could start with the final score, 36-10 Chiefs. The game wasn’t that close, mind you. Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid could have scored 60 if they had been motivated to do so, and they did it without Travis Kelce for the entire game, and without starting running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire for almost the entirety of the second half. The Steelers refused to let Tyreek Hill beat them, so Mahomes happily carved them up with every other weapon at his disposal.

Perhaps you’d like to zoom in on some specific plays, instead? We can do that, too. There was the legendary Flea Flicker to Nowhere, which saw the Steelers respond to Kansas City’s first touchdown march with a trick play that fooled no one, and was picked off by Charvarius Ward. The intended receiver? Legendary big-play artist Ray-Ray McCloud. More on him later.

There was also the exceptional fourth-and-1 play call to Najee Harris when the Steelers were trying to get something going late in the first half. Mike Tomlin made the correct call to go for it, and then Matt Canada promptly dialed up a toss sweep that got snuffed out with a comical amount of ease, thanks largely to the efforts of – who else – Melvin Ingram. Remember him?

Of course, the comedy of errors was only just beginning at that point. Here’s a brief rundown of the rest, because this column isn’t permitted to be 3,000 words long:

  • Diontae Johnson, after the Steelers forced a Chiefs three-and-out to start the second half, and after Harris ripped off an eight-yard gain on first down, promptly fumbled the ball back to Kansas City without being touched; his own body knocked it loose.

  • After the Chiefs’ ensuing touchdown drive, which put the score at 30-0, McCloud converted a third-and-6 with an eight-yard catch, and was promptly flagged for taunting after doing a first-down signal directly in a defender’s face, with an official standing five feet away. I will again remind you that the score was 30-0 Chiefs.

(As a side note, Tomlin defended McCloud after the game, saying that he was just doing a first-down point and that a defender happened to be there, and that officials needed to use some common sense. Hey Mike: You’re on the Competition Committee. You were a vocal supporter of this rule. Don’t like its application? Tough luck. You made this bed, and you’re going to have to sleep in it.)

  • On that very same drive, after the Steeler lined up to go for it on fourth-and-10 from the Chiefs’ 11, a false start pushed them back five yards. Somehow this changed Tomlin’s calculus, and he sent out Chris Boswell for the most meaningless field goal he’ll ever make. I don’t know about you, but my opinion on the game did a 180 when the score went from 30-0 to 30-3.

  • The coup de grâce came late in the fourth quarter, when Ben Roethlisberger was still under center. Canada called a play that I can only presume was supposed to involve some deceptive ball-handling on Roethlisberger’s part, only to have the play completely obliterated by Kansas City’s Tershawn Wharton, who used a swim move to get by Kendrick Green so fast I’m surprised he didn’t create a sonic boom. Wharton got to Roethlisberger so quickly that he surprised himself, but recovered in time to force a fumble that Jarran Reed recovered and almost took to the end zone.

Got all that?

If this game served one purpose, it was to expose the Steelers for what they are, which is a bad football team. Their .500 record can’t hide the truth any longer. The defense wasn’t gashed as much by Kansas City’s running, but Mahomes toyed with them all afternoon and well into the evening. The offense is a complete travesty; Green is horrible, the rest of his linemates aren’t much better, and the offense looks totally inept.

Roethlisberger can’t get the ball downfield with authority on the rare occasions he has more than two seconds to think, Matt Canada schemes are junk, and Najee Harris – otherwise known as He Who Would Fix The Running Game By Finding Invisible Yards, at least in the Steelers’ front offices – continues to get pummeled thanks to an inept line. Most of his 93 yards came after halftime, when the outcome was long-decided.

No one – not Tomlin, not Roethlisberger, not Harris, not Minkah Fitzpatrick – had any answers in the postgame. Cam Heyward still sounded angry, still sounded defiant, but he’s one voice. And anger and defiance aren’t acceptable substitutes for talent and execution.

No one had any answers because there aren’t any. The Steelers aren’t very talented, and they aren’t very good. Yes, they can still make the playoffs; wins over the Browns and Ravens, coupled with Bengals losses to Kansas City and Cleveland would do the trick.

That said, you only needed to tune in for about 15 minutes this past Sunday to know that these Steelers have a better chance of embarrassing themselves in these last two games than they do of winning them.

This article originally appeared on Beaver County Times: Mueller: Humiliating loss to Chiefs another lowlight for Steelers

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