Expanded Playoff Simulation Part I: The 2019 Steelers Can Score?

Welcome back to the land of 2019.

Due to missing the playoffs, the Los Angeles Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers have fallen under heavy scrutiny. Oddly enough, both were for the same reason: trading their 2020 first-round pick.

However, in a dimension where 14 teams made the playoffs, history has a chance to be rewritten, as both teams would’ve made the playoffs despite finishing a combined 17-15. In this alternate dimension, we start off with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ path, which begins with a trip to Arrowhead to take on the Chiefs.

After a Tyreek Hill touchdown reception put the Chiefs up early, Mason Rudolph and the Steelers responded with a 10-play field-goal drive.

On the ensuing Kansas City drive, a Travis Kelce drop on third down forced the Chiefs to punt. The Steelers came back with an 11-play field goal drive off the heels of a pair of first-down runs from Kerrith Whyte and James Conner.

Down one, the Steelers forced another Kansas City punt.

With under five minutes in the first half, Rudolph completed seven passes on a 14-play, 83-yard drive to give the Steelers a 9-7 lead heading into the half.

The Chiefs began to move the ball to start the second half, but T.J. Watt sacked Patrick Mahomes, forcing a third-and-long that the Chiefs could not escape, leading to another punt. On the next Steelers’ drive, Rudolph converted a pair of clutch third downs with completions to Diontae Johnson and Vance McDonald.

On the seventh play of the drive, Benny Snell found a seam on a pitch play and scored a 27-yard touchdown to give the Steelers a 16-7 lead.

Facing a nine-point deficit, the Chiefs overcame a second-and-15 start thanks to a 19-yard gain from Tyreek Hill that set up a 45-yard LeSean McCoy touchdown run,  cutting the Kansas City deficit to 16-14.

A good return set the Steelers up with prime real estate to score. However, the drive stalled when Johnson dropped what would have been a first down. Chris Boswell stepped onto the field to nail his fourth field goal.

The Chiefs ended the third quarter with a clutch third-down conversion in Pittsburgh territory.

The Steelers forced the Chiefs into a third-and-16, but Hill saved the day, gaining 24 yards. After a penalty on second down, the Chiefs had to scramble to pick up 20 yards. On their next two plays, they gained 20 yards and a third third-down conversion. Two plays later, LeSean McCoy broke into the end zone, and Damien Williams added a two-point conversion, giving the Chiefs their first lead of the second half.

With their season in the balance, James Conner motored ahead for 46 yards on the first play of the next drive. Snell added 11 on the next play to get the Steelers inside the five. Rudolph found James Washington on the Oklahoma State connection to give the Steelers a 26-22 lead with eight minutes to go.

On the first play of Kansas City’s next drive, Damien Williams fumbled the ball, putting the Steelers inside the Kansas City 30-yard-line.

Five plays later, Jaylen Samuels dove into the end zone, extending the lead to 33-22.

With under five minutes to play, the Chiefs had their backs against the wall. Mahomes hit Sammy Watkins for a short gain before missing an open Kelce. On third-and-three, Damien Williams split open the defense with a 57-yard run down to the Pittsburgh six-yard-line.

In the red zone, Mahomes struggled as he gained two yards, had a pass knocked down, and then was sacked for a cataclysmic seven-yard loss on third down. The Chiefs settled for a field goal to trim the lead to eight.

Terrific kick coverage by the Chiefs kept the Steelers inside their 15. After two minimal plays, Rudolph found safety Daniel Sorensen for a drive-ending interception. The Chiefs have the ball back with three minutes and change left in regulation.

Mahomes hit Kelce for a 12-yard gain, pushing the Chiefs inside the five. After a Damien Williams run, Mahomes hit Kelce again for a touchdown, trimming the lead to two with 2:08 on the clock. The Chiefs lined up for the two-point conversion, but McCoy was stopped short of the goal line. Steelers lead 33-31.

The Chiefs kick it deep, hoping for a miracle stop with their pair of timeouts and the two-minute warning. The Chiefs forced the Steelers into a third-and-seven with the game on the line, but Conner raced for a nine-yard gain.

After three kneel-downs, the Steelers were victorious 33-31.

The Steelers were able to control the clock for much of the game and convert points on all but two drives. The Steelers forced three punts and a fumble all while sacking Mahomes three times. The Steelers committed to a heavy ground game as they racked up a total of 257 yards on 44 carries for an astounding 5.8 yards on average.

The stars of the game were James Conner (16 carries, 143 yards) and T.J. Watt (two sacks).

With the Chiefs losing, the AFC playoff picture is thrown into a frenzy. The seven-seed Steelers will travel to Baltimore to face the top-seeded Ravens while the six-seed Tennessee Titans will travel to Houston to face the fourth-seeded Texans.

Here is the Rams and Packers matchup.

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