KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- In his two NFL seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, running back Charcandrick West followed teammate and Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles around like a puppy. West was a sponge, soaking up whatever knowledge Charles was willing to provide. One of those tidbits the veteran gave him was to take a few moments the day before the game to visualize his performance and write down his goals.
Charles' season is over due to a knee injury, but his influence was felt on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium as West ran for 110 yards and scored the first touchdown of his NFL career in the Chiefs 23-13 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Following Charles' advice, West wrote down his goals for the game: He wanted to run for 100-plus yards and he wanted to score a touchdown. He achieved both and was a big part of ending the Chiefs' five-game losing streak. They are now 2-5 on the season.
"It's still surreal for me, to even be in this position to score a touchdown," said West, an undrafted free agent who signed with Kansas City last year out of Abilene Christian University. "I went to sleep last night telling myself, 'You've got to see it before you can do it.' I wanted my first touchdown and I wanted my first 100-yard game. I felt it."
Along with the contribution of West and the Chiefs offense, the Kansas City defense turned in its best performance in over a month. Pittsburgh was without starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (knee) and backup Michael Vick (hamstring). No. 3 quarterback Landry Jones was making his first NFL start, but the now 4-3 Steelers still had weapons, such as running back Le'Veon Bell (17 carries, 121 yards) and wide receiver Antonio Brown (six catches for 124 yards.)
But Jones threw a pair of interceptions and also lost a fumble when he was sacked, and Pittsburgh found the end zone just once.
"I don't think I played very well; I've got to make more plays out there," said Jones. "I can't turn the ball over, and there were so many opportunities to go out there and win that game. You can't win when you play like that."
The Chiefs had limited offensive weapons as they were without Charles, who underwent surgery on the torn ACL in his right knee last week, and top wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who did not play after suffering a concussion in last Sunday's game. That's where West and rookie wide receiver Chris Conley got their opportunities. Conley had his first NFL touchdown reception, a 6-yard pass from quarterback Alex Smith late in the fourth quarter, and finished with six catches for 63 yards.
The busiest players in the first half were the kickers, as the halftime score of 9-3 was established with field goals. Kansas City's Cairo Santos hit from 22, 27 and 30 yards, but missed a 54-yard attempt. Pittsburgh's Chris Boswell made a 24-yarder.
The successful field goals all came because neither offense was productive inside the opponent's 20-yard line. The Steelers had a first-and-10 at the Chiefs 14-yard line and couldn't get near the end zone. Kansas City's offense had possessions on first down at Pittsburgh's 13-, 19- and 9-yard lines and settled for three pointers on all three opportunities.
"That was frustrating because we had the opportunities," said Smith. "We did what we had to do there and kept pushing it, and then at the end we were able to get the two touchdowns."
What we learned about the Steelers:
1. They can have running back Le'Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown, but without Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers offense is limited. Big Ben missed his fourth straight game due to his knee injury and with Michael Vick (hamstring) sidelined, the start went to No. 3 QB Landry Jones. Bell ran for 121 yards on 17 carries, including a 42-yarder. Brown caught six passes for 124 yards including a 41-yard play. Jones threw a pair of interceptions, and fumbled the ball away on a sack. After the game, Mike Tomlin indicated he thought there's a good chance Roethlisberger will be available next Sunday against Cincinnati. They need him back sooner, rather than later.
2. It appears the Steelers kicking problem has been solved. In what has been a rough year for Pittsburgh kickers, it appears they've finally found some stability with first-year kicker Chris Boswell. He hit two short field goals against Kansas City and so far he's seven-of-seven. Out of Rice University, Boswell showed good leg on kickoffs as well, as his kicks landed 4, 6 and 9 yards deep in the end zone. The stability is a welcome relief; before Boswell, the Steelers were only 6 of 10 on field goals.
3. All the sudden, the Steelers defense had trouble tackling. Against the Chiefs, Pittsburgh missed quite a few tackles. A big one came on a 40-yard pass caught by wide receiver Albert Wilson (5-9, 200 pounds), who bounced off tackle attempts by cornerback Antwon Blake and defensive end Cameron Heyward. "Too many times we missed tackles," admitted Heyward. "Too many times we were late on blitzes, including myself. It's hard to win in this league already and when you don't do the things you are supposed to do, you are putting yourselves in a disadvantage."
--RB Le'Veon Bell did his part for the Pittsburgh offense against Kansas City, carrying the ball 17 times for 121 yards, including a 42-yard breakout. That was a 7.1 per carry average, but Bell thinks the overall lack of big plays hurt the Steelers chances of winning. "Not enough splash plays; we didn't have enough big plays," Bell said. "We can't hurt ourselves."
--QB Landry Jones made his first NFL start and it was not a pretty performance. Jones completed 16 of 29 passes for 209 yards, but threw a pair of interceptions and lost a fumble when he was sacked. "I don't think I played very well," Jones said. "I've got to make more plays out there. I can't turn the ball over. There were so many opportunities that I could have gone out there and won that game."
--DE Cameron Heyward picked up his third sack of the season when he dropped Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith late in the first half. But against a revamped Chiefs offensive line, they were able to collect just two sacks on the afternoon. ""We've got to get a lot better," Heyward said. "We've got to learn from this."
--QB Ben Roethlisberger is expected to be back under center for the Steelers when they meet the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 8. Roethlisberger said he was "pretty close" to playing Sunday, but after taking some reps with the first-team offense last week, he was inactive at Kansas City. The Steelers said Roethlisberger is still day-to-day, but coach Mike Tomlin said they anticipate having their veteran starter back this week barring any unexpected setbacks.