Chief concern: Steelers stumble, fall in K.C.
KANSAS CITY — Following perhaps the most unexpected loss of the Mike Tomlin era, a come-from-ahead defeat against a team that had not won at home this season until Sunday, Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton said what had to be going through every mind in a hushed and cramped visiting locker room.
"There was no doubt in my mind we were going to win," Hampton said.
The Steelers didn't just drop a 27-24 overtime stunner to the Kansas City Chiefs yesterday. They also lost Ben Roethlisberger on the first possession of overtime when the franchise quarterback took a knee to the head.
Roethlisberger likely wouldn't have returned even if the defense hadn't given up a 61-yard reception to Chris Chambers. The catch-and-run set up a 22-yard game-winning field goal by Ryan Succop.
The Steelers squandered a 10-point halftime lead and lost despite outgaining the Chiefs by more than 200 yards.
After failing several times to put away the Chiefs (3-7), the Steelers find themselves at a crossroads.
They are 6-4 with a trip to Baltimore looming on the schedule, and their margin for error for reaching the playoffs has shrunk considerably over the past two weeks.
If the Steelers miss the postseason, as they did the last time they were defending Super Bowl champions, they will look back on the Chiefs' game with supreme regret.
"There were many opportunities to secure the outcome of that football game, whether it was in overtime or regulation," Tomlin said after the Steelers lost consecutive games for the second time this season. "We didn't. They did."
The game had a little bit of everything, including the expected — the Steelers gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown for the fourth time in five games — and the unexpected. That included a dropped pass by the normally sure-handed Heath Miller on the Steelers' first possession of the second half.
It resulted in a game-changing interception by Andy Studebaker, a Division III Wheaton (Ill.) College product who had two picks in his first NFL start.
Yet, even after that special teams breakdown and two Roethlisberger interceptions in the second half, the Steelers looked like they were going to escape Kansas City with a victory.
Then, the defense decided it also wanted to assist on Kansas City's first win in 2009 at venerable Arrowhead Stadium.
The Steelers allowed the Chiefs to drive 91 yards on eight plays in the fourth quarter and tie the score, 24-24. In overtime, they yielded the longest pass play of the game on a short crossing pattern to Chambers.
It came after Ike Taylor almost intercepted a deep Matt Cassel pass — and after the Chiefs went to a no-huddle approach.
The element of surprise worked as the Steelers were confused following the defensive call that came late from the sidelines.
They also missed several tackles after Chambers caught the third-and-5 pass and wasn't taken down until he was close enough for the Chiefs to win the game with a Succop chip shot.
Perhaps outside linebacker James Harrison summed up the loss best when he said, "We had some mental lapses on defenses, too many turnovers and we started off fighting an uphill battle."