Pittsburgh Steelers @ Kansas City Chiefs
Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri
Sunday, January 15, 2017, 8:20 p.m. (ET)
Steelers special teams vs. Tyreek Hill. Yes, you read that right. Pittsburgh has struggled as of late with covering punts and kicks on special teams–including a 58-yard kickoff return in the wild card win over the Dolphins last week. Hill has three touchdowns on returns this season–two on punts and one on kickoffs–and in a match-up that figures to be fairly even on both sides of the ball, Hill’s heroics could tilt things in Kansas City’s favor.
Mailbag: What to expect this weekend
Preview:: How will this exciting weekend play out?
Awards:: cover32’s end-of-season awards
The Steelers Win If…
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 300 yards and five touchdowns, while running back Le’Veon Bell, just returning following a three-game suspension, rushed for 144 yards, in a 43-14 drubbing of the Chiefs at Heinz Field back on October 2. That was a long time ago, obviously, but is it long enough to make up 29 points? Kansas City is mostly average statistically–including 24th, overall and 26th against the run. What that should tell you is that, as long as Pittsburgh can protect the football, yards and points should be there for the taking.
As for the defense, again, it was a long time ago, but Pittsburgh’s pass rush, which barely registered a pulse over the first three games, sacked quarterback Alex Smith four times on October 2. Much like their defense, the Chiefs offense, ranked 20th, overall, isn’t much to write home about. Sure, there are weapons in all-world tight end Travis Kelce, along with Hill, who also caught 61 passes for 593 yards as a multi-faceted Slash-like threat, but Kansas City’s offense doesn’t possess enough fire power to blow the Steelers out.
Therefore, as long as the Steelers improving defense tackles in the open field and perhaps manages a turnover or two, this could be the recipe for a big playoff road victory.
The Steelers Lose If…
The Chiefs only had 27 sacks during the regular season…but that was mostly without linebacker and supreme sack artist Justin Houston, who missed 11 games. Houston is back and, much like Bell to Pittsburgh’s offense, adds a whole new element to Kansas City’s quarterback sack attack. The Chiefs may have been below average on defense, but they were number one in taking the football away, with 33 on the season. As everyone knows, Roethlisberger’s home to road splits with regards to quarterback rating and interceptions is too much of a trend to ignore. Therefore, a timely interception or two by Kansas City’s ball-hawking secondary led by safety Eric Berry and corner Marcus Peters could spell doom for the black and gold visitors.
Obviously, Kelce will be a huge match-up problem for the defense, and if he’s not kept mostly under wraps, he could be the villainous player Steelers fans remember for ruining their team’s postseason.
Go with Le’Veon Bell. Always go with Le’Veon Bell.
What’s At Stake
A trip to the AFC Championship game….obviously.
Line: Chiefs -1
O/U: 44 1/2
Money Line: Steelers -110/Chiefs -110