Chris Boswell kicked six field goals, and those 18 points were enough to carry Pittsburgh to an AFC Championship showdown with the New England Patriots. The Chiefs were dynamite when the Steelers hit the red zone, but couldn’t get enough from playmakers like Alex Smith, Tyreek Hill, and Jeremy Maclin to outscore a hampered visiting offense.
Kansas City put its bend-don’t-break defense on full display as Pittsburgh punched five different drives into the red zone, but came away with just nine points as a result. While one of those ventures was erased by the end of the first half, strong defensive stands, dynamic secondary play, and an acrobatic interception at the goal line prevented Ben Roethlisberger from finding the promised land.
But Pittsburgh kicker Chris Boswell wouldn’t be as easily denied. The 25-year-old set an NFL playoff record with his sixth field goal of the evening, splitting the uprights with a 43-yard kick that gave the Steelers an 18-10 lead with just over 10 minutes to play.
The Chiefs responded with a methodical 13-play, 75-yard drive that featured a pair of fourth down conversions to clip the Pittsburgh lead to 18-16. A two-point attempt to a wide open Demetrius Harris appeared to have tied the game at 18-all, but a blatant holding call on left tackle Eric Fisher erased the important scoring play. Alex Smith’s do-over pass from the 12 was deflected out of the end zone, and the home team was left with 2:43 and just one timeout to find a way to erase Pittsburgh’s two-point lead.
Strong special teams play pinned the Steelers at their own five on the ensuing kickoff, but a clutch third-and-three pass from Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown — Brown’s first reception of the second half — gave Pittsburgh the space it needed to run out the clock and escape its trip to western Missouri with a win.
The win was the Steelers’ ninth straight. They’ll hope to keep that momentum moving forward next weekend in New England.
Wild Card Round
Saturday, Jan. 7
Sunday, Jan. 8
Saturday, Jan. 14
GAME 5: Atlanta Falcons 36, Seattle Seahawks 20
GAME 6: New England Patriots 34, Houston Texans 16
Sunday, Jan. 15
GAME 7: Green Bay Packers 34, Dallas Cowboys 31
GAME 8: Pittsburgh Steelers 18, Kansas City Chiefs 16
Sunday, Jan. 22
NFC Championship: Green Bay Packers vs. Atlanta Falcons, 3:05 p.m., FOX
AFC Championship: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots, 6:40 p.m., CBS
Super Bowl LI
Sunday, Feb. 5
AFC champion vs. NFC champion, 6:30 p.m., FOX