Trying to find the bright spots in a 22-0 Pittsburgh lead at the half might pose a bigger challenge than the Chiefs face in mounting a comeback against the Steelers on Sunday football at Heinz Field.
Probably the only good news is the return of running back Jamaal Charles. The All-Pro back has a rush for six yards one pass target in limited play.
Otherwise the first half has been all about the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger set the tone early, dropping back into his own end zone on first down from the 5-yard line and firing a bomb toward the coverage of Marcus Peters. Wide receiver Sammie Coates hauled in the pass for 47 yards, and the Steelers were off to the races.
The Chiefs also shot themselves in the foot on several occasions. Running back Spencer Ware fumbled for the third-straight game, setting up the Steelers for their first touchdown to make the score 8-0.
Alex Smith had a pass tipped on the next possession, and the Steelers scored in one play to make it 15-0.
The Steelers added their third touchdown of the first quarter following a 23-yard Dustin Colquitt punt that gave the Steelers the ball at the Chiefs 40-yard line.
The Chiefs set a team record with 21-point comeback against San Diego in the season opener. A comeback may not be in the cards, but here’s what the Chiefs can accomplish in the second half.
Score on defense and special teams
The defense carried the Chiefs to a win a week ago with five second-half interceptions against the New York Jets, and they need to do it again.
An irrelevant holding call reversed a dynamic 78-yard punt return by the electric Tyreek Hill that could have cut into the deficit. That’s the second kick return for a touchdown Hill has lost this season to a penalty.
The Chiefs need multiple scores on defense or a series of short fields to get anywhere close getting back in this game.
It’s common sense, and it’s been said too many times early in this season, but the Chiefs have to play with better discipline. Turnovers, penalties, special teams miscues and poor execution in all phases plagued the Chiefs in the first half.
Why the Chiefs continue to make mistakes remains a mystery. Better execution won’t close the gap in the second half, but it will keep the Steelers from pouring on even more points.
Get youngsters playing time
If the Chiefs eat into the lead quickly in the third quarter, it’s time to cut losses and look down the road. No reason to risk Jeremy Maclin, Travis Kelce, Tamba Hali and Eric Berry in a rainstorm on one of the worst fields in the NFL.
But it could be a great opportunity to give young players some valuable playing time. Wide receivers Hill and Demarcus Robinson, tight end Ross Travis, linebacker Dadi Nicolas and safety Eric Murray and others could gain useful experience in mopping up in this game.
The Steelers want this game over too. They don’t want to expose their stars in this debacle any more than the Chiefs do.