The Pittsburgh Steelers have a lot at stake as they return to Heinz Field for their 15th game of the season against the Kansas City Chiefs. If they emerge victorious, securing their 10th win of the season, they will also secure their entry into the postseason for the first time in the past three years.
Thus, it goes without saying that the Steelers will be highly motivated to get the job done in front of the Pittsburgh faithful after stringing together a pair of road victories over the course of the past two weeks.
While the offense has found greater success at home than on the road, that hasn’t necessarily been true of the defense, which has often struggled regardless of the location of the city in which the game has been played.
Perhaps the most interesting thing to monitor in this game will be to see who plays and when, as we have players returning and sitting from injuries this week.
Will Allen will, presumably, start in place of Troy Polamalu at safety, which might entice Alex Smith to test the Steelers deep, though it’s not something he does often.
Ike Taylor is also expected to miss the game, meaning that William Gay and Brice McCain will continue to be asked to see just about every snap. What could be interesting to watch is whether or not we see any dime with B.W. Webb, but with the sparse success of the Chiefs’ wide receivers, that is probably not a sound bet.
One might want to place bets on seeing some of Ryan Shazier, however, who has spent most of the past three weeks as a healthy scratch on defense. His unparalleled speed at the position could potentially help slow down the Chiefs’ tight ends and running back, where they have done most of their damage this season.
How much time will he see in between Sean Spence and Vince Williams, both of whom, according to head coach Mike Tomlin, have performed as expected? It’s hard to say, though I suspect they will want to give him a few snaps.
With James Harrison returning to health, the Steelers have four healthy outside linebackers for the first time this entire season. Because he doesn’t play special teams, it’s possible that he is a healthy scratch, but there are certainly other options, and I expect that he will play. Whether or not he starts is another question.
Finally, the defensive line will be asked to contain Jamaal Charles, which will be no easy task, as he averages 5.2 yards per carry with nine rushing touchdowns. The run defense is always better with nose tackle Steve McLendon on the field, but rookie Stephon Tuitt still displays some discipline issues, which could be a concern in keeping Charles bottled up without breaking off a long run.