Yes, I spelled Chiefs incorrectly on purpose. If it's good enough for the Bungles. . . .
A few pregame notes:
* Expect Willie Parker to play more today. Of course, Bruce Arians planned to play his -- dare we say this now -- No. 2 halfback more often, on every third series, the past two games. Situations worked out differently. But today the Chiefs bring the NFL's sixth-worst NFL defense against the run. Parker, recovered from his turf toe too, has a shredded them in the past.
* No Larry Johnson (now with the Bungles), no Troy Polamalu (absent today and maybe another game or two with that PCL injury). So much for calling this a hairpull.
* These aren't the quality Chiefs you remember -- from McDonald's Marty Schottenheimer as coach or even Rich Gannon at quarterback, before he went to the Super Bowl with the Raiders. But Arrowhead can still be a tough place to play. Moreoever, Steelers fans should thank the Chiefs. If it wasn't for a draft-day trade up, the Steelers may not have been able to draft Polamalu in 2003.
1:02 p.m.: So much for an improved kickoff coverage. The team with already the most KO return touchdowns this season gave up their fourth in five games and their eighth return for a touchdown -- kick, fumble or interception. CBS, by the way, showed the wrong coach at first before focusing on Bob Ligashesky. Gee, and it has been four years since the Chefs returned one for a score. Remember Dante Hall? One more thing: Ryan Mundy appeared to have the best chance at him, and Patrick Bailey got taken out by a teammate, so it appeared. The Steelers gave up thinking he was down. More reckless play is required on this unit. Oh, and Jeff Reed was awfully deep -- around the Kansas City 40 -- on that coverage, which represents a major change from him being a safety valve at the 50 or deeper in Steelers territory. (So nobody can criticize him for not sticking his nose in there.) 1:09 p.m.: Is it just me, or are the Steelers trying to pump up Kansas City? Run, run holding, run (a reverse on second and way too long), throwing into triple coverage? Funny, Mundy and the punt-return unit flew down there on that one. Hmmmm. . . maybe they should have Daniel Sepulveda and those guys punt off, as with a safety, instead of using Reed and the kickoff unit. 1:18 p.m.: OK, I'll agree with you there: You just make a dandy run against a defense that knows it's bad against the run, and the next down you go empty set? Don't except the "screen is as good as a run" argument, either. Especially with the way Ben Roethlisberger passed last week and looks already today, they should run to set up the pass and alleviate the burden on the quarterback. 1:28 p.m.: Told ya about Willie Parker (pregame notes). And in the replay, just noticed that Lawrence Timmons was on the Ill-Fated Kickoff Unit, or IFKU. Isn't he a new addition there? 1:31 p.m.: Sign that Miracles Do Happen: The Browns have 10 points already. (OK, so it's just Detroit). . . Offensive line doing the Steelers no favors on this drive, which showed promise. The sooner the Steelers tie this game, the better chance they have of the Chefs realizing that they are indeed the Chefs. 1:36 p.m.: Five of seven on fourth-down conversions this season? That's impressive. And Mendenhall nearly took that one all the way. . . By the way, Hines Ward was down on that play, but when he loses the ball, it's not a good sign. The Chefs' defense is hitting with some vigor. . . . End of the first, 7-0 KC.
