Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons highlighted a big night with an interception in overtime, setting up Shaun Suisham’s game-winning 23-yard field goal in Pittsburgh’s 16-13 home win on Monday night.
Monday Night Football is intended to be the NFL’s showcase event, but a whole bunch of ugliness was put on display at a damp and dank Heinz Field. The teams combined for three fumbles, several dropped passes and 14 punts as the steady November rain stifled offense and rendered an uneventful game nearly unwatchable.
It would be understandable if the Steelers didn’t want to look at the injury report this week, as quarterback and MVP candidate Ben Roethlisberger left the game in the third quarter with concern about his right (throwing) shoulder. Safety Ryan Clark also didn’t last the night, as the defensive standout took a hit to the head in the fourth quarter.
Despite the negatives and poor cosmetics, the Steelers (6-3) improved to 4-0 at Heinz Field and stayed within a game of AFC North-leading Baltimore (7-2). Pittsburgh takes on its archrivals in two of the next three games, but may have to suit up without their offensive catalyst in Roethlisberger, who has missed just one game over the past two seasons.
The game should have been a celebration, as the Steelers hosted Monday Night Football for the first time since 2008. However, the seemingly preordained victory was in jeopardy for much of the chilly evening, with the struggling Chiefs (1-8) mustering up one of their best efforts of 2012.
Kansas City’s Ryan Succop made a 46-yard field goal through the raindrops to send the contest to extra time, but Timmons snagged an errant Matt Cassel pass on the Chiefs’ first offensive play of overtime, essentially clinching the victory. The Chiefs have now committed 30 turnovers, 11 more than the any other NFL team. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, taking no chances with a slick football, sent the kicking team out on first down at the 6.
Suisham made three field goals in all, and Mike Wallace scored Pittsburgh’s lone touchdown with a phenomenal catch. Roethlisberger finished 9-for-18 for 84 yards through the air, while backup Byron Leftwich completed seven balls for 73 yards.
Beyond his game-changing interception, Timmons made seven tackles and defensed two passes. Clark led the Steelers in tackles with 10 and Brett Keisel had eight, plus the team’s only two sacks. Pittsburgh held Kansas City to 2-for-13 on third down and allowed only 290 total yards.
Cassel wasn’t spectacular (11-for-26, 154 yards), but he avoided the big mistake until the very end. His leading target was Dwayne Bowe, who pulled in four passes for 55 yards. The Chiefs actually outgained the Steelers 290-249, as the Kansas City defense limited Pittsburgh to 95 rushing yards.
The Chiefs took their first lead of 2012 on their second drive Monday, lifted by the effective running of Jamaal Charles. The explosive back picked up 30 yards on his first four carries, including a 12-yard burst into the end zone with 8 1/2 minutes remaining in the first quarter. Charles finished with exactly 100 yards on 23 carries.
The Steelers seemed to be getting their offense going on their third drive, but offensive lineman Willie Colon was whistled for a pair of penalties on the same play – 10 yards for holding and an extra 15 for directing obscenities at an official. The twin indiscretions set up a first-and-35 situation on which Isaac Redman fumbled the ball away to the Chiefs.
Kansas City took over inside the Pittsburgh 10 late in the first quarter, but the Steelers defense held firm to force a field-goal attempt. Succop banged it through from 22 yards away and the Chiefs had an unlikely 10-0 lead with 14:24 left in the first half.
Steelers rookie tight end David Paulson fumbled the waterlogged ball on the ensuing Pittsburgh drive, but Colon hopped on the fumble a few yards downfield. The recovery proved all the more critical when the Steelers, bolstered by Heath Miller’s two receptions and another from Paulson, got a 35-yard field goal from Suisham to cut the lead to 10-3. Miller led all Steelers receivers with four catches for 47 yards.
Following a three-and-out by Kansas City, the Steelers took the ball back and snatched control of the game with it. Two key third-down runs by Jonathan Dwyer and Roethlisberger kept the home side moving toward a remarkable drive-capping 7-yard TD catch from Wallace.
Roethlisberger looked to Wallace on a timing route near the right sideline, but the pass appeared to be slightly overthrown. However, the Steelers’ big-play receiver used his right hand to pull the ball between his legs, where it lodged for a second before he could control with both hands while tumbling onto his side.
Early in the third quarter, the Chiefs thought they had the go-ahead touchdown on a Dwayne Bowe catch-and-run, but it was negated by an offensive holding call. That penalty was underscored when an awkward snap and hold forced Succop to miss a 33-yard field goal to the right.
Roethlisberger was sandwiched for a sack on the Steelers’ first drive after halftime, sending him to the bowels of Heinz Field for an examination of his right shoulder. Leftwich entered game action for the first time all season, and he overcame some initial shakiness with a 31-yard strike to Emmanuel Sanders to pull the Steelers out to midfield late in the third quarter.
Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who just completed a three-year stint as Chiefs head coach, went back to Sanders twice more, getting a five-yard gain on an end-around and a pass interference penalty on third down that moved the chains.
The drive sputtered to a halt inside the Kansas City 20-yard line, but Suisham punched a 31-yard kick through the uprights at the open end of Heinz Field to give the Steelers their first lead of the evening.
Cassel immediately responded with a bullet throw to former Pitt wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin in Pittsburgh territory, but cornerback Ike Taylor ripped the ball away as he and Baldwin crashed to the ground. The Steelers didn’t allow a first down on that drive and the next two as well, hearkening back to last Sunday’s win over the Giants.
Unlike the victory in New York, the Steelers didn’t have No. 7 under center. With Leftwich on board, Haley’s play-calling was ultra-conservative, although a third-down completion to Jerricho Cotchery killed some clock until the Chiefs got the ball back with two minutes left in regulation.
Two quick first downs moved the ball past the 50, but a dubious offensive pass interference call pushed the Chiefs into a fourth-and-15 situation with fewer than 30 seconds on the clock. Nevertheless, Cassel came through with a 28-yard completion to Bowe down the middle, giving Succop a chance at a 46-yard field goal. The fourth-year kicker drove it through to set up what was ultimately a quick overtime.