KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WDAF) — In a viral clip in November, former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back and current ESPN commentator Ryan Clark said Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was broken because of the team’s early-season offensive struggles.
That was after the Chiefs beat the Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers and were two games into their eight-game winning streak.
Since that point, Mahomes has garnered 2,305 yards, 17 touchdowns, three interceptions and a 93.9 quarterback rating. Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense are broken no more.
Clark has gone on to admit the Chiefs have turned it around. “You know what? Broken stuff gets fixed!” he said on ESPN.
While Mahomes receives fanfare and criticism because he’s considered one of the best active quarterbacks in the NFL, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t received much of those criticisms for his less than stellar play this season because of his presumed retirement at the end of this season.
The first time Mahomes and Roethlisberger faced off was in Week 2 of the 2018 season: a shootout in Pittsburgh that ended with a Kansas City win 42-37 in Mahomes’ third career start.
Mahomes threw six touchdowns along with 326 yards, while Roethlisberger threw three touchdowns with 452 yards and rushed for one touchdown.
Back in those days, Big Ben still had JuJu Smith-Schuster and Antonio Brown to throw the ball to; now he has receivers Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool and tight end Pat Freiermuth as his main options. Solid receiving options but not as phenomenal as JuJu and AB.
Roethlisberger’s receiving options and his age (39) may contribute to why he hasn’t thrown for more than 318 receiving yards all season.
The last time the Chiefs faced the Steelers in the playoffs was in January 2017, an 18-16 defensive battle that saw Pittsburgh beat the Chiefs without scoring a touchdown to go to the AFC championship.
This (potentially final) Mahomes-Roethlisberger matchup could be like that if the defenses come to play as some do in the playoffs.
With the temperature sitting around 32 degrees Fahrenheit at kickoff on Sunday night, these teams won’t be limited to the run either.
While Roethlisberger will look to keep his farewell tour going, he’ll be staring down an aggressive, blitz-heavy defense that looks to stop him cold and a similar version of his old self at quarterback in Mahomes.
If the Steelers can run on the Chiefs’ vulnerable run defense, the Steelers will have a chance.
But there’s also a chance of a repeat dominant performance by Mahomes and the Chiefs, just like in Week 16.