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The Steelers defense proved it has a short memory.
There were no residual effects of getting slapped around by the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 3.
Even with linebacker Ryan Shazier and strong safety Robert Golden out with injuries, the defense set the tone for a 43-14 thrashing of the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night at Heinz Field.
The defense, which was dismantled by Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, confused Chiefs veteran quarterback Alex Smith. Kansas City's passing game was ineffective, and the ground game fizzled amid an unrelenting rain.
The Steelers, avenging a 23-13 loss at Kansas City last season, gathered momentum early in the first quarter as the defense created two turnovers. Cornerback Ross Cockrell recovered a fumble, and linebacker Jarvis Jones pulled in a ball tipped by defensive end Cam Heyward and returned it to Kansas City's 4-yard line.
“There were a lot of concepts we saw last week,” Jones said. “We looked at our mistakes from last week, and we figured out how to get in better position.
“I didn't finish the (interception) the way I wanted to because I let a quarterback tackle me. So it wasn't too pretty, and I heard about on the sideline.”
The offense cashed in with touchdowns off both turnovers. Receivers Darrius Heyward-Bey and Antonio Brown caught passes of 31 and 4 yards, respectively, to put Kansas City in a 15-0 hole in the first quarter.
The Chiefs never recovered, and the Steelers defense never let up. Heyward was practically unstoppable as he totaled a personal-best three sacks.
“It wasn't just because of me,” Heyward said. “(Defensive end Stephon) Tuitt got pressure, and I just cleaned up the trash.
“When we get turnovers and get our offense short fields, it puts our defense in good spots. Jarvis made a great play and was in the right place at the right time.”
Said Jones: “Cam was astounding. He was all over the place. I knew it was coming for him, and I'm sure it'll get even better.”
While Brown scored two touchdowns and Roethlisberger's passer rating was a shade under perfection in the first half (157.7), the defense stole the spotlight.
The Chiefs offense came unglued during a six-minute stretch that enabled the Steelers to put up 22 points. It's the most first-quarter points in franchise history.
The defense did all it couldn't do against the Eagles. The Steelers pressured Smith and recorded four sacks — including three by Heyward.
Defensive coordinator Keith Butler had reasons to be smiling afterward, in part because linebacker Vince Williams played the best game of his career. With the Steelers up 22-0, Williams derailed any hopes of a momentum swing with a tackle for loss and another stop on receiver Tyreek Hill for no gain on a quick screen.
“We were chomping at the bit because we put some bad things out there,” said Williams, who had a game-high 15 tackles, one sack and two tackles for loss. “We just wanted to dominate. We didn't get too excited because we wanted to be consistent.
“I knew Ryan (Shazier) was down, so I couldn't let him down. I really wanted to play for him.”
Also, Butler discovered he has depth at safety as Jordan Dangerfield clamped down on the Chiefs receivers, especially Pro Bowl tight end Travis Kelce. And rookie cornerback Artie Burns also played well.
“Sometimes, you take it on the chin,” said Dangerfield, who had five tackles in his first career start. “We didn't stay down, and we got up and played strong.”
The Chiefs, though, did all they could to help the defense. They dropped eight passes — including two in the end zone that allowed the Steelers to hold on downs late in the third quarter with the Steelers ahead 36-0.
The defense didn't crack until 11 minutes, 11 seconds remained in the fourth quarter. Hill escaped two defenders for a 10-yard scoring pass.
The defense, though, again was hit with injuries. Jones (ankle) and linebacker Anthony Chickillo (foot) left for the locker room early in the fourth quarter and did not return.
Ralph N. Paulk is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @RalphPaulk_Trib.
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