In general, wins and losses hinge upon just a handful of plays. A single play can affect the entirety of a game. This past Sunday’s outing against the Chiefs was the epitome of that and the loss can be boiled down to just three plays.
The Steelers’ defense had held the Chiefs to a field goal, and in response, the Steelers’ offense went on a fourteen play drive, with a golden opportunity to score a touchdown. On a third-and-two from the six yard-line, Landry Jones dumped a pass off to a wide open DeAngelo Williams. Not only would Williams have gotten the first down, he would likely have scored a touchdown.
If Williams had scored there, the Steelers not only would have gone up by four points, it would have taken some of the pressure off of the defense. And, let’s be honest, due to Ben Roethlisberger being out for four games, the defense has had to take up a ton of the slack. In other words, after being on the field for the majority of the past four games, the defense was gassed and needed the offense to carry some of the weight.
Alas, the Steelers had to settle for a field goal and hope that the defense could once again hold serve.
Turnover on downs
For a second time, the Steelers’ defense had held the Chiefs to a field goal, and in response, the Steelers’ offense drove into field-goal range. On a fourth-and-one from the thirty-two yard-line, Mike Tomlin was faced with a decision to go for it, or to kick the long field goal. Tomlin decided to go for the first down, and I agree with his decision, because his two outstanding running backs had been shredding the Chiefs’ defense on that drive. Furthermore, the Steelers had another fourth-and-one in almost the same spot on the previous drive; so, all things pointed to the Steelers being able to convert. Alas, the Chiefs sealed off the edge, and Williams was stuffed for no gain.
If the Steelers get that first down, and even if they only gained five more yards on the new set of downs, it would have made for a much easier field goal attempt. Furthermore, assuming that the drive had ended with a field goal, the defense could have rested easy, because the offense would have shouldered some of the burden.
Alas, because they did not convert, the Steelers scored zero points on that drive. Thus, once again, the pressure was placed squarely upon the backs of the defense.
For a third straight drive, the Steelers’ defense had held the Chiefs to a field goal, and in response, the Steelers’ offense was starting to feel the pressure to score. In turn, Todd Haley uncorked his young quarterback, and had Landry Jones throw the ball on four consecutive downs. Considering that Jones was a young, inexperienced backup, throwing that many times in a row was a recipe for disaster. Almost on cue, Jones threw the backbreaking interception.
The interception might not have been so detrimental, if it were not for the fact that the offense had already missed out on seven points. Instead of being up by a point (10-9), the Steelers were trailing by six points, which exacerbated the need to score a touchdown on this drive. Haley was stressed, Jones in turn pressed, and the interception was destined to occur.
With a shortened field, Kansas City was poised to deliver a crushing blow, but the Pittsburgh defense did their job, only allowing the Chiefs to gain four yards after getting the turnover. The lack of yardage forced the Chiefs to try a long field goal, which they missed. Regardless of that momentary victory, the damage had already been done: once Jones threw that interception, you could almost feel the metaphorical wind come out of the Steeler defense’s sails. In turn, in the second half, the Pittsburgh defense had become so worn down that Kansas City scored two touchdowns.
In summation, Steelers fans can only expect so much from a young, backup quarterback. Landry Jones was not perfect, but he played decently enough to win the game. That said, in the prior six games, the Steelers offense had committed a total of three turnovers; in this game alone, Jones matched that total. More importantly, as mentioned earlier, not scoring in the first half ultimately doomed the Steelers. If DeAngelo Williams hangs onto that pass, and if the Steelers convert that fourth-and-one, then on Pittsburgh’s third drive of the game, Jones would not have been pressing and maybe does not throw an interception. Missing out on those ten points is obviously significant, but more important than the actual points themselves is the fact that playing with a lead would have given the defense some breathing room. Instead, the defense was exhausted, the offense was deflated, and the Chiefs took full advantage of a spiraling Steelers team.