KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The way quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sounded Sunday night, the Steelers not only should have lost to the Kansas City Chiefs, they shouldn’t be allowed to show their faces in Pittsburgh any time soon.
The Steelers eked out a 13-9 victory over a team that has now lost four straight, and if not for an interception by Keenan Lewis with 29 seconds remaining, could well have lost. But the fact remained that Pittsburgh came out on top, and is still tied with Baltimore atop the AFC North.
“It’s tough,” Roethlisberger said, “because it’s a mixed feeling type of thing: You’re happy to get the win, but you’re disappointed the way the offense played. I think that’s what team’s all about. The defense stepped up huge today.”
Yes, things may have been miserable for Pittsburgh on offense, but clearly Big Ben wasn’t giving enough credit to the guys on the other side of the ball.
The Steelers picked off Chiefs quarterback Tyler Palko three times and recovered a fumbled snap, despite playing most of the way without star safety Troy Polamalu, who experienced concussion-like symptoms after banging his head into the knee of a Chiefs player while making a tackle.
All those miscues kept Kansas City out of the end zone for the second straight week.
“It was a situation where we didn’t feel like Palko could get it over our heads,” safety Ryan Clark said. “The play Keenan made at the end, that’s a signature play for him and for our defense.”
Roethlisberger finished 21 of 31 for 193 yards with a touchdown and an interception for the Steelers (8-3), despite playing with a broken thumb on his throwing hand that hurt the whole game.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “It was not comfortable.”
Roethlisberger proved that he’s better than Palko with one good hand, though.
The journeyman quarterback, making his second consecutive start in place of the injured Matt Cassel, fared little better than he did last week against New England, when he tossed three picks in his first NFL start. Palko finished 18 of 28 for 167 yards and four big turnovers.
The Chiefs claimed former Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton off waivers Wednesday with the intention of having him compete with Palko for the starting job, a competition that might already be over. Orton didn’t arrive in town until Friday, so he didn’t have time to learn the playbook before Sunday night.
“He’ll have a much better chance this week to compete,” Chiefs coach Todd Haley said, “and like I said, Tyler is the starter, but whatever position we say, if someone gives us a better chance to win, that’s the guideline we generally follow.”
Kansas City led 3-0 in the second quarter when Palko’s first interception, which Ike Taylor returned to the Chiefs 8, resulted in a 21-yard field goal by the Steelers’ Shaun Suisham.
The second pick was returned by Ryan Mundy, who had taken over at safety for Polamalu, to the Kansas City 24. The defense appeared to hold Pittsburgh when Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali sacked Roethlisberger on third-and-7, but safety Jon McGraw was called for defensive holding to give the Steelers a first down.
Three plays later, Roethlisberger found Weslye Saunders in the back of the end zone.
“He was kind of one of the last options,” Roethlisberger said. “I saw Wes coming in the back of the end zone, he’s kind of a big target, so I just kind of threw it up to him.”
Ryan Succop added a 49-yard field goal later in the second quarter for Kansas City, his second of the game, but Suisham answered with his own 49-yarder on the final play of the first half.
Succop added a 40-yard field goal with 6:11 left in the fourth quarter.
Polamalu left the game in the first quarter when he tackled 290-pound Chiefs offensive tackle Steve Maneri, who had caught a pass in the flat after lining up in the backfield.
The reigning Defensive Player of the Year hit his head hit Maneri’s knee and crumpled to the turf, where he lay while trainers came out to check on him. Polamalu was a bit wobbly when he stood up and coach Mike Tomlin said after the game that he was experiencing “concussion-like symptoms.”
Roethlisberger showed little evidence of the broken thumb that caused him to be somewhat limited in practice, hitting 10 different receivers. He got some help from Rashard Mendenhall, who ran for 57 yards, and a defense that kept giving the Pittsburgh offense prime field position.
The Steelers squandered a promising opportunity in the first quarter, driving inside the Chiefs 10-yard line. Backup running back Mewelde Moore had the ball poked out by Hali and it was recovered by Javier Arenas in the end zone for a touchback.
Kansas City gave the ball right back when Palko fumbled the snap moments later.
Pittsburgh also had a decent drive end midway through the scoreless third when Roethlisberger underthrew Antonio Brown down the sideline. Kansas City safety Travis Daniels swooped in to make the interception, but the Chiefs’ bumbling offense couldn’t capitalize.
That wound up being the story of the game.
“We’re excited about winning — and winning on the road — and making the necessary plays,” Tomlin said. “We produced turnovers tonight, and that was big for us.”
NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE
At Arrowhead Stadium
Kansas City, Mo.
Pittsburgh 13, Kansas City 9
Pittsburgh 0 13 0 0 — 13
Kansas City 3 3 0 3 — 9
KC — FG Succop 41, 10:40.
Pit — FG Suisham 21, 13:29.
Pit — Saunders 2 pass from Roethlisberger (Suisham kick), 10:53.
KC — FG Succop 49, 4:30.
Pit — FG Suisham 49, :00.
KC — FG Succop 40, 7:11.
A — 72,173.
First downs 18 15
Total Net Yards 290 252
Rushes-yards 28-108 34-90
Passing 182 162
Punt Returns 0-0 2-21
Kickoff Returns 4-77 1-20
Interceptions Ret. 3-43 1-25
Comp-Att-Int 21-31-1 18-28-3
Sacked-Yards Lost 1-11 1-5
Punts 5-42.2 3-37.3
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 1-1
Penalties-Yards 6-50 4-20
Time of Possession 33:30 26:30
RUSHING — Pittsburgh, Mendenhall 17-57, Redman 3-22, Moore 2-16, Roethlisberger 4-8, A.Brown 2-5. Kansas City, Jones 13-37, McCluster 9-28, Battle 9-20, Arenas 2-5, Palko 1-0.
PASSING — Pittsburgh, Roethlisberger 21-31-1-193. Kansas City, Palko 18-28-3-167.
RECEIVING — Pittsburgh, A.Brown 4-81, Ward 4-21, Moore 3-9, Sanders 2-25, Wallace 2-17, Mendenhall 2-10, Redman 2-8, Miller 1-20, Saunders 1-2. Kansas City, Bowe 7-69, Breaston 4-44, Baldwin 2-26, McCluster 2-11, Pope 1-9, Jones 1-7, Maneri 1-1.