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Steelers can’t overcome another slow start at home, fall to Chiefs

When did the Steelers start thinking that they could just roll out of bed and win games at home?

The Steelers lost their second straight game at Heinz Field Sunday going back to last year’s AFC divisional playoff loss to the Jaguars.

The Chiefs defeated the Steelers 42-37. In this defeat and in the aforementioned 45-42 loss to the Jaguars, the Steelers started the game as if they were still in their pajamas.

The Chiefs became the second team in history to score 21 first-quarter points on the Steelers in Pittsburgh, jumping out to a 21-0 lead less than 13 minutes into the game. The Jaguars nearly hung 21 on the Steelers in the first quarter in January, taking a 21-0 lead less than four minutes into the second quarter.

Visiting teams are scoring 21 points before the Heinz Field public address announcer has a chance to say that patrons must be 21 to purchase alcohol.

The Steelers drove their fans to drink with the following first-quarter lowlights:

  • After going backwards two yards on their first possession, the Steelers allowed DeAnthony Thomas to return the ensuing punt 31 yards to the Steelers’ 10-yard line to set up the first of Patrick Mahomes‘ six touchdown passes. The Steelers succeeded in keeping the ball away from dangerous return man Tyreek Hill, but forgot that the guy who does field the punt still has to be tackled, and Thomas caught the Steelers napping.
  • Ben Roethlisberger fumbled a snap on the Steelers’ next possession, which went three-and-out. That led to the first of Travis Kelce‘s two touchdown catches, giving the Chiefs a 14-0 lead before the Steelers’ first positive-yardage play.
  • Chris Boswell missed a 49-yard field goal to end the Steelers’ third possession. He’s missed both of his field-goal attempts this year and he missed an extra-point try on Sunday. Boswell was quite possibly the difference between 13-3 and 9-7 last season. A Boswell meltdown is a headache the Steelers don’t need right now.

The Chiefs would have had a 28-0 lead in the first quarter if the officials hadn’t bailed the Steelers out of their next pratfall. Justin Houston strip-sacked Roethlisberger deep in Steelers territory and Chris Jones recovered the fumble and ran it in for a touchdown. The play was nullified, however, when Orlando Scandrick was penalized for defensive holding.

The Steelers took advantage of that lifeline and tied the game in the second quarter. Throwing from his heels, Roethlisberger put the Steelers on the board with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Jesse James. He also threw touchdown passes to JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington. He was almost over the line of scrimmage on his 14-yard scoring pass to Washington.

Much like their playoff loss to Jacksonville, the Steelers’ rally had a playground sort of feel to it, like their entire offensive gameplan was drawn in the sand.

The defense, well, they did shut out the Chiefs in the second quarter.

Then in the second half, the Chiefs remembered they can use Hill on plays from scrimmage, too. The first play of the third quarter was a 36-yard pass to Hill that led to Kelce’s second touchdown. The Steelers answered with James Conner‘s 1-yard touchdown, but the Chiefs made it 35-28 with Mahomes’ touchdown pass to Demarcus Robinson.

We had always envisioned the defensively-challenged Steelers having to win shootouts like this. Don’t worry about the defense, the offense can carry this team.

Except that it didn’t.

The Steelers went three-and-out on their next possession and the Chiefs extended their lead to 42-28 on Mahomes’ 29-yard TD pass to Hill early in the fourth quarter.

During that drive, Antonio Brown showed he’s in midseason form by screaming at Steelers offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner on the sideline. At least no Gatorade coolers were harmed. Mike Tomlin provided the sideline theatrics in the first half by giving his players a good ass-chewing after they had fallen behind 21-0. Um, maybe he should start doing that before games.

The whole Team Turmoil thing was an entertaining sideshow last year when the Steelers went 13-3, but this year the comedy will turn a lot darker if the Steelers (0-1-1) don’t start winning.

Speaking of turmoil, yeah, it might have helped Sunday if Le’Veon Bell was around. Conner crashed down to earth by gaining just 17 yards on eight carries. But if the Steelers don’t figure out a way to avoid falling behind 21-0 before all their home fans find their seats, they’ll need a lot more than Bell to become any kind of serious championship contender.

Entering the 2018 season, the Patriots and Jaguars looked like the biggest obstacles standing between the Steelers and the Super Bowl. Now the Chiefs have become one of those obstacles.

The Steelers had been a wall that the Chiefs couldn’t get over until Sunday. They ousted Kansas City in the playoffs two years ago and handed them their first loss last year.

So far it looks like Mahomes is the solution.

No other quarterback has thrown 10 touchdown passes in the first two games of a season, according to ESPN. The Chiefs moved up 17 spots in the first round of the 2017 draft to take him at No. 10, then traded away Alex Smith this past offseason and handed Mahomes the keys to the offense.

Those moves look brilliant so far, the kind of moves that have altered the AFC power structure much like the Jaguars’ hiring of Tom Coughlin as executive vice president before the 2017 season.

Before last season’s AFC divisional playoff game at Heinz, the NFL Network showed Coughlin walking into the stadium. The Steelers had been tweeting away about their inevitable rematch with the Patriots, and there was Coughlin, no-nonsense personified, reporting for work. It was an ominous scene for the Steelers.

The Steelers thought they could just show up and win that day, and it looks like that’s what they thought on Sunday.

Follow Mike @Steel_Tweets

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