We have entered the dog days of summer, where most of us wait for football to return. Here, we will continue to look at the Chiefs schedule and dissect each game. After a victory over Houston, Kansas City goes back home to face a familiar foe. Can the Chiefs finally find a way to beat the Steelers? Let’s discuss.
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January 15, 2017: Steelers 18, Chiefs 16
Kansas City and Pittsburgh ended up closing divisional weekend on Sunday night due to inclement weather earlier that weekend. The Chiefs started out strong on offense, scoring a touchdown on their first drive. But, they would fail to get anything on their next five offensive possessions. Defensively, the Chiefs employed a bend-don’t-break strategy against the high powered Steelers offense. The strategy worked, with the Steelers settling for six field goals during the game. Unfortunately, with the Chiefs stalling on offense, they didn’t have enough to win at home. Failing to capitalize on momentum, along with offensive struggles, cost Kansas City in this one.
October 2, 2016: Steelers 43, Chiefs 14
The most recent regular season meeting occurred last October. This game was pegged as a marquee matchup, but the Steelers came to play. The Chiefs played one of their worst games as a unit in Pittsburgh. They didn’t have an answer for Pittsburgh’s air attack (Ben had five TDs), and surrendered 144 yards on 18 carries to Le’Veon Bell. The offense didn’t sniff the end zone until the fourth quarter, when the game was way out of hand.
What Has Changed?
The biggest changes for these two teams will ultimately come from the draft. Neither team made huge moves in free agency, and they will both rely on jumps from their second and third year players. The Steelers hope that Artie Burns and Sean Davis will make strides in year two, and that third round pick Cam Sutton can come and reinforce the secondary. Rookie wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster will get playing time right away, and he can present problems with his downfield ability. TJ Watt joins a pass rush that desperately needs help. James Harrison can still play, but there isn’t much behind him. The Steelers are hoping Watt becomes the next playmaker off the edge.
How Do You Stop That Offense?
It’s no secret that the Steelers boast one of the best offenses in the league. But, every team has a weakness. It is imperative that the Chiefs expose the weakness. One thing that Kansas City must do is limit Le’Veon Bell as much as possible. Chris Jones and new addition Bennie Logan must do a good job plugging up holes to force Bell outside. Bell is extremely patient, but if the line gets good position, he won’t have anywhere to go.
Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown will eventually make some plays, but the key is to limit them. If Brown can roam free around the intermediate part of the field, he will dominate like he can. The Chiefs have to trust Marcus Peters to limit Brown’s opportunities. There aren’t many weapons behind Brown, so if Brown stays under 100 yards, that’s a victory.
The third part to stopping the offense is to put pressure on Roethlisberger. If the pass rush can make its way to the backfield, it can disrupt the offensive rhythm. A fully healthy Justin Houston plus an ascending Dee Ford can make things difficult.
It’s On Alex And The Vets
The offense has faltered in the last two meetings against Pittsburgh. The Chiefs have to buck the trend, and it starts with the veterans stepping up. Alex Smith has been in this offense for four seasons, and it’s time for him to take over. The weapons are in place, and there is enough around him for the offense to flourish. A bounce back Jeremy Maclin season will go a long way, and three solid running backs should help, but it ultimately falls on the quarterback, as it always does. Alex Smith must do more in this game to keep up with the Steelers. Averaging 15 points a game won’t cut it.
This game will be close, just like the playoff game was back in January. However, this time the Chiefs will come out on top. The game will come down to who wins in the trenches, and Kansas City is getting better along the line. Both Dee Ford and Chris Jones are making strides. Le’Veon Bell won’t be shut down, but he won’t be allowed to run wild. Antonio Brown will find openings, but Marcus Peters is up to the challenge. The Chiefs also have more on the offensive side of the ball that can take advantage of a young secondary and an inexperienced pass rush. This is a statement game, and home field advantage will seal a win here.
Chiefs 26, Steelers 24
Current Projected Record: 4-2
— Jake Schyvinck is a Managing Editor for cover32 and covers the Kansas City Chiefs. You can follow him on Twitter here.