It wasn’t pretty, but the Pittsburgh Steelers punched their ticket to the AFC Championship game with a Sunday night victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. Going into the game, analysts had keyed in on the match-up between Pittsburgh’s star-studded offense and the Chiefs stout defense. The Chiefs defense did their part for a majority of the game, keeping the Steelers’ playmakers out of the end zone and forcing Pittsburgh to settle for Chris Boswell field goals. In all, Boswell made six of them, accounting for all 18 of the Steelers’ points.
Albeit a sluggish game from the Chiefs offense, Kansas City still had an opportunity to tie the game on a two-point conversion attempt late in the 4th quarter. Alex Smith delivered a beautiful drop pass to tight end Demetrius Harris to convert the attempt, but the play was called back for a holding call on left tackle Eric Fisher.
The Chiefs didn’t convert the ensuing attempt, allowing the Steelers to take control of the ball and run the clock out to seal the victory.
Star tight end Travis Kelce was vocal in his critique of the official that made the call that nullified the game-tying attempt. Kelce bashed the referee saying, “Referee No. 51 shouldn’t even be able to wear a zebra jersey ever again.”
Losing in the playoffs is never easy. All of the time, effort, hard work and dedication put forth throughout the regular season can be all for naught as just a few inches can dictate the course of your season. Kelce has the right to be upset, but he’s off here. After just one view of the replay, it’s plainly obvious that Fisher held James Harrison on that play. It was the right call – regardless of the score or time left on the clock.
Kansas City goes back to the drawing board. The recipe seems to be the same every year for the Chiefs – doubted going into the season, put together quality win after quality win, enter the playoffs as a sneaky underdog pick and then fall flat in the season’s biggest game. Whether it be due to inconsistent offensive production or questionable coaching decisions, the only thing the Chiefs consistently do is disappoint in the playoffs.
Eric Berry is a free agent this offseason, and the future of forgotten star Jamaal Charles is up in the air, but the Chiefs will tout a talented roster yet again in 2017 and will have to take a long, hard look in the mirror if they want to get over that playoff hump.
For Pittsburgh, it’s the New England Patriots standing in the way of a 7th Lombardi Trophy. Two of the most famed franchises with two of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time square off for a chance to represent the AFC in the biggest sporting event of the year. If you aren’t excited for this, you aren’t a football fan.
Sources: Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports, ESPN