The Pittsburgh Steelers have some unfinished business to take care of before they call it a season. specifically, they have three more games to play, and win, if everything goes according to plan. The first of those three remaining games is tonight in Kansas City against the hosting Chiefs, who are looking to avenge and early-season loss to Pittsburgh in a blowout.
The Chiefs have only lost two games since then, winning five of their last season, and 10 of their last 12. But the Steelers have not lost in a couple of months now, winning their final seven regular season games and bringing their total in the streak up to eight with last week’s Wildcard Round victory.
But the Steelers were here last year, and they are looking to return to the AFC Championship game for the first time since the 2010 season. The last three times they were victorious in the Divisional Round, they went on to play in the Super Bowl, winning two of them, all during Ben Roethlisberger’s tenure.
So we might as well start with Roethlisberger in monitoring today’s game. The Pro Bowl quarterback has not been at his best on the road this season, throwing nine touchdowns to eight interceptions, but the Steelers have won I believe three or four road games in a row now all the same. He had two interceptions last week, so we will be looking for a clean sheet from him today, which won’t be easy to do against the Chiefs’ secondary.
Of course, the heart and soul of the offense for the second half of the season has been the running game, and they have committed serious resources in terms of personnel packages in order to get it going, which they have, with great success. Especially if the weather dictates it, I would expect to see a lot of heavy sets with an extra lineman and a fullback used relatively liberally, which would not exactly be a change of pace.
The offense jumped out to a fast start last time around but faded down the stretch. Roethlisberger said that they would address that in time for the next game. Hopefully they will be in a position to worry about cooling down after a hot start.
The Chiefs players I will be worrying about are Tyreek Hill, both on offense and as a returner, Travis Kelce at tight end, Spencer Ware at running back, and Justin Houston at the edge rusher position. Any four of them can break the game open.
The Chiefs didn’t have Houston the last time around, and he has been banged up, but Marcus Gilbert will still need to be at his best to neutralize him. Kelce was contained the last time around, but don’t expect a repeat performance.
We all know about Hill by now. Even though he wasn’t a big part of the team yet, he still had a receiving touchdown late against the Steelers and had a punt return touchdown called back. If that doesn’t wake you up, stay asleep.
Ware, meanwhile, has been a bit of an under the radar player, rushing for over 900 yards and adding more than 400 as a receiver, doing both of them with efficient numbers and a comparably high ratio of successful plays. His ability to take over the game should not be overlooked.