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Defense Focused On Shutting Down Kelce and Hill

I suppose that headline shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Nor should this sentence. Saying you have to shut down Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill is a whole lot easier than actually doing it.

But that’s the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ mission this weekend. Kelce and Hill are the Kansas City Chiefs’ two best weapons and for the Steelers to come out on top, they have to stop that duo.

“Kelce has been a consistent, big-time explosive player since basically he got into the league,” Ross Cockrell told reporters via Steelers.com. “So we’re going to focus on him. He is their guy. As far as [Jeremy] Maclin, number 19, Tyreek Hill, number 10, those are guys who make explosive plays down the grass. We’ll do our best to limit those. But [Kelce] is the main guy for them.”

Kelce had a career year in 2016, catching 85 passes for over 1100 yards and four touchdowns. He’s on a big-time hot streak too, going for at least 100 yards in five of his last seven games.

It’s unclear exactly how Keith Butler will defend him. Justin Gilbert was used in the first matchup, with a high degree of success, but now that’s on tape. The team could use a true dime, Gilbert again, or roll up Sean Davis.

Hill is the up-and-comer and one of the most dynamic players in the NFL. He’s also one of the fastest, turning in a 4.29 at his Pro Day. But his NFL impact is even more noteworthy, scoring 12 total touchdowns in his rookie season. Six through the air, three on the ground, and three in the return game.

“He’s a guy that everyone wants on their team,” Artie Burns said of Hill. “He’s a real shifty guy. Fast, explosive, he does good on special teams and on offense. Very versatile. They put him in the backfield, they put him out wide. However they can get him the ball, they try to do it.”

The Steelers have already faced Hill and the Chiefs but Hill has only gotten more and more involved in the offense. It’s possible Burns will see him again Sunday afternoon and he might be the only guy on the field with the speed to keep up with him, breaking up a deep pass against him in the first meeting.

Back to special teams. Kansas City has arguably the best unit in the league, under the guise of Dave Toub, and Hill is a large part of that. He’s a game-breaker, a game-changer, and the Steelers are at their lowest point on that side of the ball. Getting healthy will help with that but it’ll be a big challenge to contain him all game long.

Ditto with Kelce. It won’t be easy to stop either guy. But no one said winning the playoffs was an easy thing to do.

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