It was neither pretty nor prolific, but the Pittsburgh Steelers did just enough on the primetime stage to come away with a road win over the Kansas City Chiefs, 13-9. The key in the game was Chiefs quarterback Tyler Palko's three interceptions. The Steelers converted those into 10 of their 13 points, including the game's only touchdown from Ben Roethlisberger to Weslye Saunders.
The Chiefs started the game off surprisingly well, mixing run and pass to keep the Steelers defense off balance, before stalling out on the edge of the red zone. Ryan Succop's first field goal of the game gave them a 3-0 lead. It looked like the Steelers would establish the game's expected order the next drive, but Mewelde Moore fumbled inside the Kansas City five-yard-line.
The Steelers would get on the board early in the second quarter, after an Ike Taylor interception return set them up inside the Kansas City 10. The Steeler red zone troubles continued, but Shaun Suisham did convert the field position into three points and a tie game. Following the kickoff, Tyler Palko's next pass would be intercepted as well, this time by Ryan Mundy. It looked like the Chiefs had stopped the Steelers again, when Roethlisberger was sacked on third down, but Jon McGraw was flagged for holding to continue the drive. Three plays later, Roethlisberger hit Saunders for the touchdown and a 10-3 lead.
Following an exchange of punts, the teams would exchange 49-yard field goals before halftime for a 13-6 Steelers advantage at the half. In the second half, though, the Steelers would struggle to put together enough consistent plays to get into scoring possession. A Ben Roethlisberger throw into double coverage ended their first possession. Mike Tomlin's decision to burn a timeout, then punt on fourth-and-four at the Chiefs 39 ended the second possession. Third possession, a punt from the Kansas City 45. Meanwhile, the Chiefs hadn't done anything offensively either, but then a couple successful Tyler Palko passes, the big one for 20 yards to rookie receiver Jonathan Baldwin got them close enough for a 40-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 13-9.
The Chiefs would get the ball back with 4:12 to play and a chance to drive for the game-winning score, but time was squandered, and Keenan Lewis's interception of Tyler Palko ended the game with the Chiefs yet again failing to reach the red zone.
There wasn't a lot to recommend in this game. The Steelers played conservatively and struggled to move the ball with any consistency through the air or on the ground. They may not have decided that 13 points was enough to win the game, but even without Troy Polamalu for most of the game with a first half head injury, the Chiefs couldn't do enough with the ball to win. It looked more like a Baltimore Ravens game, but the Steelers managed to keep pace with the Ravens at 8-3 and be prepared to take the lead should the Ravens falter down the stretch.
1. Ryan Mundy, safety, Steelers. Playing more with Polamalu injured, he led the team with 10 tackles and had an interception to boot.
2. Chiefs pass rush. Amon Gordon had the only sack, but Tamba Hali and his compadres got pretty good pressure on Ben Roethlisberger and forced more short passes and dumpoffs than the Steelers likely intended.
3. Chiefs secondary. Brandon Carr and Brandon Flowers are one of the best cornerback tandems in the league, and the Steelers throwing underneath and not hitting many deep passes wasn't solely the result of the pass rush.
1. Tyler Palko, quarterback, Chiefs. Three interceptions and a fumble that the Steelers failed to convert into points. Eighteen completions on 28 attempts, 167 yards. He's simply not good enough, which is why the Chiefs claimed Kyle Orton off waivers. Orton was inactive for this game, but expect to see him in the starting lineup next week no matter how little of the playbook he knows.
2. Running games. Rashard Mendenhall: 17 carries, 57 yards. Thomas Jones: 13 carries, 37 yards. Dexter McCluster: 9 carries, 28 yards. Jackie Battle: 9 carries, 20 yards. Those numbers aren't solely the fault of the backs, as both offensive lines struggled. No matter what the distribution of responsibility, though, neither team had anything like a sustaining running game.
3. Bob Costas, NBC. For a smug and self-righteous diatribe on touchdown celebrations as part of NBC's halftime show. As Clint Eastwood might say, "Get off my lawn!"