Pittsburgh Steelers can't overcome injuries, Chiefs

Steelers find breaking point with injuries in Kansas City. Matt Steel breaks down the loss.

On the surface, this looks like just another Pittsburgh Steelers loss to a team well below .500.

Hopefully fans can look beyond that this week. Lack of preparation or motivation are not reasons the Steelers lost to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. Sometimes, the next man up just isn't going to cut it.

The Steelers had their chances. DeAngelo Williams' drop on third down inside the Chiefs' five-yard line was a critical mistake. The veteran should know better than to look upfield before securing the catch on third downs. I had hoped to write about the lack of drops we've seen this year. The receivers have done an outstanding job securing the catch all season. But that was a critical drop Sunday.

I really liked the mix of personnel on offense. The staff found a better rhythm of mixing in Williams with Le'veon Bell. I was also a big fan of the use of Roosevelt Nix at fullback on Sunday. Nix helped create holes to spring a few of Bell's longer runs. Hopefully when Ben Roethlisberger returns, we'll see some play-action passes with Nix and Martavis Bryant in the lineup.

I'm not sure who the Steelers missed more, Roethlisberger or Stephon Tuitt. I say this because I thought Landry Jones played a nice game. He showed great command/presence while leading the team on the second possession of the game that led to a field goal after Williams' drop. Inexperienced guys can sometimes make bad decisions. Jones' first interception near the end of the first half fortunately did not cost his team. Jones' second interception left me with the feeling that it just wasn't going to be the Steelers' day. Bryant did a good job breaking up an interception on an underthrown deep pass on the Steelers' lone touchdown drive. Jones' misfire to Markus Wheaton on third-and-4 could have been costly. But overall, I thought he played winning football. I think going forward, the key to evaluating Jones is whether he's going to get better with decisions or be one of those Tommy Maddox, Mike Tomczak-like players who just makes two or three really bad throws/decisions a game.

The run defense appeared to take a significant hit with the absence of Tuitt. That said, the lack of Tuitt shouldn't cause so many of his teammates to become poor tacklers. After tackling so well the previous week against the Arizona Cardinals, the defense arguably put together its worst tackling performance of the season.

If you can tackle one week, you should be able to tackle the next week. I put that on the players. That can often be a mindset thing. It's not a motivation thing, but an over-aggression thing that can lead to a lack of tackling discipline. There were a few instances when players failed to break down and secure the tackle. Antwon Blake failed to wrap up and Jarvis Jones ran out of control on a 40-yard reception that should have been stopped at two yards. Jones had opportunities to make a couple of other stops on Chiefs running plays but he failed to deliver.

Blake is just too inconsistent a player to be anything more than a No. 4 corner. He's not very good in coverage. As a tackler, he's extremely inconsistent. His lack of recognition skills were most significant in the Chiefs converting their final touchdown that essentially put the game away. Based on what I've seen in the past from Brandon Boykin in Philadelphia, I struggle to understand how he can't be better than Blake on the outside. Boykin was one of the top-rated slot corners in the league the last two seasons. He has coverage ability. Boykin was able to contribute with a strong tackle of a catch inside the Steelers' 10-yard line that forced the Chiefs to settle for a field goal. I struggle to understand how he could do any worse than Blake in coverage outside. I don't doubt for a second that Boykin would at least be an upgrade in tackling.

Ryan Shazier wasn't dominant the way he was against the San Francisco 49ers. Though I still don't understand why he wasn't on the field on a critical third-and-4 the Chiefs converted deep down the middle to Travis Kelce in the fourth quarter with the score 16-13. On the next play, Sean Spence was run over on a 36-yard run by Charcandrick West. I don't know if he took himself out or the coaches did, but Shazier has to be on the field during those critical points.

Shazier's absence on the Chiefs' final touchdown drive was the only defensive decision I questioned all game. Offensively, the only frustration I felt was waiting for Todd Haley to pull the trigger on a play-action pass or two on the Steelers' run-heavy third possession that ended with Williams getting stuffed on fourth-and-1. That fourth down might have been as good a time as any to run that play fake.

I was in favor of Mike Tomlin's decisions to go for it on fourth down on that possession, as well as the possession that preceded it. Maybe Tomlin and I were wrong because Chris Boswell seams automatic right now. Four points from the Williams drop and three more from Boswell could have been huge, and possibly could've changed the outcome of the game.

Dri Archer's 38-yard kick return in the first quarter was the first time he looked like a guy with 4.2 speed on a return. He seems to be gaining confidence and better understanding of how to set up his returns.

The punt return unit blocking was poor. The Steelers are not doing a good job of blocking the opponent's gunners. That is making things difficult for the dangerous Antonio Brown to get anything going.

I was very encouraged with the play of a couple of replacement players. Other than giving up the late sack-fumble to Tamba Hali, I like what I saw from Alejandro Villianueva, particularly on a few on Bell's longer runs, and I'm liking what I'm seeing in Robert Golden.

How good would the running game be with Maurkice Pouncey in the lineup? Landry Jones played adequately, but I have to believe that Ben Roethlisberger would have been able to utilize the success the Steelers had running the ball with some big plays down the field. Heath Miller needs Big Ben back as much as anybody. I'm still waiting on seeing a fully healthy front seven due to the absence of Tuitt. And maybe Ross Ventrone and Terrance Garvin could have helped opened some punt return lanes for Brown. It's a lot of missing pieces. With below average play and talent at the cornerback position, which allowed the Chiefs to convert several quick passes, and with the matchup problems Travis Kelce presented, all the injuries were too much to overcome.


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