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Steelers ready for more after clinching playoff spot against reeling Chiefs

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PITTSBURGH — There was no joyous celebration. The hooting and hollering was kept to the minimum.

A return to the playoffs following a two-year absence after a 20-12 win over Kansas City on Sunday doesn't have the Pittsburgh Steelers getting ahead of themselves. Yes, they're playing into January. But there's still plenty on the table with a week to go in the regular season.

Next up? A shot at the AFC North title and the home game that comes along with it next Sunday against Cincinnati.

"We're going to treat that like a playoff game like we've had the last three weeks," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "We still have work to do."

It's a job the surging Steelers (10-5) suddenly look capable of handling. Pittsburgh has won three straight and is 7-2 since getting crushed at Cleveland in early October. The NFL's top-ranked offense was slowed a bit by the Chiefs, but the defense sacked Alex Smith six times and held Kansas City out of the end zone.

Six times the Chiefs (8-7) drove into Pittsburgh territory. They picked up four Cairo Santos field goals, a Jamaal Charles fumble and a fourth-down gamble in the second quarter that came up empty and gave the Steelers momentum for good.

"I think there's so many little things that happened," Smith said. "They're not big things, but just little stuff that gets magnified."

It's the kind of missed opportunities that have piled up for Kansas City over the last month. The Chiefs have dropped four of five and need to beat San Diego next week and get some help to make it back to the playoffs.

"We shoot ourselves in the foot sometime and don't know how to bounce back from it," linebacker Tamba Hali said.

Time is running out for Kansas City. Not so much the Steelers, who have won their last six games in December.

PHOTO: Pittsburgh Steelers safety Robert Golden (21) celebrates as he walks off the field after a 20-12 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Pittsburgh Steelers safety Robert Golden (21) celebrates as he walks off the field after a 20-12 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

Some things we learned as the Chiefs remained winless in Pittsburgh since 1986:

THE STEELERS ARE CLOSERS: Pittsburgh struggled early in the season finishing off opponents, letting lesser opponents stick around until late in games. That's no longer the case. The Steelers have dominated at times in the second half of their current three-game run, including a pair of clock-chewing fourth-quarter drives each of the last two weeks. This time around it was a 12-play, 70-yard march that ended with Shaun Suisham's 23-yard field goal that made it 20-9 with 4:04 remaining.

ANDY REID IS GONNA GO FOR IT: The Chiefs trailed by four late in the second quarter when they faced fourth-and-inches at the Pittsburgh 12. Rather than a chip-shot field goal, Reid opted to stay aggressive. Charles was stuffed for a short loss. The Steelers ran out the clock and Kansas City never had a better chance to take the lead.

"There's a certain mindset here that we've been working with here the whole season," Reid said. "When you're put in that situation, you strap it on and go get the thing."

HARRISON'S RESURGENCE: Steelers linebacker James Harrison was credited with 1 1/2 of Pittsburgh's six sacks and was a presence all afternoon. Not bad for a 36-year-old guy who has been bothered by knee problems in recent weeks. He hardly looked out of shape while spending an extensive amount of time in the Kansas City backfield.

"James is a monster," Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey said.

THE STREAK CONTINUES: Make it 18 regular season games and counting since a Kansas City wide receiver caught a touchdown pass. The Chiefs had a couple of shots. Dwayne Bowe saw a back-shoulder throw from Smith clang off his hands in the second quarter and Smith missed a wide-open Albert Wilson early in the third quarter.

STAYING CLEAN: Pittsburgh's improved offensive line kept Kansas City's front seven from disrupting Roethlisberger too much. Justin Houston picked up his 18th sack of the year for the Chiefs but otherwise Roethlisberger had time to complete 18 of 25 passes for 220 yards and a 3-yard score to Antonio Brown.

"We have a quarterback," Steelers guard Ramon Foster said. "When we give him time, we know we've got a chance."


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