Thanks to Jeff over at SB Nation’s Steelers site, Behind The Steel Curtain, for answering my Chiefs-Steelers questions. Our Q&A is below...
AP: So, what's the deal with Big Ben? Is something different this year or was that one bad game?
BTSC: When it comes to Roethlisberger's Week 5 game, it was just one bad game. Of the five interceptions, two were tipped and another two were when defenders hit his arm when he was throwing. Not all his fault, but still a bad game. As for the poor play, this is something which has been ongoing throughout the regular season. Roethlisberger is misfiring on passes he usually hits with ease, mainly the deep pass. However, the offensive struggles aren't just on Roethlisberger, but on everyone. The offensive line hasn't been as good, the team abandons the run too easily and the play calling has been suspect, to say the least. If the Steelers stand a chance at Arrowhead Sunday, they will need this offensive group to figure it out -- and quick.
AP: Where does Le'Veon Bell stand now? Is he back to elite status?
BTSC: I would say Bell is back to elite status. If the team actually commits to the run (see Week 4 vs. Baltimore) he has shown he still has the capability to be an elusive, and elite, back. He did have some rust early in the season, but has shown his trademark burst, and pass catching ability, the past two weeks. Bell is back, and the Steelers need him to be the focal point of their offense.
AP: What can we expect from the Steelers defense? How are they playing?
BTSC: The Steelers defense is playing at a different level this season, and a level no one really saw them reaching before the regular season. Their secondary ranks near the top of the league, although they haven't really been tested yet, and the rushing defensive stats might be slightly skewed due to some big runs. This defense is fast, athletic, and hard-hitting, but do have a tendency to give up a big run, or two, per game. They are getting after the quarterback, tied for third in the NFL with 17 sacks. Ryan Shazier is their home run hitter, and has turned into an all-or-nothing style player. Very reminiscent of Troy Polamlu, he will take his gambles, and sometimes they pay off, and others he comes up empty. This personifies the Steelers defense in 2017. They can be an elite unit, but need to minimize the big plays for them to reach that status.
AP: Which Chiefs offensive player do you think the Steelers need to stop first?
BTSC: To me, you have to stop Kareem Hunt. This isn't the old Alex Smith, but you still want to force him to beat you. The Steelers have been giving up the big run, and making a team one-dimensional is job No. 1 for Pittsburgh. Managing the game where you are putting Smith into obvious passing situations is where this team thrives, and that all starts by stopping the running game. Whether they do this, or not, will ultimately be the deciding factor in this contest.
AP: What's your score prediction for the game?
BTSC: I will be called a homer until the day I die, and I'm fine with that, but to me this is a bounce back game for the Steelers. Roethlisberger is due, and he historically plays well against the Chiefs. I feel Pittsburgh matches up well with Kansas City, and the Steelers play well in big games (they struggle in games they are heavily favored). This will be the first time this season the Steelers won't be favored heading into the game, and the spread is thin (average line is Steelers +3.5) ... Vegas knows something.
I like the Steelers to shock the NFL world on Sunday, winning 23-20 with a game-winning drive to boot.