The Pittsburgh Steelers are in the playoffs and they will play their Super Wild Card Round playoff game Sunday night on the road on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs and they’ll enter that contest marked as a huge underdog. Below are five key things that I believe the Steelers will need to do in the game Sunday night in Kansas City to come away with a big road playoff win.
First Round Harrisment – Without a doubt, the Steelers are going to have to run the football often and with a lot of success Sunday night if they are going to beat the Chiefs in Kansas City. Not only will rookie running back Najee Harris likely need to have 100 or more yards rushing the football Sunday night, but he might also need another 30 or 40 yards as a receiver out of the backfield as well. The Steelers spent a first-round draft pick on Harris this year and the team will need him to contribute like a first-round selection Sunday night to have a chance at moving on in the playoffs. Harris registered110 yards against the Chiefs back in Week 16 on 24 total touches and obviously that wasn’t nearly enough. Most of those yards came after the game was out of hand and the Chiefs were comfortable with letting the Steelers’ offense run the football to kill clock time.
Under The Bettis Line – The Steelers cannot have quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hitting 40 or more pass attempts on Sunday night because if he does, it almost assuredly will result in a Pittsburgh playoff loss, at least what we have learned about him over his career. Roethlisberger is 0-8 all-time in the playoffs when he attempts 37 or more passes in a game. He is 13-1 all-time, however, when he attempts less than 37 passes in a playoff game. So, we can call this the Bettis Line, because he wore 36 for the Steelers. Obviously, Harris running the football successfully would go a long way in helping Roethlisberger not have to exceed 36 pass attempts in the game.
Empty The Bags – If the Steelers have any trick or unique plays that they haven’t used so far this season, they better use them Sunday night if at all possible. This team will need to record at least five offensive explosive plays Sunday night with at least one of them resulting in a touchdown. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is 42-1 all-time when opponents score fewer than 27 points. The Steelers have only scored 27 or more points four times this season. So, double passes, wide receiver passes, wildcat, fullback wheel routes, and fake punts should all be on the table to use Sunday night. This team needs to score in the high 20s Sunday night to beat the Chiefs.
Better Kansas City Red – In the Steelers Week 16 blowout loss to the Chiefs in Kansas City the Pittsburgh offense was just 1-of-4 in the red zone. That one touchdown also came late in the game and after it was decided. The Chiefs, on the other hand, went 4-of-6 in the red zone against the Steelers in Week 16. Three of those four touchdowns came in the first half as well and helped power Kansas City to a 23-0 halftime lead. The Steelers offense might be lucky to get inside the Chiefs’ red zone more than four times Sunday night, so it is imperative that the unit scores a touchdown every time they manage to get inside the 20-yard-line. Conversely, the Chiefs’ offense needs to be the unit with the less than 50 percent red zone rate Sunday night.
Seven Minute Game For 7 – The best chance for the Steelers to beat the Chiefs Sunday night is if the team can get this game boiled down to a seven-minute contest in the fourth quarter. They must make Mahomes press all night and especially late. We’ve seen Roethlisberger pull off a few nice fourth quarter comebacks this season and the only way he pulls off another one is if the Sunday night game is just a one possession battle with seven or fewer minutes left. Having to score more than just a touchdown late against the Chiefs will be asking too much of Roethlisberger. Yes, the Steelers defense must keep the score down in this game and that should be an understood. A few turnovers will be needed from the defense and explosive plays from the Kansas City offense must be capped at five with none of those resulting in touchdowns. If this game winds up being a close low-scoring affair late, the Steelers will certainly have a good chance to pull off a huge road upset.