Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger raised some eyebrows ahead of their wild-card game against the defending AFC champion Chiefs on Sunday night when he admitted that “we probably aren’t supposed to be here.”
Well, he wasn’t wrong.
After taking an early lead on T.J. Watt’s fumble return for a touchdown, the Steelers watched Patrick Mahomes guide the Chiefs to six consecutive touchdown drives. So by the time Roethlisberger finally led Pittsburgh past midfield for the first time, midway through the third quarter, the outcome of what was likely his final game had been decided.
The Chiefs advanced to face Buffalo in the divisional round next Sunday night with a 42-21 blowout of the Steelers.
“I mean, shoot, we thought last week was going to be the end,” Roethlisberger said. “We got blessed to play another football game. Didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but it’s a blessing to play this football game. How lucky are we that we get to play football for a living? We have to count our blessings.”
Still, it was the Steelers’ fourth straight playoff loss their last win came in the divisional round in Kansas City almost five years ago to the day and in each they trailed by at least 21 points. Two of those defeats came at home when Pittsburgh was a heavy favorite, including a wild-card loss to the Browns last season.
The difference this time? For Roethlisberger, it appears there won’t be a next time.
The six-time Pro Bowl quarterback, who returned the Steelers to prominence with a pair of Super Bowl wins, made it clear he expects this season to be his last. And if that’s the case, the performance by the 39-year-old Roethlisberger in his 23rd career playoff start — tied for fourth with Joe Montana among all NFL quarterbacks — will be one to forget.
His passes fluttered. They floated. They certainly lacked the zip they had early in his career.
They also didn’t produce enough offense.