After falling at home in spectacular fashion to the Jaguars a week ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers are trying to right the ship in a place in which they won in the playoffs a season ago, visiting the Kansas City Chiefs. Pittsburgh actually defeated them twice in 2016, though they seem to be an even strong opponent this year, off to a 5-0 start.
Should they pull this one out, it will take something close to a flawless effort in all phases, as the Chiefs suddenly have weapons all over the place, all of whom have to be accounted for, lest ye suffer the consequences.
Defensively, even in the absence of Eric Berry, they still boast a secondary that includes cornerback Marcus Peters and safety Ron Parker. Combined with edge rushers Justin Houston and Dee Ford, with stalwarts like Derrick Johnson and Chris Jones, one-on-one matchups will be a nightmare.
Oh, and they also have weapons on offense. Tyreek Hill as both a receiver and a ball-carrier must be contained. Travis Kelce is one of the best tight ends in the game as a pass-catcher, who had some big plays against this defense in the playoffs. And then there is rookie running back Kareem Hunt, who leads the league in rushing and has and has 775 yards from scrimmage. He has rushed for over 100 yards in four of his five games.
Most notable is the fact that the Chiefs have not turned the ball over since the first play of their season. Hunt lost that fumble, but hasn’t put the ball on the ground again in over 100 touches, and quarterback Alex Smith has not thrown an interception nor lost a fumble.
The Steelers have recorded a takeaway in 15 consecutive games, however, and that includes a game in Kansas City. Ryan Shazier already has two interceptions and a fumble recovery. His play in general will be critical today in working to contain both Hunt and Kelce.
As for Hill, they might as well double cover him, especially with the Chiefs losing Chris Conley, and Albert Wilson is questionable to play. The next man up at wide receiver would be former running back De’Anthony Thomas.
Oh…and the offense really needs to get its motor running. The main thing that I will be looking for today is getting off to good starts on first-down plays, which they have struggled with this year, especially on the ground.
Houston is not only a dominantly edge rusher, but also a stout player against the run as well, which will make Marcus Gilbert’s return all the more important. But the rest of the line really needs to step up and play better.
As does Ben Roethlisberger more than everybody else. Much of what happened last week was not solely his fault, but it ultimately falls back on him. He needs to make smarter and quicker decisions, including with his audibles.