The Pittsburgh Steelers are off to a winless start after losing a high-scoring game to the Kansas City Chiefs, 42-37, and there should be a great deal of concern about coaching and communication issues.
After tying to the Cleveland Browns in Week 1, the Pittsburgh Steelers needed to make a statement in Week 2 against the Kansas City Chiefs on a national stage. The Chiefs, like the Steelers, are viewed as contenders in the AFC. The Steelers weren’t up to the task, though, as they fell behind early before falling short in their comeback effort, losing 42-37.
While the Steelers passing attack got back on track after Ben Roethlisberger’s lousy performance at Cleveland, their 21-0 deficit after the first quarter ultimately did them in. While Roethlisberger put up 452 passing yards, the Steelers defense, playing without starting cornerback Joe Haden, struggled mightily.
To be fair, Patrick Mahomes is a great quarterback, even if he’s just in his first year as a starter in Kansas City. Despite that caveat, the Steelers put together a shameful performance on pass defense, and their inability to cover Chiefs star tight end Travis Kelce was a pointed low-light.
Kelce finished with seven receptions and two touchdowns on 10 targets, totaling 109 yards of receiving. He was one of three players on the Chiefs to haul in 90 receiving yards, as Mahomes owned the Steelers secondary with six passing touchdowns.
Mahomes was poised and astute, delivering the vast majority of his scores from within the pocket. However, the Steelers made life easy on Mahomes, leaving Kelce and others wide open over the middle of the field. All Mahomes had to do was keep his eyes peeled for open pass-catchers over the middle of the field and pull the trigger. One of the most confident quarterbacks in the league, Mahomes isn’t afraid to make plays, especially if the defense gives them up.
You’d think that the Steelers would have come up with a more effective gameplan to deal with one of the league’s three best tight ends, but that didn’t happen on Sunday. Unlike last week, Mahomes and the Chiefs took advantage of the Steelers defense not being on the same wavelength, and the Steelers failed to make any adjustments.
Communication and coaching issues plagued the Steelers defense in Week 2, and those errors will always go punished against good football teams. The Chiefs showed that they are “for real” as contenders in this league, and the Steelers were outclassed.
I don’t think Steelers fans should panic about their team’s chances or anything like that. Beyond the fact that it’s just been two games, the Steelers did almost make a comeback against Kansas City. After being down 21-0 going into the second quarter, the Steelers tied it up at half-time behind monstrous performances from Roethlisberger and star receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. On a day where Antonio Brown struggled, JuJu and tight end Jesse James more than stepped up.
Roethlisberger’s return to form was a welcome site, and you always felt that the Steelers had a chance with him deliver strike after strike to his receivers. If rookie James Washington can make strides, the Steelers passing attack will be unstoppable.
The running game didn’t get going this week against the Chiefs, as James Conner stumbled to just barely over two yards per carry after being a Week 1 revelation with well over 100 yards. Conner has plenty of talent, so the Steelers shouldn’t be worried about the state of their running game, even without Le’Veon Bell. It’s hard to get the ground game going against a high-scoring offense.
But the causes for concern are on the defensive side of the ball. Yes, Haden was absent and Artie Burns wasn’t 100-percent, but it’s not like the Steelers defense did a good job of containing the other pass-catchers. And in a 16-game season, injuries are no excuse. The Steelers must show better chemistry on defense, and they must make better adjustments when a team starts taking advantage of soft coverage.