KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. But what happens when fooled a third time? That’s the question the Chiefs defense must ask itself after Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell torched the team for the third time in just more than a year.
“They say to not take anything personal, but when they run the ball like they did on us, you have to,” linebacker Derrick Johnson said after Bell rumbled for 179 yards in Pittsburgh’s 19-13 win over the Chiefs. “Does this count for more than one loss? No, not at all. Should it light another fire? It will and we will respond right way. Time will tell.”
This marks the third time Bell and the Steelers ran at will on the Chiefs’ defense. Bell tallied 144 yards on 18 carries last October in Pittsburgh’s 43-14 win over the Chiefs. He did it again last January, rushing for 170 yards in the team’s 18-16 win at Arrowhead in the divisional playoffs.
He delivered a nearly identical performance in Sunday’s 19-13 win over the Chiefs, piling up 179 yards on 32 carries. Bell seemed routinely to make it to the second level against Kansas City’s defense. The patient runner found holes and exploited them, according to Chiefs head coach Andy Reid.
“We obviously didn’t get him on the ground,” Reid said. “He was carrying the ball and we didn’t tackle him.”
It might as well have been Groundhog Day for the Chiefs defense. They have seen this movie before. Worst of all, nothing the Chiefs did surprised Bell.
“We came in expecting to run the ball and we stuck to that game plan,” Bell said. “We got the W today.”
The Chiefs don’t seem to match up well against Bell. The bend-but-don’t-break philosophy of defensive coordinator Bob Sutton bends plenty against the talented Steelers running back.
“Kansas City does what they do,” Bell said. They play a lot of man-to-man They pride themselves on that. First and second down, if we get some good positive runs and we have third and short, it opens up the whole play book.”
Predictably was one of many flaws for the Chiefs, who also found themselves out hustled by the Steelers.
“They were the tougher team today,” Johnson said. “We knew the mindset before the game. We knew it. They were not afraid of us.”
That’s the same thing that happened last January. And last October. The pattern must break, Johnson explained.
“Every defense we have, everybody has a gap regardless of whether they pull that way or pull this way,” Johnson said. “And you got to play it the right way. They were tougher than us today. And that’s not good to repeat.”
The Chiefs locker room after the game proved quiet and somber but far from hopeless, according to linebacker Frank Zombo.
“I don’t think anyone here is panicking or anything like that,” Zombo said. “I think if anything, we’re more motivated to keep this thing going.”
Cornerback Marcus Peters said the team must put its lackluster behind them with a trip to Oakland coming up Thursday night.
“We know we could’ve stopped the run and got off the field early on third downs in the first half,” Peters said. “Can’t do anything about it now. We took the L. Go back to the drawing board, get ready for Thursday.”