Steelers take on Chiefs in rematch of playoff battle
No one needs to remind the Kansas City Chiefs of the last time they lost a football game, 18-16 at home in the playoffs to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The bitter aftertaste of postseason defeat lingered with the club throughout the offseason, providing the motivation that drives the NFL's final unbeaten team of 2017.
"I'm not the type of person who lives off the past," running back Charcandrick West said. "We're all in a new year, but we all know what happened last year and that's kind of a chip on our shoulder."
Quarterback Alex Smith said watching last year's game in preparation for this Sunday.
"It definitely brings back a lot of missed opportunities," Smith said.
But this appears a different Chiefs team than the one swept by the Steelers last year. Pittsburgh pasted Kansas City 43-14 last season at home, then broke the Chiefs' hearts in the playoffs. Kansas City mustered only 227 yards of offense in the postseason loss.
This year's Chiefs offense shows no signs of slowing down, however, ranking second in the league with 414 yards per game. The Chiefs lead the league with 6.64 yards per play and 32.9 points per game.
"Certainly, I think we know that we are a different team at this point as well," Smith said. "So you kind of relish the opportunity."
Coach Andy Reid said he believes the rematch offers a measurement for his team's offensive improvement.
"This will be a real good challenge for us offensively," Reid said. "We are doing some things that are different, but not a bunch -- I just think our execution, we didn't execute as well as we needed to last year and we'll see how we do."
Pittsburgh visits Kansas City reeling from a 30-9 home loss to Jacksonville last week. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger tossed five interceptions in the loss.
The frustration of the loss prompted Roethlisberger after the game to tell reporters that maybe he doesn't have it in him anymore. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin defended his quarterback.
"We turned the ball over five times, and obviously that's a lot of negativity associated with that," Tomlin said. "But protection of the football is an 11-man job. It's not just Ben. We're all moving forward in the same spirit."
Reid doesn't buy that Roethlisberger is anything less today than a year ago.
"I think that was more just to back people off from the questions," Reid said. "We get hit with a couple questions and that can be kind of a back off deal. I know we have to play against a heck of a player, a future Hall of Fame player. We got to get ourselves ready, we don't think much about all those comments."
Smith defended Roethlisberger, who also completed 60 percent of his passes for 312 yards.
"I know he was frustrated in the moment," Smith said. "I know he said this and it is easy to make too much of it. I think he is still playing at a pretty good level from afar."
Roethlisberger now faces a defense that he bested last January, but it's also a unit that kept his offense out of the end zone and held his team to six field goals. He remains wary of a secondary led by All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters.
"Peters may be one of the best in the business -- just always seems to be around the ball making plays," Roethlisberger told reporters Wednesday. "Even when it's man coverage, he leaves his man to intercept balls to other guys."
Roethlisberger always seems to bring his best against the Chiefs. He's 5-1 as a starting quarterback in his career against Kansas City. That his highest win total against any team outside the AFC North.
His 118.7 quarterback rating against the Chiefs ranks as his best against any team he played more than twice.
But he also recalls going to Arrowhead Stadium last January and leaving with six field goals and a win.
"Obviously, last time we went there wasn't so great, but we won the game, which is always the best part," Roethlisberger said.
"You play a great team like this, a great defense on the road with the environment that they always have at Arrowhead. Just excited for it. You do this long enough you get excited for these matchups."
Updated October 11, 2017