KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs have already cleared or are on their way to clearing some franchise hurdles this season.
They beat Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Foxborough for the first time. They’ve never won back-to-back division titles but are well ahead in their efforts to defend their 2016 AFC West title. They’ve never had a quarterback lead the league in passer rating, but Alex Smith (125.8) holds a sizable lead over his closest pursuer (Brady, 112.0).
That brings us to this week's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers and their quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger. The Chiefs can clear another hurdle by beating Roethlisberger on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Chiefs are 0-6 against the Steelers in games Roethlisberger has both started and finished, counting last season’s loss against Pittsburgh in the playoffs. The Chiefs beat the Steelers in a 2009 game Roethlisberger started, but he was gone because of an injury by the time it was over and backup Charlie Batch finished the game at QB for Pittsburgh.
Roethlisberger is the rare quarterback in recent times who has owned the Chiefs over a long period of years, though Peyton Manning was certainly another. Against Kansas City in the regular season, Roethlisberger has 13 touchdown passes and three interceptions. Roethlisberger’s regular-season passer rating against the Chiefs is 118.7. He’s done better against only two other opponents, the Falcons and the Rams, but he’s played against both of those teams only twice.
The Chiefs have been on the wrong end of some ugly losses against the Roethlisberger-led Steelers. There was a 45-7 embarrassment in 2006 and a 43-14 loss last season in which Roethlisberger burned the Chiefs with five TD passes.
He hasn’t always played well against the Chiefs, however. Roethlisberger had a passer rating of just 72.5 in last season’s playoff game and the Steelers failed to score a touchdown. But they managed six field goals and won 18-16.
This season, the 5-0 Chiefs are on a roll and Roethlisberger is coming off perhaps the worst game of his career. He threw five interceptions in a lopsided home loss to the Jaguars.
If the Chiefs win Sunday, it could be another sign of a special season for them. This is what great teams do when given the chance: They break down barriers.
The injuries are piling up for the Chiefs, but they may not get a better chance to beat Roethlisberger. In fact, this may be their last chance to beat him. He has hinted at retirement.
For inspiration, the Chiefs can look back to their final game against one of their other longtime tormentors, Manning. The Chiefs didn’t just beat Manning the last time they played against him (in 2015). They forced him to play so poorly he was yanked from the game in the third quarter.