A lot of comparisons are being made between last night's ugmo win in Kansas City and the equally putrid yet also equally victorious showing that the Steelers had in the beginning of the season in Indianapolis.
And while I was one of the many down on the team after the win in Indy, I'm much less so after last night. Why? Because now, as opposed to then, I know the Steelers are capable of much better. And this shoddy performance was coming off a bye week, which has mysteriously been tripping up more than a few teams this season.
Not that the Chiefs haven't been dealt more than a few personnel setbacks (Tyler Palko being able to commit terrible turnover after terrible turnover last night is evidence enough) but the Steelers had more than a few of their own on Sunday night. There's the obviously concerning head injury to Polamalu. The team had to deal with Maurkice Pouncey not being able to go at the last minute.
Then, of course, a potential trap game started off in the least desirable way. The Chiefs, whose defense came out fired up as they did the week before against New England, got on the board first. The Steelers looked primed to respond with a touchdown to take the lead, only for Mewelde Moore to cough the ball up as he was making a nice run inside the five. I'll question a lot of Bruce Arians' playcalling, but I didn't necessarily hate the idea of that run. And it's not as though the play failed. Had Moore not fumbled, it's at least a five- or six-yard gain to set up a third and goal from the 1 or 2. It's not like Arians told MeMo to put it on the ground just before reaching the goal line. Unless he actually is evil personified. Still, I feel like even if that were the case, he would have funneled his evil through a bubble screen of some sort.
Not gonna let Mike Wallace off the hook. He's quickly become one of my favorite players on the team, but that was one of his worst showings. He dropped a pretty routine touchdown grab on the play before Moore's fumble. He let another long pass go through his hands later on. The latter was far more excusable. Wallace didn't have tons of separation from a defender who had a 10-yard cushion to try to cover him deep, plus the DB's outstretched hand also blocked his vision. Nevertheless, Mike got his hands on the ball and maybe we're spoiled, but we're used to seeing him haul those in.
For as poorly as the offense played - the O-line's regression (possibly because of Pouncey's absence) was troubling - the defense got turnovers. Yes, two of them were giftwrapped, but, hey, sometimes turnovers are giftwrapped and teams still don't get them. Look at the Chargers on Sunday, for instance. so, that was nice. Could have lived with more of a pass rush, but Woodley is coming back soon and thank goodness for that.
So I'm not gonna join the chorus of pessimists, unless of course Polamalu will have to miss extended time because of the concussion. I've heard mixed reports on that issue thus far, but he was able to come back the following week after taking a similar blow earlier this season against Jacksonville, so hopefully that trend will be followed.
The Steelers won't have the luxury of playing down to competition next week, when they face the Bengals for the second time in a month. Taking down Cincy again at Heinz Field would erase a lot of the nagging doubts that resurfaced last night. It would almost open up a mostly easy closing stretch for the team.