Back at it on gameday, breaking down what the Pittsburgh Steelers have to do to win (or lose) in today’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs. My always unreliable prediction at the bottom.
The Steelers Will Win If…
– They dig the long ball. No one is allowing more big plays in the passing game than the Chiefs, seven of 40+. They’re missing Eric Berry and CB Terrance Mitchell has been targeted by quarterbacks all season long. We know the Steelers have been close to the splash play throughout the season and they hit a 49 yarder to kick off last week’s loss to Jacksonville. If they can get two of those this week, they have a legit chance to win this thing.
– Stephon Tuitt goes on a tear. He’ll likely be matched up against underwhelming RG Cameron Erving, who the Cleveland Browns gave away after two seasons of horrid play. That’s the guy to target along the offensive line, even moreso than Eric Fisher, who is legitimately better this year than the past. Tuitt’s gotta take advantage.
– The Chiefs’ pre-snap window dressing doesn’t work. Like the Chicago Bears, the Chiefs will dress things up pre-snap. Lot of motions and trades to get the defense out of their run fits. It’s tough to play disciplined but it’s going to be critical. Goes back to film study and understanding their tendencies. Discerning what’s legit. And what’s illusion.
The Steelers Will Lose If…
– They can’t contain Alex Smith. Don’t forget about Smith’s running ability. He has 23 carries this season and been successful in scramble drills and occasional read option. For a team like Pittsburgh who is playing more man coverage, one downside is losing vision on the QB. Always going to be late to react to him taking off. Steelers pass rushers are going to have to practice gap integrity here, too. Can’t let Smith get outside the pocket and keep the play alive. He’s too dangerous on the move.
– Special teams can’t keep a lid on things. Chiefs’ special teams coach Dave Toub is one of the best in the business and makes them a truly three-phase team. Expect the Steelers to use some starters on the coverage units who don’t normally get playing time (Mike Mitchell, maybe T.J. Watt). Tyreek Hill is off kicks but De’Anthony Thomas is still tough and Hill is still on the punt team.
They’re not afraid to take the ball out of the end zone either. Their 14 kick returns tie for the league lead. Pittsburgh did a really good job here in the Divisional win last year. Have to replicate that success.
It’d also be nice to see something positive in the kick return game but alas, that’s unlikely. The Steelers rank last in average at just over 15 yards. *sigh*
– Red zone defense tightens up. Touched on this yesterday. It’s one of the worst in the league, even performing more poorly than the offense. The Chiefs are probably going to move the ball between the 20s. That offense is really good. It’s going to come down to stalling drives inside the red zone and getting back to the Steelers high level of success there the past two seasons. Tackling RB Kareem Hunt is a good start. He’s a handful. Gotta get multiple hats on him.