The Steelers outlasted the Chiefs, 18-16, in a divisional round match-up at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday night to advance to their first AFC Championship game since the 2010 season.
Kicker Chris Boswell booted a postseason-record six field goals, as he provided the only scoring for Pittsburgh and an offense that moved the ball effectively but could never once reach the end zone against the Chiefs’ very effective red zone defense.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed 20 of 31 passes for 224 yards, no touchdowns and an interception.
Receiver Antonio Brown caught six passes for 108 yards, while running back Le’Veon Bell was once again the star on offense, as he rushed 30 times for 170 yards, breaking the franchise’s single-game postseason mark he set one week earlier in the wild card game against the Dolphins at Heinz Field.
Pittsburgh’s defense was mostly stellar, holding the Chiefs to 227 total yards–including just 61 yards on the ground–and all but made Kansas City’s two most dangerous weapons–tight end Travis Kelce and receiver/running back Tyreek Hill–non-factors.
Kelce caught five passes for 77 yards, while Hill totaled 45 yards from scrimmage–including just 27 yards on four receptions.
Speaking of Hill, his skills as a return specialist were also a concern for the Steelers special teams, who had been struggling in kick coverage, but Hill averaged just 18 yards on four kickoff returns, and didn’t have a single punt return the entire night.
Holding a 9-7 lead in the second quarter, outside linebacker Bud Dupree hit Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith just as he was about to release a pass, and Ryan Shazier intercepted the ball at the Chiefs’ 44. However, after quickly marching to the Chiefs five-yard line, a quick Roethlisberger pass intended for Brown was deflected in the air and intercepted by safety Eric Berry in the end zone.
After yet another Kansas City punt, the Steelers added a field by Boswell–his fourth of the day (this time from 45 yards)–to make it 12-7 at the half.
Boswell added two more field goals in the second half, and Pittsburgh had an 18-10 lead midway in the fourth quarter, when the Chiefs went on a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive and drew to within two points, thanks to a one-yard run by Spencer Ware with 2:43 left.
Kansas City went for two and appeared to tie the game on a pass from Smith to receiver Jeremy Maclin. However, a holding call on Eric Fisher, who was attempting to block the legendary James Harrison, and Smith’s next pass from 10 yards further back was knocked away by rookie safety Sean Davis.
Needing one first down to run out the game, the Steelers did just that, when Roethlisberger rolled to his left and found Brown for a seven-yard gain on third and three.
Next up for the Steelers is a trip Gillette Stadium to take on the in the AFC Championship game next Sunday evening at 6:40 p.m. (ET).