1:40 p.m.: Was Big Ben just showing his Little Owie to the ref? Potential headline, if the Steelers prevail today: Victory better than being poked in the eye. . . 1:41 p.m.: Seems to be a hollow way to end such a drive, But don't lose sight of a jarring trend that Reed's 36-yard field goal signifies: That makes five consecutive touchdown-less trips into the Red Zone for the Steelers. Ruh-roh, every score means a kickoff! There was Ike Taylor to the rescue. . . 1:51 p.m.: Mixed into that sea of red are 10,000-plus Steelers fans in a Midwest meeting of Steeler Nation. The P-G's Bob Dvorchak is on hand to report about it for tomorrow's print publication. Just listen to them cheer or chant "Heeeeath." . . .1:58 p.m.: With that catch, Miller has tied his career high with 47 receptions. He's on pace for roughly 75 catches -- that's Antonio Gates territory. Most important, it's Red Zone time again. Can the Steelers go 6-for-6? The must be able to run the ball. Just as I typed that, CBS threw up an interesting graphic: No team has gone longer without a rushing touchdown than the Steelers, with 95 consecutive carries. . . 2 p.m: Funny, but I was thinking Roethlisberger should've run just about the time he flicked the ball to a Ward who was wide open because Roethlisberger's feet caused Chefs defenders to creep toward the line of scrimmage to watch him. The 5-for-5 Red Zone skid without a touchdown finally comes to a halt. Now I'll answer you critics: Don't give up on this club just yet. The defense is better, even without Polamalu, than three-quarters of the rest of the NFL. The offense can overcome special-teams mistakes. And, overall, if you watch the rest of the league closely, the Steelers still possess one of the six best teams in the NFL, if not better. The question, though, is: Will they play that way? If they win today, there are easy victories against the Browns and Raiders upcoming -- that's nine victories. Beat Green Bay or Baltimore at home, or win in Bawlmer or Miami, which is surging, and 11 surely will earn them a playoff spot, if not home field for the wild-card game. The Bungles, playing an even lighter schedule the rest of the way, HAVE to win 11 minimum unless they fall completely off the Earth. Oh, and the Steelers lead, 10-7. . . 2:08 p.m.: Brownies update: They've scored 24! Of course, they've allowed 17. And it isn't even halftime yet in Detroit. (Hey, if you can't have fun at Cleveland's expense, you're clinically deceased.) Two-minute warning. . . 2:13 p.m.: Red Zone time again. A 96th consecutive carry without a touchdown. Followed by another vintage Roethlisberger play: somehow avoid the sack by ducking under, scooting to his left and finding an ad-libbing Miller for another Live At The Improv touchdown. Steelers cruising, 17-7. How much are they cruising? They have 279 yards to Kansas City's 43. They have a dozen first downs to Kansas City's two. They have possessed the ball for nearly 21 minutes to Kansas City's 8:05. They have put together 95- and 46-yard scoring drives in their past 17 total plays. They own this one. . . 2:18 p.m.: Lest anyone forget, too: Kansas City's offense on all four offensive possessions have passed their own 40-yard line, if not the 50. They've had prime real estate -- and done nothing with it aginast the Steelers. Can't wait to end up the total scores for Matt Cassel by the end of this one; remember, he lost with New England to these Steelers by 33-10 in Foxboro last November. What will today's final be in KC? It's still 17-7, Steelers.
For your halftime viewing pleasure. . .
EYE-an Eagle, the Eye network's play-by-play man today and a swell fella, once told me that he is the son of a television star. Yes, he said, that was his father starring in those Brother Dominic commercials -- this one from 1977 and the Super Bowl:
2:32 p.m.: Give the 3-foot-7 guy (Reed's words, not ours) his due -- Stefan Logan has put together his best return day of the season, and the first one equal to his preseason hint of electricity. The last return, past the 40, was well blocked . . . so give the special teams and coaches their due there. But still the Steelers have allowed four touchdown returns and collected none of their own, a minus-4 ratio (and it indeed cost them the Cincinnati game), an inescapable fact. . . . 2:40 p.m.: Just looked it up: Roethlisberger has been intercepted just twice in his past 70 attempts, a stretch that included his admittedly off game against Cincinnati last Sunday. And both were on tipped passes. So, sharp or not, he hasn't hurt his team. The Chefs took this one and drove to a touchdown, which indeed hurts. The offense needs to come back and score to put the Chefs back in their 2-7 place and provide themselves with some breathing room, lest they return to their Bears, Lions and at Bungles second-half collapses of earlier this season. Chefs creep within 17-14, Steelers. . .
