The Pittsburgh Steelers will play the 1-5 Kansas City Chiefs Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium and below are seven key things that I believe they will need to do in the game in order to come away with a road win.
Earn deep R-E-S-P-E-C-T – Even though the Steelers main concern on offense this week should probably be handing the ball off to running back Le’Veon Bell, quarterback Landry Jones will need to take some shots deep in this game in order to keep the Chiefs defense honest. The Chiefs defense has given up quite a few explosive plays of 20 yards or more so far this season so cornerbacks Sean Smith and Marcus Peters both need be tested by wide receiver Martavis Bryant on Sunday. Don’t be surprised if the first offensive play is a deep pass from Jones intended for Bryant in order to set a tone.
Don’t let Houston be a problem – Just because Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston only has four sacks so far this season it doesn’t mean that he hasn’t been effective. Houston enters Week 7 with 24 total hurries so Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert will certainly have his hands full on Sunday. While he’s yet to allow a sack this season, Gilbert has given up his share of pressures so this matchup is certainly worth paying attention to. Houston can become a problem in a hurry.
Air Bell – Over the course of the last two weeks, Bell has recorded just four receptions for 16 yards. Last week in the win over the Arizona Cardinals, Bell wasn’t targeted at all in the passing game and that simply can’t happen on Sunday against the Chiefs. Yards for Bell on the ground are likely going to be tough to come by so Jones has to make sure to get the ball in the running back’s hands out in space as often as possible.
Who own da Chiefs line? – Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith has already been sacked 23 times so far this season. Veteran left guard Ben Grubbs hasn’t been great the last two weeks, so Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward will be expected to have his way with him. Additionally, Steelers linebacker James Harrison should be able to wear Chiefs left tackle Donald Stephenson as a hat for most of the game. When it comes left defensive end Cam Thomas, who will likely start in place of the injured Stephon Tuitt, he should be embarrassed if he lets right guard Zach Fulton get the best of him in this game.
Kelce concerns – The Chiefs passing game on Sunday figures to go through tight end Travis Kelce, who will line up all over the place. Kelce is averaging nearly 5 catches for 70 yards a game so far this season so keeping him under that stat line on Sunday will go a long way in helping the Steelers win the game. In order to do that, the Steelers can’t allow Kelce to line up against a safety very often. Additionally, they’ll need to get him on the ground quickly after the catches that he does make.
Make Alex go yard – Over the course of his career, Smith hasn’t been good when attempting to throw more than 15 yards down the field and because of that, the Steelers defense must make him prove he can do that on Sunday if he wants to win. Of the 20 explosive passing plays that the Chiefs offense has registered so far this season, only 9 of them have included Smith throwing more than 15 yards down the field. 7 of those 9 went to wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who missed practice time this past week with a concussion.
No POOTOS – The Chiefs have only scored 13 touchdowns all season and two of them were scored by their defense. Two others came in their season opening win over the Houston Texans and on both of those the offense started inside the red zone after turnovers. In other words, the Steelers offense, as usual, can’t give away easy points off of turnovers.