Thursday, July 19, 2018
Sports

Steelers reach AFC title game without reaching end zone

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Who needs to reach the end zone when you have Le'Veon Bell chewing up yards and the clock, and Chris Boswell setting an NFL playoff record with six field goals?

Throw in a stingy Pittsburgh defense for most of Sunday night and a multitude of mistakes by Kansas City, and the Steelers' 18-16 victory sent them into the AFC Championship Game.

The Steelers needed to hold off a last-ditch threat by the Chiefs before advancing to face New England next Sunday night for a spot in the Super Bowl. The Patriots won at Pittsburgh 27-16 during the regular season, but Ben Roethlisberger was injured and didn't play.

Spencer Ware's 1-yard touchdown run took Kansas City within 18-16. The Chiefs at first converted the two-pointer to tie it, but tackle Eric Fisher — the first overall selection in the 2013 draft — was penalized for holding. The next try failed.

With 2:43 left, Justin Gilbert misplayed the kick return and was tackled at the Pittsburgh 5. Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown for 7 yards on third down and Pittsburgh then ran out the clock, securing the Steelers' ninth straight victory. The Chiefs have not won a home playoff game since 1994, losing five in a row.

The scoring started furiously in the opening minutes then the game became a kicking exhibition by Boswell, who also had six field goals in the regular season against the Bengals. And Bell put on a virtuoso running performance, patiently finding holes then exploding through them. He added a team-record 170 yards rushing to the 167 he had in a win over Miami last week.

The Steelers became first team to win a playoff game without a TD since eventual Super Bowl champion Indianapolis in the 2006 AFC divisional round at Baltimore.

Using a no-huddle attack almost to perfection early on, the Steelers drove deep into Kansas City territory. But they bogged down inside the 5 and Boswell made a 22-yard field goal.

The Chiefs were just as efficient on a six-play march capped by receiver Albert Wilson lining up in the backfield, then slipping uncovered into the end zone for a 5-yard score.

Pittsburgh's answer came on a 52-yard heave to All-Pro Brown, who somehow was covered by linebacker Justin Houston. That led to Boswell's second field goal, a 38-yarder. He added a 36-yarder to cap a 14-play drive on which Pittsburgh again barely huddled.

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