We pause for this commercial message:
Why is this a Thanksgiving movie? The carving?
2:47 p.m.: Left guard Chris Kemoeatu, so vital to the running game, particularly on pulling blocks, will be missed with injury the rest of the day. Kansas City stuffs the Steelers, and Sepulveda makes his first punt since the Steelers' opening possession. Now that defense, which just had its only bad series of the game, must stand firm -- if not come up with a game-turning takeaway. The longer you let the Chefs linger. . . . . . 2:58 p.m.: The middle is amazingly open for the Steelers. Give credit to Ramon Foster for filling in admirably thus far for Kemoeatu, too. Roethlisberger has time to throw, for the most part. . . 3:04 p.m.: Neat interactive set-up for the Chiefs' site live blog, but not nearly as entertaining or informative as this one, not to be too shamelessly promotional. . . 3:07 p.m.: Now there was a potentially fatal mistake by Roethlisberger -- he threw into four Kansas City defenders.Now the Steelers are fighting for their lives. A beautiful drive and a chance to drive a stake through Kansas City's heart, and instead they revive that heart. . . To think, if he put a little more air under that sideline pass to Mendenhall, the Steelers lead 24-14 instead of going down of getting tied here [CORRECTION AT 3:17]. . . 3:10 p.m.: James Harrison, whose name hadn't been called much, if at all, previously today comes up with a crucial sack. Still, the Chefs tie this game at 17-all behind a guy from the family that produced America's most infamous car and a kick whose name is pronounced Suck-up. . .
The Steelers have almost four times as much yardage and more than twice as much time of possession, but two turnovers, one drive and a special-teams blunder have allowed Kansas City to stay in a game undeservedly -- it is at Cincinnati, at Chicago and at Detroit all over again. Perhaps this is the road rule rather than the exception.
3:15 p.m.: Roethlisberger is playing with fire. At least he threw that second-down pass away, but still they're placing way too much reliance on pass-blocking, the pass, Roethlisberger's feet. With Max Starks down and Kemoeatu already out, the Steelers are getting perilously thin and in dangerous territory. . . 3:17 p.m.: No, AFPilot, I'm NOT watching the game; I'm making all this up. But I sit corrected: A Willie Colon holding erased that Roethlisberger-to-Mendenhall play regardless. My bad. And the defense is going to have to win this one for the Steelers, if they can. . . 3:23 p.m.: Reasons why Chiefs are still in this game? They've kicked their bad habit and shut down the Steelers running game. And 0 giveaways by them. . . . Of course, as soon as I type that, Cassel coughs it up to -- Harrison again. . . Starks is back. . . 3:25 p.m.: How about this: If the Steelers don't score on this trip to the Red Zone -- the've failed on six of their past eight, remember -- we'll force them to decline an invitation to the playoffs. . . 3:28 p.m.: At least the Steelers tried to run the ball in the Red Zone. And this time -- I'll get it right, I'll get it right! -- Roethlisberger hits Mendenhall over the middle for the go-ahead score, 24-17 Steelers. And these Chefs linebackers, with Studebaker in and ex-Steeler Mike Vrabel absent, aren't very good at all. . . 3:31 p.m.: At 3:23, I forgot to point out one aspect: Kansas City, until that kick return, got called for only one penalty against the Steelers' 7 for 70 yards. See, the Steelers were giving this game to the Chefs. . . 3:36 p.m.: Former Steelers ballboy Todd Haley is attacking the Steelers safeties -- Deshea Townsend in nickel on the Lance Long catch to midfield, Ryan Clark on the double move by Chris Chambers to the Red Zone. Game on. . . 3:40 p.m.: Now the Steelers defense has been fairly shredded twice in the past four Kansas City offensive possessions. Brett Keisel really looked to be huffing and puffing there, a byproduct of both Aaron Smith and Travis Kirschke being absent due to injuries. It's 24-24. . . 3:43 p.m.: Huge offensive series for the Steelers. . . The next turnover will decide this game. . . 3:49 p.m. Cassel started this drive 8 for 15 passing for 140 yards this half alone. More importantly, he has steered Kansas City to two TDs and a field goal, with help from Roethlisberger. The Steelers come out of this 2-minute warning with a season-saving, third-and-3 staring them in the face. Well, that's overdramatic -- but this Kansas City possession determines this game, or at least saves overtime. . . 3:52 p.m.: Gutsy decision to blitz and leave those safeties in coverage. Just shows you the difference between good teams and bad: Lesser ones drop balls like that. . .
