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DIVISION CHAMPS! Chiefs rout Steelers to clinch sixth straight AFC West title

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes a touchdown pass during the first half during an...
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes a touchdown pass during the first half during an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Dec. 26, 2021 in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)(Reed Hoffmann | AP)
Published: Dec. 26, 2021 at 6:23 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 26, 2021 at 6:55 PM CST
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Patrick Mahomes threw for 258 yards and three touchdowns, Byron Pringle caught two of the TD passes, and the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-10 on Sunday to clinch their sixth consecutive AFC West title.

The Chiefs (11-4) remained a game ahead of Tennessee for first place in the AFC with their eighth straight win. That would give them the conference’s lone first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire had a touchdown run for Kansas City before leaving early in the second half with a collarbone injury. Darrel Williams and Derrick Gore carried the load the rest of the way with Williams running for 55 yards and Gore adding 43 yards on the ground and three catches for 61 yards.

Meanwhile, the Steelers became the first team in NFL history to trail by at least 23 points at halftime in three straight road games, and they have failed to score a touchdown in the first half of five straight games for the first time since 1940.

Already on the playoff bubble, Pittsburgh (7-7-1) dropped further behind the Bengals (9-6) in the AFC North.

Ben Roethlisberger threw for 159 yards with a late fourth-quarter touchdown for Pittsburgh, along with throwing an interception and losing a fumble. Najee Harris added 93 yards rushing, but most of that came with the game out of reach.

The Chiefs were crushed by a COVID-19 outbreak early in the week, but they managed to get Tyreek Hill and several other players cleared in time for kickoff. They were still missing Pro Bowl tight end Travis Kelce and two other starters, though, after the trio was unable to test out of protocols Sunday morning.

It didn’t matter.

After watching the Chargers improbably lose to the Texans earlier Sunday, the Chiefs — who began the season 3-4 — knew they merely had to beat inconsistent and offensively challenged Pittsburgh to wrap up another division title.

They made it look easy on both sides of the ball.

The Chiefs went 73 yards on their opening possession with Edwards-Helaire bouncing off Robert Spillane for the touchdown. Pringle scored his first TD after Roethlisberger was picked off on a flea-flicker. Mecole Hardman also hauled in a touchdown throw from Mahomes, and fill-in kicker Elliott Fry hit a 44-yard field goal for a 23-0 halftime lead.

The Steelers at that point? Two punts, a pick, a turnover on downs, a missed field goal at the end of the half.

They started the second half watching Diontae Johnson fumble the ball away, too. The Chiefs tacked on another TD when Mahomes found Pringle in the back of the end zone, putting the game away by midway through the third quarter.

INJURIES

Chiefs: Edwards-Helaire left after two carries to start the second half. ... FS Tyrann Mathieu left in the fourth quarter with a quad injury. He had been hobbled while in coverage earlier in the third quarter.

COVID-19 CASES

Chiefs LB Nick Bolton and RT Lucas Niang were activated from the COVID-19 list along with Kelce on Saturday in hopes they would test out of protocol by kickoff; none did. Fry handled kicking duties with Harrison Butker in the protocol, and Johnny Townsend handled punting duties for his brother, Tommy Townsend, who also tested positive.

The Steelers were missing LB Devin Bush and four other backups to positive COVID-19 tests.

UP NEXT

The Steelers return home to face Cleveland next Monday night.

The Chiefs visit Cincinnati on Sunday.

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