Three seemed to be too much for the Chiefs defense to handle. Kansas City’s defense took advantage of second-year quarterback Alex Smith and rookie signal-caller Matt Leinart the two previous weeks. But Ben Roethlisberger, in his third year, figured it all out leading the World Champion Steelers to a 45-7 dismantling of the Chiefs last Sunday.
Roethlisberger came into the game with no touchdown passes and one of the lowest quarterback ratings in the league. Many critics were starting to wonder if he had fully recovered from a June motorcycle accident and an appendectomy last month. Roethlisberger silenced those critics – even if just momentarily – completing 16-of-19 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns.
Perhaps more stunning for the Steelers was their defense and its performance holding last year’s AFC rushing leader, Larry Johnson, to a paltry 26 yards on 15 carries. In the last two games, Johnson has combined to rush for 62 yards. Back-up quarterback Damon Huard had been on fire in relief of the injured Trent Green, but the flames were put out by Pittsburgh blitzing defense. Huard finished the game 16-of-32 for 162 yards and an interception. Brodie Croyle entered the game in mop-up duty and looked like a rookie completing 3-of-7 for 23 yards and two interceptions.
Things do not get any easier for the Chiefs. Their next three games are against the Chargers (4-1), Seahawks (4-1), and Rams (4-2).
San Diego will visit Arrowhead Stadium Sunday coming off a 48-19 win over the 49ers. It is the same San Francisco team the Chiefs demolished 41-0 in week 4. The Steelers are the only other common opponent; San Diego edged them 23-13.
The Chargers defense will make running room hard to come by for Johnson. San Diego ranks third in the NFL in rush defense (71.6 yds/g) and first overall (218.4 yds/g). Second-year player Shawne Merriman is dispelling any thoughts of a sophomore jinx with 5.5 sacks so far this season, good enough for fifth in the league.