Steelers move on to AFC Championship Game

The Steelers are taking a laser-focused approach to New England for the AFC Championship Game after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs, 18-12, for their ninth consecutive win.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - There wasn’t a lot of celebrating being done in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ locker room following their 18-16 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.

There were smiles, to be sure, but no sense of accomplishment or finality.

This is a team that just goes out and expects to win, something it has now done nine consecutive times.

“There is no time to reflect on being proud,” said guard Ramon Foster. “We got a win. We knew we could do it. That team played us at their very best. We just happened to come out on top.

“There wasn’t any crazy celebration. We’re all focused on the Patriots now. This was just a good team win.”

But the Steelers do know they’ll need to be better in the red zone - they were 0-4 - if they hope to win in New England.

They can’t rely on Chris Boswell kicking field goals - as they did six times Sunday - if they hope to advance to the Super Bowl.

“We moved the ball up and down the field, but I give credit to their defense,” said Ben Roethlisberger. “They kept us out.

“But it was good enough.”

@ Boswell and Le'Veon Bell both had record-setting days.

Boswell’s six field goals are a new NFL postseason record, while Bell has now broken the team postseason rushing record twice in two games and his 337 rushing yards represent the most of any player in league history. Arian Foster had 285 yards rushing in his first two postseason games.

“He’s the best in the league at what he does,” right tackle Marcus Gilbert said of Bell. “Their ain’t no denying it. When we go on the road, he’s unstoppable. As long as we do our job up front and Ben puts us in good positions, we’ll get the job done.”

Perhaps just as impressive was the fact the Steelers had no pre-snap penalties on offense. In a noisy venue such as Arrowhead Stadium, that was critical to keeping drives alive.

And Bell helped the Steelers control the clock for nearly 34 minutes.

“That was surprising,” Gilbert said of the lack of noise issues. “We were working on that all week. That was the loudest stadium we’ve played in all season. We’re battle-tested and ready. We didn’t really bite ourselves on the field. We just need to do better in the red zone. I like what I saw out of our guys, coming into a hostile environment where it was so loud it was ridiculous. We didn’t have any communication issues.”

@ The Chiefs got a little chippy in this one, with Travis Kelce getting a 15-yard penalty in the fourth quarter for shoving corner Ross Cockrell to the ground. And rookie cornerback Terrance Mitchell went after Antonio Brown following the game as the two teams exited the field.

“I don’t know what that was about,” said Cockrell. “I didn’t say anything to him. He didn’t say anything to me. I just saw him coming to me after the play and I just stood there and held my ground to see what he was going to do. Usually, you get a little head butt and that’s about it. But he gave me a push and I fell.”

Brown was a little more upset with his incident. He also got into a shoving match with Marcus Peters earlier in the game.

“That’s what happens when guys lose,” said Brown. “They take it personally. After the game, the guy tried to provoke me and get a little aggressive. I’m not an MMA fighter. I’m a football player and we leave it all on the field.”

@ Looking for some sage wisdom from this game? Look no farther than center Maurkice Pouncey.

Pouncey, of course, reached that AFC Championship Game as a rookie in 2010 and got hurt in that game and was unable to play in the Super Bowl.

He’s extremely happy to finally be getting a second shot because he didn’t appreciate the journey as much the first time around.

“No. I didn’t,” said Pouncey. “I came out of Florida and I was like, ‘This is the easiest thing in the world to do, get back to the AFC Championship and the Super Bowl.’ I thought it was going to happen every single year, but the more you play, the more you gain appreciation for this league and how tough it is, how hard it is.

“That’s why we’re so hard on the young guys and trying to instill that edge. I know the older guys did that when I first got here, too. I probably just didn’t listen.”

@ The Steelers weren’t happy with giving up a touchdown on the opening drive. It was the first time they’ve allowed a score on the opening drive all season.

But Kansas City threw all the tricks at them, including the wishbone look that wound up getting into the end zone on a misdirection play.

“We hadn’t seen that look on film,” said Steelers rookie safety Sean Davis. “But we knew they would come out with something we hadn’t seen.”

Davis was, of course the young guy who did trust his eyes on Kansas City’s final two-point in an attempt to tie the game.

“I just read the quarterback,” Davis said. “I saw (receiver Albert Wilson) run a double route and when he kept going, I figured they were going to try to sneak it in there. I made the play.”

It came moments after he had drawn a big personal foul penalty that gave the Chiefs a first down at the Pittsburgh 12.

Davis immediately went to Mike Tomlin.

“I knew what happened. I just wanted to talk to that man just to clear things up,” Davis said. “I told him it was my fault. I didn’t mean to hit him in his head. He said, ‘Don’t worry about it. You got the ball out. Let’s fight again.’”

Sounds like it should be the mantra moving forward this week into New England.

(Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.)

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