5 things — mostly bad — that stood out in Steelers’ loss to Chiefs
Five things (plus a bonus item) we learned from Chiefs 42, Steelers 37:
1. At least it wasn’t a slow, painful demise for the Steelers defense.
One of the most alarming statistics of the game was that the Chiefs faced a third-down conversion only five times (the Steelers had 11). Then again, when you are averaging 8.3 yards per play and move down the field faster than Antonio Brown can exit the locker room, you don’t get to third down very often.
The Chiefs’ touchdown drives, one of which started at the Steelers 10, lasted, in order: 1 minute, 3 seconds, 2:32, 2:40, 2:18, 3:57 and 3:04. This was partly attributed to the Chiefs having six pass plays of at least 25 yards and a 31-yard reverse.
It also was a combination of missed tackles, untimely penalties, miscommunication in the secondary and botched coverages. For all of the defensive tinkering in training camp, the Steelers on Sunday didn’t look much different than the group that was ousted from the AFC playoffs by Jacksonville in January.
2. An offense can produce 475 yards and 35 of 37 points and still be lacking.
For all of the focus on the Steelers’ poor defense – and rightfully so – the offense totaled minus-5 yards combined over the first two series. By the time the Steelers got a first down, they trailed 14-0. By the time they found the end zone, they were clawing back from a 21-0 deficit.
The slow started forced the Steelers to abandon the running game, which explains the 35 passes and 6 runs in the first half. But even after tying the score, the Steelers didn’t fully commit to the run. In the second half, 25 more pass plays were called against just seven runs. James Conner averaging 2.1 yards per carry didn’t help the cause.
3. The Steelers lead the NFL in at least one important statistic.
When it comes to accruing penalties, the Steelers have no peer through two weeks. After 12 more infractions, the Steelers have been penalized 24 times in their 0-1-1 start. That’s accepted infractions. They’ve totaled five others that were declined. The 209 yards in penalties also are tops in the NFL.
Against the Chiefs, no unit was spared. Five penalties came on special teams, four were against the defense and three were called against the offense. Vance McDonald, making his season debut at tight end, had one fewer penalty (two) than receptions (three). Tyler Matakevich, Mike Hilton and Bud Dupree also had two apiece.
Drives became longer for the offense, shorter for the defense, and field position was lost on special teams because of the infractions.
4. The kicker needs to make a chip shot.
Chris Boswell’s mortality was evident again as he was wide left on a 49-yard field goal attempt in the first quarter and missed an extra point in the second. That’s two missed field goals in as many games for Boswell, who missed only three attempts last year. Both misses this year have exceeded 40 yards in distance.
Boswell is still looking for his first field goal. An easy kick for someone who booted 35 field goals last year should be enough to boost his confidence.
5. Joe Haden needs his hamstring to heal – and fast.
Haden’s absence from the secondary arguably was one of the biggest shortcomings on defense. The Steelers simply are a better team when the veteran cornerback is on the field. First, Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor took his shots at backup Cameron Sutton in the opener. Then, Sutton and veteran Coty Sensabaugh did little while taking snaps against the Chiefs.
Artie Burns also isn’t the same player when he doesn’t have Haden lining up on the other side of the defensive formation. Burns’ inconsistent play continued Sunday.
With an extra day to prepare for Week 3 in Tampa next Monday night, Haden will have 24 more hours to get his hamstring healed. With Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing for an NFL-best 819 yards through two weeks, Haden’s return is imperative to any defensive success.
Le’Veon Bell missed another weekly check of $855,000 when he failed to report to the team by Saturday afternoon. The tally that Bell has forfeited after two weeks has risen to $1.71 million.
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.