Mike Tomlin called this “Redemption Sunday” in Pittsburgh, and the Kansas City Chiefs happened to be the road apple in the way of the speeding 18-wheeler that was the Steelers during what turned out to be a 43-14 laugher.
Tomlin’s theme was installed after the Steelers, whom many considered legitimate Super Bowl contenders after the first two weeks of the season, were waxed in a 31-point drubbing at the hands of Carson Wentz and the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 3.
As we know, however, the NFL is a week-to-week proposition and this was a very tough spot for the Chiefs, who failed to weather an early-game storm at a rainy Heinz Field from what was an ornery Tomlin-led bunch who welcomed back the dynamic Le’Veon Bell from his latest substance-abuse suspension.
By the end of the first 15 minutes, it was 22-0 Steelers, and if the NFL had a mercy rule, Mike Pereira may have buzzed in from New York to implement it.
The snowball started racing downhill toward Andy Reid’s club when rookie cornerback D.J. White started freelancing and jumped an underneath route when he was supposed to be in a Cover-3 defense, enabling speedy receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey to run free for a 31-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger.
Tomlin’s love of the two-point conversion was on display after the scoring pass as Big Ben waited patiently in the pocket before hitting Markus Wheaton over the middle for an early 8-0 advantage.
When you get hit by a right cross like that, you have to stem the tide, and the Chiefs did anything but. Alex Smith tried to lob a screen pass over Cameron Heyward, but the defensive lineman got his hand on the football, changing the trajectory toward his teammate, linebacker Jarvis Jones, who rumbled 20 yards to the Kansas City 4-yard line.
The Steelers needed only one play to cash in as Roethlisberger found Antonio Brown for the TD.
If that was the standing eight-count, the knockout blow came after a dismal 23-yard punt by Dustin Colquitt set up Pittsburgh in plus territory. After a short run by Bell, who finished with 178 all-purpose yards on the night, Roethlisberger saw a single-high safety and looked him off Brown before reversing back and connecting with the All-Pro wideout for a 38-yard TD.
Roethlisberger, who finished with five TDs on the night, had thrown for three in three passing attempts.
In case you were wondering, the Steelers have been playing since 1933 and have won a record six Super Bowl championships, but Sunday night was the first time that the franchise scored 22 points in the first quarter.
From that point, it was about getting through the final 45-plus minutes as healthy as possible before getting on a plane back to the Show Me State for the Chiefs.
For the most part, that was the only thing Kansas City was able to accomplish, as running back Knile Davis was placed in the concussion protocol but everyone else’s only real malady was embarrassment.
Every NFL season has its ebb and flow, and the Chiefs still consider themselves a playoff-level team, much like Pittsburgh did after its own dismal performance in Philadelphia.
How teams handle adversity defines them, however.
You learned a lot about Tomlin and the Steelers tonight, while Reid is likely already thinking about embarking on his own “Redemption Sunday.” After a bye, Kansas City gets back at it Oct. 16 when the Chiefs visit the 3-1 Raiders.
At the quarter pole of the season, though, the Chiefs are now looking up at both Denver and Oakland in the tough AFC West and will have plenty to prove when they return from vacation.
-John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter @JFMcMullen — Also catch John each week during the NFL season on ESPN South Jersey, ESPN Southwest Florida, ESPN Lexington, KDWN in Las Vegas, and check @JFMcMullen for John’s upcoming appearances on SB Nation Radio, FOX Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio as well as dozens of local radio stations across North America.