What We Saw: Week 16

It was a big week for young WRs

Steelers @ Chiefs

Final Score: Chiefs 36, Steelers 10

Writer: Callen Elslager (@callen_elslager on Twitter and Reddit)

 

The Kansas City Chiefs clinched the AFC West in dominant fashion with a 36-10 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. What makes this win even more impressive is that the Chiefs did this without Travis Kelce, with a clearly not 100% Tyreek Hill, and with a running game that lost Clyde Edwards-Helaire midway through the game. This clearly did not bother the Chiefs as Byron Pringle found the end zone twice, and both Derrick Gore and Darrell Williams filled in greatly allowing the Chiefs to continue to have an offense threatening through both the ground and the air.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers

 

Quarterback

 

Ben Roethlisberger: 23/35, 159 yards, TD, INT

Mason Rudolph: 5/8, 35 yards | 1 carry, 17 yards

 

Sunday was a very disappointing afternoon for Ben Roethlisberger, as he was unable to get anything going on offense. With no time created by the offensive line, Roethlisberger was forced to get rid of the ball quickly while the Kansas City press defense did not allow for the Pittsburgh pass catchers to get yards after the catch. Roethlisberger’s lone touchdown came very late in the game with the Steelers down by 30 on a quick slant to Diontae Johnson, where he would take off upfield after that and into the end zone. On the other hand, whether it was the wind that took the ball or a very overthrown football, after a flea-flicker attempt to Ray-Ray McLeod sailed way over his head, Roethlisberger ended up with his interception, as seen below. Mason Rudolph would come in to relieve Roethlisberger late in the fourth quarter when the game was far out of reach.

 

 

Running Back

 

Najee Harris: 19 carries, 93 yards | 7 targets, 5 receptions, 17 yards

Benny Snell Jr.: 5 carries, 20 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 6 yards

 

The offensive line was not creating many gaps for Najee Harris to cut through and gain many yards as he was stopped quickly after the line of scrimmage often on Sunday. As the game progressed, Harris began to gain more positive yards but it seems as that was game script-dependent as the Kansas City defense played much softer, having such a large lead. This is the same as in the passing game, where Harris was stopped very quickly after catching the ball, and was not able to get yards after the catch. Benny Snell would come in at times to spell Harris, but his opportunities mainly came when the game became further out of reach, and Pittsburgh began to pull their starters.

 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

 

Diontae Johnson: 9 targets, 6 receptions, 51 yards, TD

Chase Claypool: 6 targets, 4 receptions, 41 yards

Zach Gentry: 4 targets, 4 receptions, 31 yards

Ray-Ray McLeod: 8 targets, 4 receptions, 25 yards

Cody White: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 16 yards

Kevin Rader: 2 targets, 1 reception, 7 yards

James Washington: 2 targets

 

While Diontae Johnson caught the lone touchdown, as seen below, the game got further and further out of reach. Sunday was quite the uncharacteristic day for him compared to the rest of this season. As discussed, with the press coverage employed by Kansas City, Johnson was unable to gain many yards after the catch, which he has done throughout the season. When he was able to do so, he had a very tough fumble where he just lost control of the ball as he was running with it, and also had an uncharacteristic drop on a pass where he got wide open in space.

 

 

After two highlight-reel catches by Chase Claypool, the Steelers were unable to get him going more as the press coverage and pressure from the defensive line did not allow for the deep shots Pittsburgh normally takes with him. As seen below he did find his way into the highlight reel with an athletic leaping catch on a ball thrown behind him.

 

 

With the injury to Pat Friermuth keeping him out this week, the Steelers still leaned on the tight end position and a solid performance by Zach Gentry, being targeted in similar positions as which Friermuth would have minus the red zone looks. The loss of Pat Friermuth also meant more targets for Ray-Ray Mcleod, who had a few unfortunate drops that could have padded his stats a little more.

 

Kansas City Chiefs

 

Quarterback

 

Patrick Mahomes: 23/30, 258 yards, 3 TD

 

No Travis Kelce? No problem as Patrick Mahomes put together a vintage Mahomes performance and picked apart the struggling Steeler defense for three touchdowns. The first was a very impressive pass while moving up in the pocket with plenty of time to find Byron Pringle in the back of the end zone, with the other two on quick passes down near the goal line, where Pringle and Mecole Hardman were able to take off after the catch to find the end zone.

 

 

Mahomes and co. are rounding into form right on time, much to the chagrin of AFC fans everywhere.

 

Running Back

 

Darrell Williams: 11 carries, 55 yards | 3 targets, 3 receptions, 30 yards

Derrick Gore: 12 carries, 43 yards | 3 targets, 3 receptions, 61 yards

Clyde Edwards-Helaire: 9 carries, 27 yards, TD | 1 target, 1 reception, 4 yards

Michael Burton: 1 carry, 2 yards

 

Early in the game, the Chiefs would run the ball through Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who was stopped a few times in the backfield, but powered through one of these by pushing the Steeler defenders off him and pushing back outside for a touchdown at the goal line. In the third quarter, it would be announced that Edwards-Helaire would miss the remainder of the game which created more opportunities for both Darrell Williams and Derrick Gore. While Williams split work with Edwards-Helaire, both options torched the banged-up Steeler defensive line with open gaps and breaking into the open field. Both also received plenty of involvement in the passing game, getting both dump-offs and shots downfield from Mahomes.

 

 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

 

Byron Pringle: 7 targets, 6 receptions, 75 yards, 2 TD

Mecole Hardman: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 31 yards, TD

Tyreek Hill: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 19 yards

Demarcus Robinson: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 15 yards

Noah Gray: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 12 yards

Blake Bell: 1 target, 1 reception, 11 yards

Josh Gordon: 3 targets

 

With no Travis Kelce this week, there was a question of who would emerge in this offense alongside Tyreek Hill. The need for another pass catcher to emerge was only highlighted by the fact that Hill was not 100%, as he would often be found on the sideline throughout the game, though it was not made clear whether this was due to another injury, or the fact that Hill had only recently made his way back from the COVID list. The receiver who emerged, in this case, was Byron Pringle, who showed off his speed to break open in space and make plays happen by getting open, such as the first touchdown shown earlier. He also caught another touchdown by taking the catch and sprinting to the endzone after a quick slant from Mahomes, while also avoiding two separate tackles along the way.

 

 

Speaking of speed, Mecole Hardman used his speed to get open downfield in crucial situations. He also used this speed while tip-toeing into the end zone off an outside pass to Mahomes while staying in bounds down the sideline for another Kansas City touchdown. Without Kelce, the combo of Noah Gray and Blake Bell kept drives going while moving over the middle for some important catches during the game.

 

 

— Callen Elslager (@callen_elslager on Twitter and Reddit)

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