Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes will be without one of his favorite targets against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. Travis Kelce was unable to clear COVID-19 protocols, and won't be available for the contest, the team announced.
The Chiefs will also be without linebacker Nick Bolton and offensive lineman Lucas Niang for the same reason. On the official injury report, the Chiefs said those absences were "not injury related."
We have ruled out TE Travis Kelce, LB Nick Bolton and OL Lucas Niang for today’s game. (Not Injury Related - Other)
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) December 26, 2021
The Chiefs dealt with a COVID-19 outbreak prior to Week 16. The team placed at least 14 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list ahead of its game against the Steelers. Star receiver Tyreek Hill was among those players, but he reportedly cleared COVID-19 protocols Saturday, and will be available to play in Week 16.
Patrick Mahomes rarely plays without Travis Kelce
Mahomes is used to having Kelce on the field. Sunday will mark the second time in his career Kelce missed a game started by Mahomes. The first came in Mahomes' first career start. Kelce sat out while Mahomes led the Chiefs to a 27-24 win in Week 17 of the 2017 season. The Chiefs rested their usual starters for the playoffs. Alex Smith was the team's starting quarterback at the time, which led to Mahomes getting the start.
Since then, Mahomes and Kelce turned into one of the best quarterback-tight end connections in NFL history. The Chiefs traded Smith in the offseason, opening up a starting spot for Mahomes, who threw 50 touchdowns in his first year as a starter.
During their four seasons together, Mahomes and Kelce hooked up for 32 touchdowns. Hill is the only player with more touchdowns from Mahomes.