Prediction: Chiefs 23-20
The Chiefs find themselves in a rematch against the team that ended their season in brutal fashion in January. The Chiefs’ 18-16 divisional-round loss to the Steelers will go down as the latest heartbreaker in the club’s playoff history. This year’s team is mentally tough, however, and should be equipped to exact revenge against a Steelers team coming off a bad loss to Jacksonville. Don’t expect it to be easy –– the Steelers have pride –– but if the offense continues to play mistake-free ball, the Chiefs should be just fine.
The Steelers’ offensive line ranks 21st in the league in run blocking as 11% of the team’s runs plays are getting stuffed at the line. The Steelers are averaging just 3.5 yards per carry and have a long run of 23 yards by rookie James Conner. Star running back Le’Veon Bell is averaging only 74.3 yards a game and 3.6 yards per carry. Overall, the offensive line has been graded out as the ninth-best in the league, according to Pro Football Focus, due to possessing the sixth-best pass blocking unit.
“It’s always good to have James Harrison when you play Kansas City to let their offensive tackle see him. I’ll just say that,” Butler said Thursday when asked about the status of Harrison for Sunday’s road game against the Chiefs.
Butler was asked if that meant just seeing Harrison on the sideline in uniform, or something else.
“No, see him and I’ll leave it at that, all right. You can imagine what might happen,” Butler said.
The Chiefs will still play without several starters on the offensive side, however. Morse will miss his fourth game with a foot sprain, while Duvernay-Tardif remains out for the second-straight game with a sprained knee. Zach Fulton and Cameron Erving expect to start in their respective roles along the line.
“I would imagine we’re going to get the one that always plays well against us,” said Defensive Coordinator Bob Sutton. “He obviously had an off day, but I think his overall work over the number of years he’s been in the league speaks for itself. He’s a dynamic player. He can do things that very few other quarterbacks in our league can do.”
In his mind, the answer –– when asked what’s the biggest difference between the Chiefs’ offense in 2017 and the others he’s guided during his five-year tenure –– is a simple, two-pronged one.
“Two things –– No. 1, the personnel ... it’s clearly changed,” said Smith, who is currently the caretaker of the NFL’s highest-scoring offense (32.8 points per game, up from 24.3 a year ago, which ranked 13th). “Not to compare, it’s just different. And across the board, we’ve got a lot of guys that have that kind of (big-play) ability.
While Kansas City enters this week as the clear favorite, there are some signs pointing to Pittsburgh as being capable of the upset. The Steelers have handed the Chiefs two of the four losses they’ve suffered in their past 20 games. Also, the Steelers have six victories against teams that are 5-0 in the Super Bowl era, tied with the Patriots for most in that period, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has won five straight starts against Kansas City.
Asked who Hunt reminds him of, ESPN analyst Herm Edwards paused and told Serby Says: “He’s probably … [LeSean] McCoy. With his ability to catch the ball. He’s got some power in his running game. He can run inside. He breaks a lot of tackles. He’s not the biggest guy, he’s not very tall.”
The matchup almost didn't take place on both sides of the ball. Gilbert is returned from a three-game absence due to a hamstring injury. Houston didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday because of a calf injury, but he will suit up against the Steelers.
“When my back is up against the wall, I think I respond better. I think we all respond better,” Gilbert said.
Injuries to Chris Conley and Albert Wilson prompted the Chiefs to shuffle their wide receiver group Saturday, placing Conley on injured reserved and promoting Marcus Kemp from the practice squad. The team also downgraded Wilson’s status to questionable for Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh.