Week 16 Reactions : Chiefs Dominate Steelers, Reign Supreme in the AFC West (Again)

December 28, 2021

A collage of a person wearing a helmet and a beard

Description automatically generated with low confidence

With a 36-10 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Chiefs clinch the AFC West division championship for the 6th consecutive season, and are the only AFC team to clinch a playoff berth thus far. 

Chiefs Focus @ChiefsFocus Charles Robinson @CRob5769

News & Notes

  • Chiefs 30, Steelers 10 – Patrick Mahomes 23/30, 258 yards, 3 TD 
  • Chiefs win record 6th consecutive AFC West Championship, clinch playoff berth, maintain 1 seed in AFC
  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s injured collar bone not serious, x-rays negative 
  • Tyrann Mathieu (quad bruise) and Willie Gay (knee) looked to be fine on the sidelines on Sunday, we will keep you up to date on any injury news pertaining to these two 
  • Nick Bolton was taken off of the reserve/COVID list today for the Chiefs 

Travis Kelce is a generational talent at tight end. So much so that, a year ago, many media outlets were saying things like this, this, and this. Giving credit where credit is due – Kelce is on his way to becoming the greatest to ever play the position if he’s not there already. But those articles and sound bites from last year turned into chirping this season, after the Chiefs started 3-4 and were reeling, sitting in last place in the AFC West near the year’s halfway point. The praise for Kelce turned into criticism for his teammates. Kelce is the most important member of the Chiefs offense. Without Kelce, the Chiefs offense can’t operate. Patrick Mahomes is a product of the system and players around him, and when they’re not there – he’s toast. 

When the final announcement came Sunday morning that Travis Kelce would miss the Chiefs game against the Steelers (along with linebacker Nick Bolton and right tackle Lucas Niang), many people had their doubts about how the Chiefs offense would respond going up against a Steelers defense that has at times looked dominant, at times look susceptible to the run, but have mostly been ball hawks and created takeaways. One person who was not concerned with this? Patrick Mahomes. 

Mahomes played what can only be described as a nearly flawless game on Sunday evening in his continued return to the “greatest player on the planet” form that we’ve come to expect over the past 4 years. The Chiefs ran the ball early and often, supporting cast members stepped up on the offensive side of the ball, and Kansas City blew out Pittsburgh in a 36-10 contest that really wasn’t that close. The Chiefs opened the game with a methodical 14 play drive that ate up over 8 minutes of game time. In the ensuing Pittsburgh possession, Ben Roethlisberger threw an interception to Charvarius Ward (one of the best catches we’ve seen so far this season) and the rest was history. The Chiefs led 23-0 at halftime, and were leading 30-0 before the Steelers managed to get on the board with a white flag field goal. 

The most encouraging part of the Chiefs offensive surge without their All-World tight end was who stepped up to keep the offense rolling. Tyreek Hill, who you would expect to get a ton of action with 87 out, recorded only 2 catches for 19 yards on the night. Mahomes found 9 different receivers on his 23 completions, including 6 for 75 yards and two touchdowns to Byron Pringle, 3 for 61 yards to rookie running back Derrick Gore, and 3 for 31 yards and a touchdown for Mecole Hardman. For an offense that has been criticized all season for only being 2 weapons deep all season, it appeared that some of those others weapons were ready to show out, and they did. 

While the passing game showed it was still on track (as it was against the Raiders and for 3 of 4 quarters and overtime against the Chargers), the running game is truly what made this game look more like a beating than a contest. The Chiefs offensive line set the tone early on with a bruising approach to the running game, dominating Pittsburgh’s defensive front for the entirety of the game. The three-headed backfield of Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Darrell Williams, and Derrick Gore combined for 32 carries, 125 yards, and a touchdown, while also hauling in 7 catches for 95 yards. As we mentioned on the 1st and 10 show last night, the running back by committee approach worked tonight, and with the dynamic skills that each of these guys have – could be the ticket to another run at a Super Bowl championship for this offense. 

Defensively the Chiefs were back to full strength apart from Bolton’s absence. And that was also evident from the beginning. The Steelers managed just 109 yards of total offense in the first half against a Chiefs defense that was nothing short of stifling. The defensive line consistently pressured Ben Roethlisberger all game long, sacking him twice but making him uncomfortable and forcing bad throw after bad throw for the duration of the game. The Steelers run game never got going either, gaining most of their 130 yards long after the outcome of the game had become evident.  The secondary, with L’Jarius Sneed back in the lineup, smothered the Steelers corps of talented young receivers all night, and safety Tyrann Mathieu again found himself in the right place at the right time, recovering a Diontae Johnson fumble early in the third quarter to set up the Chiefs lone touchdown of the second half before the depth took over and the Chiefs iced the game away. Mathieu swarms the football religiously, so it is no surprise that a lot of the “lucky” bounces go his way. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity, and the Honey Badger is not in those situations by chance. 

The win over the Steelers, coupled with the Chargers embarrassing loss to the lowly Houston Texans, clinched the AFC West for the Chiefs with two weeks left to play in the regular season. This is the sixth consecutive AFC West championship for Kansas City, breaking a record previously held by the Oakland Raiders (1972-1976) and Denver Broncos (2011-2015). The New England Patriots hold the NFL record for consecutive division championships at 11, a record that the Chiefs realistically could be staring down with the age of their core stars. This week brings another tough matchup with the 9-6 Cincinnati Bengals, who stand alone at the top of the AFC North behind the stellar play of quarterback Joe Burrow, receiver J’Marr Chase, and running back Joe Mixon. 

The Bengal swill undoubtedly be a tough test, but what’s new? This Chiefs team has had tough test after tough test all season long, including in the current 8 game winning streak. This team has been through the ringer this year, from a slow start, to the criticism they have received in the national media, from opposing teams, from their own fanbase – these guys have been through it. And they have banded together. This team is special, this team is dangerous, and if this team takes care of business the next two weeks, the rest of the AFC will (again) have to come through Kansas City for a chance to play for a championship. While the first few chapters of this story were a little different, the end is shaping up to be a very familiar tale. 

We’ll be back tomorrow for our first look at the Bengals! Happy victory Monday, Chiefs Kingdom! 

Leave a Reply