Officially, the Chiefs were not eliminated from playoff contention in a 20-12 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at Heinz Field.
But Kansas City, 8-7, is in the precarious position of having to beat San Diego, 9-7, in the regular-season finale next Sunday at Arrowhead and hope for some help in other games, assuming Baltimore lost at Houston.
Pittsburgh, 10-5, clinched its first playoff spot since 2011.
The Chiefs’ inability to score touchdowns inside the 20 proved costly. At one point in the game, they reached the Pittsburgh 8, 4, 12 and 28 and came away with two field goals, a stop on fourth down and a fumble.
The Chiefs entered the game ranked second in the NFL in red zone offense, having scored 26 touchdowns in 40 attempts, for a 67.5 percent success rate.
Pittsburgh’s Shaun Suisham made a 23-yard field goal with 4:04 to play, giving the Steelers a 20-9 lead, but Steelers guard Ramon Foster was called for unnecessary roughness after the play, and the penalty was assessed on the ensuing kickoff.
That allowed the Chiefs to take over at the 50, and Cairo Santos’ 23-yard field goal — his fourth of the game — with 1:37, made it a one-score game again. But the Chiefs’ on-side kick proved unsuccessful, and the Steelers won their fourth straight.
The Chiefs drew to within one score when Santos’ 43-yarder made it 17-9 with 10:18 left in regulation. The Chiefs caught a huge break on the drive when Pittsburgh cornerback William Gay was called for taunting after a third-down pass went incomplete.
Pittsburgh converted a fumble by the Chiefs’ Jamaal Charles into a 3-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown with 34 seconds left in the
Charles fumbled when hit at by defensive end Stephon Tuitt, and the ball was recovered by linebacker Vince Williams at the Pittsburgh 25.
The Chiefs, squandering three scoring opportunities in the red zone, trailed 10-6 at halftime.
The Chiefs, trailing 10-6, faced a fourth-and-inches at the Pittsburgh 11 after a replay review showed running back De’Anthony Thomas short of a first down with 27 seconds left in the half.
Coach Andy Reid elected to go for the first down, and running back Jamaal Charles was stopped in his tracks at the line of scrimmage for no gain.
But while the Chiefs moved the ball efficiently between the 20s against a soft coverage by the Steelers, who were playing without starting safety Troy Polamalu and cornerback
Ike Taylor, they couldn’t punch anything in after reaching the Pittsburgh 8, 4 and 12 without scoring touchdowns.
After Pittsburgh opened the game with a 23-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham, the Chiefs drove to the Steelers’ 8. But Charles was dropped for a 2-yard loss; Alex Smith’s
pass intended for tight end Travis Kelce sailed over his head in the end zone; and on third down, Smith had no chance as he was snowed under for a sack.
So despite driving 65 yards in 14 plays, consuming 7 minutes, 9 seconds, all they had to show for it was a game-tying 35-yard field goal by Cairo Santos.
Santos’ 25-yard field goal gave the Chiefs a 6-3 lead with 9:25 left in the second quarter, but they came away disappointed again.
With the score 3-3, the Chiefs faced fourth-and-5 at the Pittsburgh 12, and from field-goal formation, holder Dustin Colquitt shoveled a pass to Kelce for six yards to the Steelers 6.
But again they were stymied. Charles picked up 2 yards, and Smith’s pass into the end zone for Dwayne Bowe — which appeared to be the first touchdown pass to a wide receiver all season — was batted from Bowe’s grasp at the last instant by Antwon Blake.
On third down, Smith was sacked by Jason Worilds, and the Chiefs settled for another field goal.
The Steelers took advantage of a penalty on Chiefs safety Ron Parker in scoring the only touchdown of the first half.
On a third-and-goal from the Chiefs’ 1, Roethlisberger’s pass intended for Martavis Bryant in the end zone went incomplete, but Parker was called for holding Bryant.
Given a fresh set of downs from the 1, Le’Veon Bell blasted into the end zone on first down for the 10-6 lead with 4:18 left in the half.