The Pittsburgh Steelers are in Kansas City today to take on the 1-5 Kansas City Chiefs, as they look to secure their third straight victory for the first time this season. In order to do so, they will in all likelihood have to complete to trifecta without Ben Roethlisberger.
When it comes to what to watch for in this game, it would be disingenuous to start anywhere but with Landry Jones making the first start of his career. He posted some nice statistics in the first playing time of his career last week, elevated by his players making plays, but there was some good and bad of his own behind those numbers.
Jones is on tape now, and no doubt the Chiefs have seen it. They know that they are not preparing to face Mike Vick—and they also have a much better pass rush than did the Cardinals.
And when it comes to facing the pass rush, Jones will also be dealing with a novice as his blindside protector, as Alejandro Villanueva is also making the first start of his career today at left tackle.
Like Jones, Villanueva got the first playing time of his career (as an actually offensive lineman) last week against the Cardinals after Kelvin Beachum went down, playing most of the game. As my film review pointed out, he was a clear work in progress, but his physical traits were occasionally able to carry him through when his technique failed against middling competition.
He may not be so lucky against the Chiefs’ outside linebackers, but no doubt Mike Munchak will have been in his ear all week. Villanueva has also commended Beachum for his mentorship in preparing him this week for his new role. So that has to count for something.
Last week, the Steelers did not pace themselves much when it came to getting Martavis Bryant back into the game. He took most of the snaps in three-receiver sets, and his playing time will obviously only expand from here.
But the biggest change on offense I expect is that Antonio Brown will receive more targets, and more opportunities for yards after the catch, with Jones throwing rather than Vick. The same should apply to Le’Veon Bell in the passing game.
Defensively, the Steelers will be forced to platoon along the defensive line in order to replace Stephon Tuitt, which is a big loss. I would imagine that Cam Thomas will get the start, but L.T. Walton should be sprinkled in liberally.
Steve McLendon could very well also return to the defensive end spot for a blow here and there throughout the course of the game with Daniel McCullers finally back healthy, as he reportedly did take some reps in practice there.
In the back end, Robert Golden will be making his second start, and he passed the test last week. Frankly, I would imagine that he should have an easier time with an offense that has lost Jamaal Charles and with a quarterback that is limited vertically, so hopefully the fourth-year safety will not have reason to stick out negatively in this one.