For the first time since January the Pittsburgh Steelers will return to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs. And while the Steelers failed to score a touchdown last time around, the team was still able to escape Kansas City victorious, though the odds of that happening again are slim to none. That’s because the Chiefs, powered by an electric offense, are off to an NFL best 5-0. For the Steelers, Sunday’s matchup is shaping up to be a David versus Goliath showdown. With a high marquee matchup looming, here are each fighter’s tale of the tape.
In their last 15 regular season matchups as home favorites, the Kansas City Chiefs are an impressive 13-2. With the Chiefs currently favored anywhere from 3.5-4 points, the Steelers will face an uphill battle should they hope to defeat the NFL’s goliath. Under Andy Reid, the Chiefs rarely struggle against lesser competition at home as even their two losses have both been by two-point margins (19-17 defeat vs Tennessee Titans and another 19-17 defeat vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers, both occurring last season).
Le’Veon Bell is currently averaging just 2.8 yards per carry on first down. While Bell is currently fifth in the NFL with 371 rushing yards, his measly 2.8 yards per carry on first down ranks last out of the top ten rushing leaders in the NFL. On the contrary, the NFL’s leading rusher and Chiefs’ very own Kareem Hunt is averaging 7.5 yards per carry on first down. Fortunately for the Steelers and Bell, it seems that reinforcements are on the way as right tackle Marcus Gilbert looks to make his return after missing the last three games due a hamstring injury.
Dating back to last season, the Chiefs have rushed for over 100 yards in eight consecutive regular season games. During this eight-game span the Chiefs have racked up 1279 rushing yards, which equals to just under 160 rushing yards per game (159.9). With the Steelers susceptible to the run, allowing an average of 136.6 rushing yards per game this season, the Chiefs run game could be the fatal knockout punch during Sunday’s matchup. To combat this, the Steelers have called on a familiar face – outside linebacker James Harrison. The veteran linebacker known for his strength against the run is due to play in some capacity Sunday after being inactive the last two weeks.
Consider this – no Steelers’ receiver has a higher catch percentage than Antonio Brown’s 62.5 catch percentage. Now consider that if Brown played for the Chiefs, his catch percentage would rank fourth among their receivers. In fact, no Chiefs receiver has a catch percentage under 68 percent. Below are the current catch percentage numbers for the Steelers’ receivers.
Antonio Brown – 62.5%
JuJu Smith-Schuster – 60.0%
Eli Rogers – 54.5%
Martavis Bryant – 48.4%
Many of the Steelers’ struggles and Chiefs’ strengths lead to one common root – quarterback play. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is completing just 61.5 percent of his passes, currently his lowest total since 2008 while Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith is leading the NFL with a 76.6 completion percentage.
While Roethlisberger has had a disappointing start to his season, Sunday could be the perfect opportunity to regroup with his receivers as the Chiefs are allowing 248 passing yards per game, the eighth highest total in the NFL.