3:53 p.m.: One minute, 47 seconds to go and the ball in Roethlisberger's hands. Mewelde Moore couldn't handle Derrick Johnson on that first-down rush. . . But an illegal-downfield-contact penalty helped the Steelers' cause. Let's see what they can do with a break. . . 3:55 p.m.: One-29 to go, and wasn't that a lovely shot by CBS' cameras of Reed tugging on the seat of his pants? . . . 3:57 p.m.: Sixty-two seconds left, and a third-and-4 at midfield, and Roethlisberger can't make a play with his feet. Chefs try a safety blitz into that line, and now it's Cassel's turn to try to rescue the home side. . . 4 p.m.: We're going to overtime. It's up to a flip of the coin. . . or the next mistake.
True, this game never should've reached this point. But blame the defense, too, for allowing those second-half drives.
4:02 p.m.: Tails, as in what the Steelers need kicked. The offense must run the ball and staunch that Kansas City rush. Even throw a shovel pass or quick screens. . . 4:04 p.m.: See, BA reads this Blog!. . . Seriously, Roethlisberger is 31 of 41 for 19 yards shy of 400, stats alone that show Kansas City never should've gotten this far. Once again, the middle is wide open for Ward. But, and I reiterate, run the ball with Mendenhall. The offensive line needs a break, too, and run-blocking is easier for them. And the Chefs are bad at it, when not blitzing. And Mendenhall, like that first-down run, is rushing hard and well. . . 4:07 p.m.: Roethlisberger indeed took a Derrick Johnson knee to the head, so it's on to Charlie Batch, who is woefully cold, and a tired offensive line. Go to two backs and run. Leave Batch with only short passes. You need two yards for a first down, then another 10 to 12 yards to get into Reed's range and get the heck out of Dodge. . . 4:10 p.m.: Excuse me, I forgot about the Hartwig hold. They need 22 to 25 yards for Reed. . . and then Batch threw that deep strike to Santonio Holmes, a gutsy call and a beautiful throw. But the Steelers should've sat on it and run from there. That Chefs defense should be a little weary deep down, too, from all that time on the field -- 41 minutes and counting -- and all that pass-rushing on 43 pass attempts. Great run by Mendenhall. Can Reed deliver again, like in overtime in the opener? . . . 4:13 p.m.: Not sure if Moore was the right man for that third-down job. Parker maybe, with his speed and having a decently warm, if not hot, hand in this game already. Sure, Moore is sure-handed, but. . . Now it's up to the Steelers defense. . . 4:15 p.m.: Can Taylor actually catch a huge ball and intercept it? . . . Nah. . . A harbinger, to be sure. . . This isn't the same Cassel as the first half, or last year's New England game. No, the Chefs deserve to win this -- and they will, after that long pass to Chambers.
4:18 p.m.: Suck-up's kick, of course, is good. Chefs, 27-24. They hadn't won back-to-back games in more than two years. Heck, they've mostly beaten the lowly Raiders the past two years. The Steelers need some soul-searching now.
They are 2-3 on the road, and they only played well once -- in Denver. They are two drastically different teams, especially on defense, home vs. road. And they now have their second two-game losing skid of the season.
Worse, they have imperiled their playoff chances. At Baltimore and at Miami look far more daunting now. And, geesh, could at Cleveland, too?
Great googly-moogly, indeed.