The Pittsburgh Steelers will play the 1-5 Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday in what figures to be a closely contested game due mainly to injuries. Three of the Chiefs five losses this season have also come against teams who remain unbeaten heading into Week 7.
These five Steelers players below will need to have solid performances on Sunday in order for the team to move to 5-2 on the season.
Landry Jones – If things go like we think they will, quarterback Jones will make his first career start Sunday against the Chiefs. Jones surprisingly played well off of the bench last week when he replaced the injured Mike Vick and he now has a chance to prove that not only was it not a fluke last week, but that he can also be counted on to serve as the backup to starter Ben Roethlisberger moving forward. Jones made five superb throws last week and he’s now had a full week of practice working with the first-team offense.
Alejandro Villanueva – The Steelers lost starting left tackle Kelvin Beachum for the remainder of the season last Sunday to a torn ACL and that means Villanueva, a former undrafted player and Army captain, will be in charge of holding down the left side for the remainder of the season. Villanueva played well last Sunday in relief of Beachum, but there certainly is room for improvement in his game and especially when it comes to his run blocking. Like Jones, Villanueva played quite a bit during the preseason and every snap that he received was certainly valuable. Sunday against the Chiefs, Villanueva will have to face premier pass rushers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali and that will be one heck of a baptism by fire being as it will be his first career start.
Cam Thomas – With starting defensive end Stephon Tuitt now ruled out for Sundays game against the Chiefs with a sprained knee, Thomas will likely find himself back in the starting lineup just as he was at the beginning of the 20124 season. While Thomas certainly didn’t play well last season, his play this season has been better. That, however, might be a result of him playing less as he’s yet to play 90 snaps despite appearing in all six games so far this season. The biggest concern with Thomas is his play against the run and especially during longer drives. While he’s likely to be relieved some during Sunday’s game, Thomas will more than likely play the bulk of the snaps at left defensive end.
Ryan Shazier – If things go like most of us think they will, Shazier will be back in the starting lineup against the Chiefs after missing the last four games due to a shoulder/neck injury. It would be great if the former first round draft pick is able to pick up right where he left off at. The last time that we saw him on the field he was putting the wraps on the best game of his young career as he registered 15 total tackles in the Week 2 win over the San Francisco 49ers. Shazier might be asked to spend some time Sunday covering Chiefs tight Travis Kelce and his athletic ability certainly will help him in that cause. Being as Shazier practiced fully all three days this week, it will be beyond disappointing if he fails to play on Sunday.
Le’Veon Bell – With Jones likely to make his first career start on Sunday, the Steelers will likely lean heavily on their running game against the Chiefs. Bell has been magnificent since he returned from his two-game suspension and there’s been times when he’s been asked to run against stacked boxes. He’ll likely see more of that on Sunday against a Chiefs defense that has looked good against the run so far this season. Bell wasn’t used in the passing game last week so expect that to change against the Chiefs. The Steelers really could use 150 or more yards from scrimmage out of Bell on Sunday in order to lighten the load on Jones.