KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger raised some eyebrows ahead of their game against the defending AFC champion Chiefs on Sunday night when he admitted the Steelers were « probably not supposed to be here. »
He wasn’t wrong.
After taking the lead on a fumble return from TJ Watt for a touchdown, the Steelers watched as Patrick Mahomes effortlessly guided the Chiefs to five straight touchdowns. So when Roethlisberger finally led Pittsburgh beyond midfield for the first time, midway through the third quarter, the outcome of what is likely his last game was already decided.
The Chiefs qualified to face Buffalo in the Divisional Round next Sunday night after beating the Steelers 42-21.
It’s their fourth straight playoff loss — the Steelers’ last win came against Kansas City almost five years ago to the day — and each time they’ve trailed by at least 21 points.
The difference this time around? For Roethlisberger, it seems there will be no next time.
« Instead of coming here and talking about the things we haven’t done, I think the classiest thing to do is compliment the Kansas City Chiefs, » Roethlisberger said. They have a very good football team, they have an explosive football team, and they did a very good job tonight. »
The six-time Pro Bowl quarterback, who brought the Steelers back to prominence with two Super Bowl wins, has made it clear he expects this season to be his last.
Clearly, Roethlisberger was playing at an insufficient level to allow his team to aspire to victory.
« I just told him I had a lot of respect for him, » said Mahomes, who quickly walked over to Roethlisberger after the match concluded. I watched growing up the way he played, he was competitive until the end. And he’s done that all season and who knows what the future will be, but it was great to be here and see him. »
Roethlisberger won 165 games, threw for over 64,000 yards, and he maintained success through hundreds of teammates and plenty of controversy and drama at the Steelers. His career began with winning the AFC Offensive Rookie of the Year award and ended with bringing a team few thought was worthy of the playoffs into the postseason.
The Chiefs will host the Bills next Sunday. Buffalo won 38-20 in October, but Mahomes and the Chiefs won 38-24 in their meeting in the AFC Championship game last January.