By Zane Miller
On Saturday, August 24th, 2013, the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 26-20 in overtime at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, claiming their first win of the 2013 NFL preseason while the Steelers suffered their third loss. More notably, however, this would become the final NFL preseason game to go into overtime.
Coming into this matchup, both the Chiefs and Steelers were looking to earn winning records for the regular season after failing to do so in 2012, with Kansas City finishing dead last in the league with a 2-14 record, as Pittsburgh came in at 8-8. The two teams were also having a less than ideal preseason, with both searching for their first victory at an 0-2 record.
Starting at quarterback to begin the game for the Chiefs would be Alex Smith, who came over as a free agent to replace the tandem of Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn, who had only scored one win each during the team’s aforementioned miserable 2012 season. Smith earned a record of 6-2-1 in 2012 with the San Francisco 49ers, passing for 13 touchdowns on the year. Meanwhile, the Steelers opted to start longtime starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who had taken a 7-6 record in his starts during that same year, scoring 26 passing touchdowns in the process.
As the game got underway, it would be Pittsburgh getting themselves on the board first, with kicker Shaun Suisham nailing a 28-yard field goal to make it a 3-0 game with 6:27 to go in the first quarter. The local fans wouldn’t have to wait long for them to claim their first touchdown of the game, as Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer caught a 13-yard pass from Roethlisberger, with Suisham hitting the extra point to eventually close out the first with a 10-0 lead.
The second quarter, on the other hand, would be all Chiefs, as kicker Ryan Succop converted on a field goal from 19 yards out to make it 10-3 Steelers with 2:57 to go, then tying the game with 18 seconds remaining in the half as Smith found rookie receiver Junior Hemingway for a five-yard touchdown pass, as the score stood at 10-10 going into halftime.
As is the case with pretty much every NFL preseason game, both teams made a quarterback change to give their backups a chance to warm up for the upcoming regular season. This saw quarterback Chase Daniel come in for the Chiefs, while journeyman quarterback Bruce Gradkowski entered for the Steelers.
After the third quarter went mostly scoreless for its duration, it would be the Steelers who would jump out to the lead, as another rookie made his mark with wide reciever Markus Wheaton scored a 34-yard touchdown pass from Gradkowski, helping the Steelers to a 17-10 advantage. On the ensuing kickoff, however, the Chiefs would re-tie the game courtesy of a 109-yard kick return touchdown by Knile Davis. As a result, the teams would head into the fourth quarter evened up at 17-17.
The fourth saw Suisham add another field goal for Pittsburgh with 11:10 to go, as, for a while, it looked as though they would be able to hold on to their 20-17 lead. However, with the Steelers forced to punt with just under five minutes remaining, it provided Daniel with more than enough time to lead a drive into field goal range, which Succop converted on from 38 yards away, tying the game yet again at 20 apiece. The Steelers went three and out on their next possession, as the Chiefs were also unable to get anything going offensively with less than a minute remaining, forcing the contest to head into overtime.
With Kansas City winning the all-important coin flip to receive the ball first, they would only need their first possession to march downfield into scoring range. The key play on the drive occurred as the Chiefs faced a third-and-16 situation near midfield, Daniel ran for an 18 yard gain to pick up the first down. While head coach Andy Reid, who was preparing for his first year of coaching the Chiefs after 14 season with the Philadelphia Eagles, made a risky call by going for it on a fourth-and-one at the Steelers’ 20-yard line instead of attempting a relatively easy field goal, this would pay off big as running back Shaun Draughn ran for a first down to keep the scoring drive alive.
From there, the Chiefs would finish the game off not long after, as Daniel hit wide receiver Rico Richardson for a 15-yard score, sending themselves on a happy flight home with the 26-20 overtime win.
The touchdown catch would be the main highlight of Richardson’s NFL career, as despite scoring the game-winner he would cut from the team prior to the start of the regular season. At the time, however, it’s unlikely that many of the fans in attendance knew that they had witnessed a part of NFL history that night.
No one would blame you if you didn’t believe that the Chiefs-Steelers matchup would be the final preseason overtime game, as the exact same day saw a different game go into overtime as well, with the New York Jets taking down their cross-town rival New York Giants 24-21 after regulation. However, with that game starting at 7:00 PM ET and the Chiefs-Steelers getting underway at 7:30 PM ET, the Jets-Giants wrapped up prior to the conclusion of this article’s subject.
In the years following the 2013 preseason, it would become more common for the teams to look to avoid going into overtime due to the increased risk of player injury the longer the game time goes on, and the coaching decisions in future preseason contests reflect this thought process. A perfect example of this occurred in a game that I happened to attend, which was the 2016 preseason game between the Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals. The scenario is that the Vikings are leading 17-10 with less then three minutes to go in regulation time, until Bengals punt returner Alex Erickson took a Minnesota punt 80 yards back, cutting the lead to 17-16. If this were a regular season game, 99 percent of the time teams would kick the extra point to tie the game if faced with this situation. However, in this instance, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis instead went for the option to do avoid the likelihood of sending the game into an extra frame and attempted a two-point conversion, which would be no good after wide receiver Antwane Grant was unable to corral a Joe Licata pass as the Vikings held on to take the 17-16 win.
For the next six seasons of preseason football following the Chiefs-Steelers game, no game would be taken into overtime. After the cancellation of the 2020 preseason, the NFL announced that, for the first time since 1973, overtime would officially be ended in preseason contests beginning in 2021, with all tied games after regulation being declared as a tie.
Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Zmiller_82