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Steelers vs. Chiefs, what to watch for: Blame game, youth movement and more

a Quick Guide to some of the ongoing themes to keep an eye on when the Chiefs face the Steelers

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1) Can they be more Royal?

I hope the Chiefs are watching what their neighbors are doing. With the Royals, you have this feeling that they will come back from any deficit and it's going to be fun to watch. It's clear that the Royals believe it too, and they refuse to lose. With the Chiefs, you have the feeling they can blow any lead and their opponents are the ones who believe they can win regardless of how far ahead KC is.

I believe the Chiefs confidence or lack thereof is the No. 1 biggest factor in whether they are able to turn this thing around. If every week they have the "here we go again" attitude ... this is a lost season. If they can get a lead and finish strong, maybe they'll have something to build on.

The Royals used to be the team that couldn't put a season together even when we thought they had talent. Now they are the two time defending AL Champs. Eventually, perhaps the Chiefs can string together some championship-level seasons. For now, I'm just hoping they can start fast, protect a lead and show a little swagger in the process.

2) The Offensive Line

It's still a problem. Each week, guys we thought were strengths look like weaknesses. They are still struggling to pick up blitzes and stunts. They haven't found the "right" five guys that can play together.

Mitch Morse has been consistently "solid", and Eric Fisher may be playing the best football of his career to date. Pro Football Focus agrees, as they grade each of them a cumulative +3.3 for the season thus far. The good news pretty much ends there. Ben Grubbs has an average grade, and to my eye has experienced some ups-and-downs this season. His worst game of the season was last week vs Minnesota.

It appears possible that LDT could be getting another shot at right guard.

We will see if he fares better than in his last run as a starter. Larry is a big, talented guy, but has struggled with consistency. When he gets beat, it's ugly... but there appears to be some hope for his long term development. If he's starting again vs. Pittsburgh, keep an eye on him at right guard.

Donald Stephenson is in the midst of a string of four bad games after opening the season strong. Stephenson is a player to watch for the rest of the season. Lately he appears to be failing in his attempt to earn a new contract, but the motivation should be there.

3) The Blame Game

The media and fans have spent a lot of energy pointing fingers at Alex Smith, Andy Reid, Andy Heck, Bob Sutton and other scapegoats for the Chiefs performance so far. Everyone seems to have an opinion, and most of them start with "bench Alex Smith".

The players insist that they are sticking together as a team, and they have been close but, as the losses pile up, it's natural for the players to get frustrated and start looking for someone to blame. Once that happens, the season is really a lost cause.

Keep an eye on how the Chiefs respond this week and see if they can rally together as a team. If not, the calls for benchings and firings will only get louder.

I firmly believe that teams and players NEVER intentionally tank the season for a draft pick (only us beaten-down fans care about draft position at this point in the year). NFL careers are too short and their livelihood depends on success. But as the losses pile up that's when the finger pointing can start.

Let's hope that Monday morning we're talking about who has stepped up, rather than who is to blame.

4) The Youth Movement Continues

Steven Nelson saw his first game action last week, and despite a costly penalty, he seemed to do OK.

Jeremy Maclin is recovering from a concussion so the door may be further opened for Albert Wilson and Chris Conley. Wilson had his first NFL TD on a long screen play last week. Conley has been working his way in the offense, but has yet to truly break out. He's been targeted 17 times, has only seven catches for 91 yards to show for it and has had a couple of ugly drops. We were all optimistic about Wilson and Conley before the season started. Watch to see if these guys prove us right or if it was just offseason homerism.

James O'Shaugnessey seems to make the most of his very limited opportunities (seven targets, five catches, 17 yards per catch) can he build up to a larger role?

Tamba Hali's knee is hurting, so perhaps Dee Ford starts to see more action and maybe he eventually makes an impact doing what he does best ... rushing the passer.

The further downhill the season goes, the more it's about the future. Not just the QB the Chiefs will potentially draft in the 2016, but also about the young players on the roster that are getting game experience now.

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