Steelers edge Chiefs stay atop of AFC

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The Steelers (8-3) have become very consistently predictable this season. The defense continues to be one of the most dominant in the NFL while the offense continues to be one of the worst despite all kinds of explosive weapons, especially in the second half. But they continue to win as they pulled off an ugly 13-9 victory over the struggling Kansas City Chiefs (4-7) to stay in the AFC playoff hunt.

LightsOut
LIGHTS OUT—Chiefs’ Javier Arenas (21) is tackled by Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor (24) and inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons (94) during the second half in Kansas City, Mo., Nov. 27. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

“It’s tough,” Ben Roethlisberger said, “because it’s a mixed feeling type of thing: You’re happy to get the win, but you’re disappointed the way the offense played. I think that’s what team’s all about. The defense stepped up huge today.”

With both the Ravens (8-3) and Bengals (7-4) winning, the Steelers had to win to keep pace in the AFC North while staying in a tie with the Patriots, Texans and Ravens for the best record in the AFC.

The Patriots crushed the Eagles 38-20, the Texans beat Jacksonville 20-13 but lost another quarterback for the season in the process, and the Ravens brought the high flying 49ers (9-2) back to earth with a 16-6 victory.

The Steelers defense once again showed why, along with the Ravens, they are the best in the business by holding the Chiefs to just three field goals, and that really wasn’t a true indicator of how dominant they were. They played with their backs to the wall the entire game because of an impotent offense that put them in extremely poor field position almost every time they took the field, knowing that to allow just one touchdown could cost them the game.

For some reason going into the 12th week Ben Roethlisberger and his two young speed receivers haven’t gotten their timing down, especially Mike Wallace. How many times over the season has Ben missed Wallace streaking down the field, either overthrowing him or most of the time under throwing him. And Antonio Brown has been making circus catches of balls under and overthrown. When you throw in Hines Ward, Heath Miller, Emmanuel Sanders, and Jericho Cotchery, there’s entirely too much talent for the Steelers offense to be struggling the way it has been. The Chiefs have an average defense but not a great one, especially not good enough to contain the Steelers the way they did. Yet once again the offense only had 13 points in the first half and zero in the second despite four turnovers forced by the defense that should have led to scores.

After watching Tom Brady pick apart an outstanding Philadelphia defense with only one great receiver, it makes one wonder what he could do with Wallace and Brown.

“It was a hard-fought game,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “We’re excited about winning—and winning on the road —and making the necessary plays, particularly defensively down the stretch. We produced turnovers tonight. It was big for us. Obviously we weren’t as effective as we’d like to be offensively, particularly in the red area, especially early on.”

“From an injury standpoint Chris Carter had a hamstring, he wasn’t able to return; Maurkice Pouncey has a stomach virus he wasn’t able to return. Troy (Polamalu) had a blow to the head, concussion like symptoms. Again we wanted to err on the side of caution, that’s why we didn’t let him return to the game. I don’t know at this juncture if it was a concussion. I want to be clear there. Larry Foote had a hamstring as well. Other normal bumps and bruises that come along with football. We’ll regroup and move forward. We have another big game waiting for us here next week. We can say that every week moving forward.”

This weekend at Heinz Field the Steelers face the surging Bengals again, and if the offense doesn’t come out of its funk, the defense is going to be hard pressed to win this one alone.

The Bengals are loaded with young talent and they have been clicking both offensively and defensively this season. The Steelers pulled out the win in Cincinnati, but the Bengals could very easily return the favor with a win at Heinz Field. They play very well on the road.

They have a balanced attack on offense with Cedric Benson on the ground and rookie quarterback Andy Dalton running the offense. He too, has some very talented young receivers in A.J. Green, Andrew Hawkins and Tight End Jermaine Gresham, and he has no problem hitting them and they have no problem getting open.

A.J. Green made a leaping catch for a 51-yard gain in the final minute Sunday, setting up a field goal that rallied the Bengals to a 23-20 victory over the self-destructive Cleveland Browns..

Dalton threw a high down-the-middle pass that Green went way above the defenders to grab. Green was run out of bounds at the 2, and the Browns (4-7) forced Cincinnati to settle for Mike Nugent’s 26-yard field goal with 38 seconds left—the Bengals’ first lead of the game. Dalton was 21 of 31 for 270 yards in the air, and Benson picked up 106 yards on the ground on 21 carries. Gresham, Green and Hawkins are emerging as one of the top receiving corps in football.

For the second time in three games, a botched snap cost Cleveland a chance to take a late lead. Phil Dawson was short on a 55-yard try with 1:51 left after the snap skipped along the ground, giving Cincinnati its last chance.

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