Steelers hold off Chiefs in overtime with a win on Monday Night Football
The Chiefs did all the celebrating, and they lost. The Steelers gutted out a win, but they might not know for days whether there is truly reason to celebrate.
With Ben Roethlisberger missing most of the second half with a right shoulder injury, and the Steelers in danger of losing to an inferior team that hadn't led in regulation all season, Lawrence Timmons' interception on the second play of overtime set up Shaun Suisham's 23-yard field goal and a 16-13 win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday night.
Timmons' pickoff of a Matt Cassel pass intended for Dwayne Bowe — James Harrison called it a “big time play” — was the Chiefs' NFL-leading 30th turnover, and it cost them badly, much like most of the previous 29 did.
“Every year at the end of the season, you look at a couple of games and say, ‘We should have lost those,'” linebacker Larry Foote said. “We pulled this one out … but we never make it easy. We like it hard.”
Suisham put them ahead, 13-10, early in the fourth quarter with a 31-yarder, but Ryan Succop tied it with a 46-yarder on the final play of regulation after Cassel hit Bowe for 27 yards on fourth-and-15. Those were the only points allowed after halftime by the Steelers, who have given up only 18 points in the second half during their four-game winning streak.
Cassel said of the interception, “I was throwing the curl, and unfortunately one of the defensive linemen deflected it a little bit, and it came off and went in a direction I didn't want it to go.”
What direction the Steelers (6-3) are headed — winning streak or not — might be determined by Roethlisberger's injury.
The Steelers didn't immediately reveal the severity of the injury or how long Roethlisberger might be out, though it seemed his shoulder might be sprained or separated. A sprain would be less worrisome. He is expected to undergo an MRI.
“Any time your quarterback is hurt, you're worried,” receiver Mike Wallace said.
“It scares you,” left guard Willie Colon said. “Hopefully it's not as bad as they're talking about.”
Asked what he first thought when he knew Roethlisberger was hurt, James Harrison said, “When is he coming back?”
That's a question of all Steelerdom will be asking this week. And safety Ryan Clark might have his second concussion in a month, too.
Backup quarterback Byron Leftwich played for the first time in 22 months, and was rusty at first before hitting Emmanuel Sanders on a 31-yard dart that led to the second of Suisham's three field goals. Suisham, who is 20 of 21 this season, also hit a 35-yarder.
The Chiefs led — those words hadn't been written all season — 10-0 in the second quarter after the Steelers came out playing like they were looking ahead to their AFC North showdown against the Ravens (7-2) on Sunday at Heinz Field.
“You're focused on this game, but in the back of your head you may have been (looking ahead),” Harrison said.
Kansas City outgained the Steelers, 290-249, as Jamaal Charles ran for 100 yards. Cassel, back in the lineup because Brady Quinn has a concussion, was 11 of 26 for 154 yards with his league-leading 19th turnover and 12th interception.
The Steelers had a 100-yard rusher in their previous three games, but with Jonathan Dwyer held to 56 yards and Isaac Redman to 21 a week after gaining 147 against the Giants, they were outrushed, 142-95.
The Chiefs' 10-0 lead could have been a lot more, and it ended up costing them; they managed only a Succop field goal after recovering a Redman fumble inside the 10. And Succop later missed a 33-yarder at Heinz Field's tricky open end, shortly after an apparent Cassel to Bowe touchdown was nullified by a holding call.
“We were already celebrating and moving on,” Cassel said. “It was unfortunate to have seven points taken off the board.”
The Chiefs (1-8) truly were the Chiefs at a time they could have secured one of the season's biggest upsets.
“Turnovers are killing them,” Foote said. “They shouldn't be 1-8.”
A few minutes later, a 15-yard excessive celebration penalty kept a Steelers drive going. That play began with the ball tumbling out of Leftwich's arm on a pass attempt and the Chiefs' Justin Houston returning what he thought was a fumble for a touchdown.
The call was quickly reversed upon review — Leftwich's right arm was going forward — but there was a minute of anxious nervousness on the Steelers' sideline because a near-identical play by Roethlisberger last week in New York was ruled to be a fumble.
It certainly wasn't pretty, but the Steelers had just enough to get by a team that hasn't had nearly enough of anything all season despite going 10-6 only two years ago under Todd Haley, now the Steelers' offensive coordinator.
“We're not going to apologize for the win,” receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. “It's in the W column, where it's supposed to be.”
All week, Steelers players said they wanted to win this one for Haley in the worst possible way. And they did, even as they won their 15th in a row at home on Monday night, a streak that dates to 1991. They are 4-0 at Heinz Field this season.
Roethlisberger was a pedestrian 9 of 18 for 84 yards before leaving early in the third quarter after being sandwiched by Houston and Tamba Hali on a third-and-4. He went to the locker room, clutching his arm; in training camp, he disclosed he had a slightly torn labrum.
“Any time you don't see him, you know it's serious,” Wallace said.
Roethlisberger's only completion to a wide receiver in the first half — he focused almost exclusively on his tight ends — was a 7-yard fade to Wallace for a touchdown 3:16 before halftime.
The Steelers never found the end zone again. But neither did the Chiefs, who celebrated every sack, every moderate gain, every nullified touchdown as if they had something to cheer about. As usual, they didn't.
Right now, the Steelers don't know if they do, either.