Blitzburgh, the man in charge at BSTC, answered a few questions I had for him on this weekend's game.
The game is one day away and here's our Q&A (nice rhyme). Definitely read the part on Charles against the Steelers run defense and definitely check out BTSC. The game preview is currently on the front page.
AP: The Chiefs aren't above average at any place on the offense. Where are the Steelers going to attack them?
BTSC: The Steelers likely will try to make Matt Cassel and the Chiefs offense methodically beat them with long sustained drives via the passing game. Because Dwayne Bowe is suspended, I imagine the Steelers feel pretty good about their chances if they force Cassel and his depleted receiving corps to shoulder the load offensively.
Nobody runs on the Steelers and I imagine that will continue this coming week. The Chiefs may have some success however utilizing Jamal Charles unique speed with some screen passes. If they can get him matched up on a linebacker theyd have to feel pretty good about it. The Steelers will probably also mix in some blitz packages that the Chiefs haven't seen yet this year. This is essentially a must win game for Pittsburgh so I'd expect them to not hold too much back defensively.
AP: We've heard some griping about Steelers OC Bruce Arians playcalling. What's the issue?
BTSC: Well, I could probably write about this for hours, if not days, but the two main issues Steelers fans seem to have with Bruce Arians and his play calling are this:
1) the lack of commitment to the running game and 2) his predictability in certain situations.
On the first point, last year the Steelers were very pedestrian running the ball. They averaged 3.4 yards per carry, which I believe was the 24th best mark in the league. It made sense for the Steelers to throw the ball more than we're accustomed to seeing as Steelers fans. This year though the running game has looked quite solid.Yet through 9 games, the Steelers have only the 23rd most carries despite averaging a healthy 4.3 yards per carry (14th). Furthermore, the Steelers have been ahead for almost the entire season.
On the second point, Arians's tendencies are extremely apparent to even us fans, which means of course that they're glaringly obvious to opposing teams that are spending hours each week prepping for the Steelers. Take his tendencies on 3rd and short for example - if it's 3rd and 3 yards or less, the Steelers are almost guaranteed to throw the football. It's not too late in the season to make some adjustments to keep teams more off balance, but as of now, I have to believe that Arians and the offense are in a way letting teams off the hook by being so predictable.
AP: The Chiefs will be featuring Jamaal Charles. Have shiftier, quicker backs like Charles fared better or worse against the Steelers No. 1 rush defense?
BTSC: No, not really. Darren Sproles couldn't find much running room for example. Matt Forte of the Bears, who might be qualified as somewhat of a shifty back, also was bottled up by the Steelers top ranked rush defense. Chris Johnson, arguably the best back in the game right now, was limited to 57 yards on 15 carries. So simply put, if Charles has much success, it'd be quite an achievement and a very nice indication for Chiefs fans that they have a perfectly adequate replacement for the departed Larry Johnson.
I watched Charles plenty during his time at Texas and was always wowed by his track speed. I think he's a bit underrated too at keeping his balance after first contact. I think he'll be just fine, but not sure he'll be able to follow up his first 100+ yard game as a pro with something similarly solid against the Steelers.
AP: Where is the pressure coming from on the Steelers pass rush?
BTSC: A little bit of everywhere, but the obvious place to start is Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison. Deebo, as he's so affectionately known by his teammates, doesn't seem to be terrorizing defenses quite as frequently and disruptively as he did last year, but when you look down at his stat sheet, there he is with 9 sacks and 4 forced fumbles. He also leads the league in number of times being held without a flag being thrown.
By the way, Harrison's unnecessary roughness penalty in the final minutes of last Snday's loss definitely hurt Pittsburgh's chances of extending their winning streak to 6 games and claiming sole possession of first place in the AFC North. It was a dumb penalty and I'm sure Mike Tomlin was in his ear all week about being smarter. Translation for Chiefs fans? Be afraid. Be very afraid. This is the most violent player in football and he'll be looking to eat up the Chiefs offensive line on Sunday.
AP: How has the Steelers offensive line fared recently? Are opposing blitzers still able to get through?
BTSC: The Steelers offensive line has actually been one of the biggest surprises for the team this year. The sack totals are still much higher than we'd like to see - Big Ben has been sacked 27 times.
But as any Steelers fan will attest, a substantial number of those are the product of Big Ben holding on to the ball far too long trying to make a play down the field. The offensive line has also performed much, much better in the running game. No longer are we seeing linemen and linebackers in the backfield before a running play has any chance to materialize.
That said, they looked confused and outclassed last week against the Bengals, particularly in the interior of the line. It will be interesting to see if the big eaters up front revert back to form against the Chiefs or if they again get pushed around for the second consecutive week.