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Winners and Losers from the Steelers' 42-21 loss to the Chiefs in the wild card game


(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)


Winners:


T.J. Watt - Watt was really the only player who had a standout performance. Watt finished the game with three tackles, a sack, three hits on Patrick Mahomes, a pass deflection that resulted in a Devin Bush interception, and a 26-yard scoop-and-score to put the Steelers up 7-0 with 10:41 remaining in the second quarter. It all fell apart after that for the Steelers, however, as the Chiefs scored touchdowns on six straight drives.

JuJu Smith-Schuster - Smith-Schuster had just five receptions for 26 yards, but it was truly amazing that he was even playing in the game after undergoing shoulder surgery in October. Smith-Schuster said after the game that the recovery time was supposed to be six months, but he was able to come back in just three. Smith-Schuster is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, so he put himself at risk to get re-injured, but he wanted to come back and help his team in the playoffs. That's a courageous act by Smith-Schuster. The Steelers should do everything they can to re-sign him this offseason.


Losers:


Diontae Johnson - Johnson picked the worst time to have his worst game of the year. Johnson had two drops, one of which came on third-and-2. He also had a false start penalty and had some miscommunication with Roethlisberger on a deep ball where he stopped on the route. It was just a flat-out brutal game for Johnson. Johnson led the league in drops last year, and it appeared that he fixed the issue, but his hands were suspect late in the season. Johnson is a great receiver, he's the only receiver on the team who can create separation, but the mental lapses are just mind-boggling.

Matt Canada - The Steelers' offense failed to score a touchdown in the first half in six of their final seven games. Unbelievable. I don't know how you can bring Matt Canada back after that. There's just no creativity or imagination with Canada's offense. The Steelers had just 44 yards of offense and two first downs in the first half. Canada was supposed to be this pre-snap motion guru who was innovative. We haven't seen any of this. In Canada's defense, he had to deal with a 39-year-old quarterback who isn't mobile anymore, but I just don't see anything changing. Canada is in over his head. He belongs in the college ranks. This was an awful promotion by Mike Tomlin, just as it was to promote Adrian Klemm to offensive line coach, and he bolted to Oregon before the season even ended. Canada and Klemm were huge disappointments in 2021. That can't be understated enough, and that falls on Tomlin for promoting college-level coaches.


Mike Tomlin/Keith Butler - The Steelers have allowed 42 points or more in each of their last three playoff games. That has never happened before in league history. Tomlin has his fingerprints all over this defense also. It's not just Keith Butler, who likely will be gone after this year like Canada, or he'll retire. Tomlin and Butler just had no answer for Mahomes and Andy Reid. The Chiefs simply put on a clinic, as they scored 42 points and racked up nearly 500 yards of offense. The Chiefs scored touchdowns on six straight possessions after being shut out in the first quarter.

Secondary - The entire secondary had a rough night against the Chiefs' high-powered offense. Joe Haden, Cam Sutton, and Tre Norwood all got burned for touchdowns. Sutton also got beat by Byron Pringle on a 2-yard touchdown pass by Travis Kelce. Yeah, that's how bad it was. Mahomes lit the Steelers up in the passing game, completing 30 of 39 passes (76.9%) for 404 yards, five touchdowns, one interception, and a quarterback rating of 118.8. In an 11:31 time span from the second and third quarter, Mahomes carved up the Steelers' defense and put the game away. It was just too easy for Mahomes and his loaded arsenal of receivers.

Inside Linebackers - The Steelers have to upgrade at the inside linebacker position in the offseason. Devin Bush and Joe Schobert were an awful duo, and Robert Spillane shouldn't be playing significant snaps. Spillane was no match for the Chiefs' skill players in coverage, which is to be expected.


Offensive Line - The Steelers rushed for just 56 yards on 20 carries, an average of 2.8 yards per carry. If the Steelers wanted to have any chance to upset the Chiefs, they had to run the ball successfully, and they failed miserably. Trai Turner also allowed defensive tackle Deshawn Wharton to sack Roethlisberger. Wharton came in scot-free on the play. There's a lot left to be desired with this offensive line. They need to improve it tremendously in the draft and through free agency.














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