For all their rich histories together in the AFC, after the Pittsburgh Steelers switched conferences at the time of the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, this Sunday night will mark just the third time that the Kansas City Chiefs and Steelers will meet in an AFC Playoff game.
In this case, it’s the Sunday night game during Super Wild Card Weekend and could represent the final game in the illustrious, 18-year career of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
When the Steelers and Chiefs met for the first time almost 30 years ago, it was another legendary quarterback who took the field for a swan song performance, while the second meeting came just before a new phenom was to begin a brilliant career that seeks to add another milestone starting Sunday night. Here is a look back at the previous Steelers-Chiefs playoff games a look forward to this weekend’s showdown.
No ordinary Joe led the Chiefs past the Steelers toward an AFC Championship Game appearance
It was not until the 1993 season, nearly a quarter-century since the Steelers changed conferences to help facilitate the merger between the AFL and NFL, that Kansas City and Pittsburgh would meet in the postseason.
The length of time without a Steelers-Chiefs playoff game seems even more remarkable given how the Steelers had come to dominate the AFC in the 1970s while the Chiefs were still a playoff contender early in the decade.
Neither franchise made much of a splash in the 1980s, but the Steelers of the early 1990s were beginning another ascendency under Bill Cowher, while the Chiefs took advantage of the new era of NFL free agency by signing running back Marcus Allen and trading for 49ers legend Joe Montana, who still had one year left on his contract, but had lost the starting job in San Francisco to Steve Young.
With their two new stars, the Chiefs went 11-5 and hosted Pittsburgh in the Wild Card round on Jan. 8, 1994. And even though he was with a new team, it was the old Joe coming to rescue in the fourth quarter, passing for the game-tying touchdown with 1:43 left before the Chiefs won the game in overtime, 27-24.
Chris Boswell kicks the Chiefs to the curb in 2016 Wild Card playoffs
Nick Lowery was the kicking hero for the Chiefs in the 1993 season, but it was Steelers kicker Chris Boswell who took the starring role the next time the two teams met in the playoffs in January 2017.
Adam Vinatieri might be the most famous postseason kicker of all time, but even the Patriots and Colts legend never had a day like the one Boswell had in the 2016 Divisional Round.
No team in the history of the NFL had ever lost a playoff game when scoring more touchdowns than their opponent, a total of 245 games before the Chiefs scored two touchdowns against the Steelers and still lost 18-16.
All 18 Steelers points came off the right foot of Boswell, who set an NFL record for most field goals in a postseason game with six. Boswell’s sixth kick with 9:49 left in the game put the Steelers ahead 18-10. Alex Smith led the Chiefs to a touchdown with 2:43 left, but a tying two-point conversion was wiped out by a penalty, and the second attempt failed, allowing the Steelers to run out the clock.
The Chiefs leave Roethlisberger considering the end with a rout in Week 16
Smith would lead the Chiefs to the playoffs again in 2017, but after a one-and-done, the team moved on from Smith and elevated Patrick Mahomes to the starting role. Four years later, the Chiefs are vying to reach a fourth straight AFC Championship Game and become just the fourth franchise in history to reach three straight Super Bowls.
For the Steelers, it could well be the last game of Ben Roethlisberger’s 18-year career. If the team’s Week 16 matchup is any indication, Big Ben will be playing golf on Monday. The Chiefs manhandled the Steelers, 36-10.
“We’re probably 20-point underdogs and we’re going to the No. 1 team,” Roethlisberger said Wednesday, his words dripping with sarcasm. “I know they’re not the No. 1 seed, but they’ve won the AFC the last two years, arguably the best team in football … we don’t have a chance. So, let’s just go in and have fun.”