There are some teams that pop up on the Kansas City Chiefs’ schedule that you just feel good about. 28 regular-season wins over the last 37 regular-season games can do that.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are not one of those teams.
Everyone remembers last year’s Sunday night disaster that Seth Keysor dubbed “the Chiefs game I couldn’t finish,” and with that, the playoff debacle that came to follow.
The Chiefs held Big Ben and the offense touchdown-less, and lost.
“They got after us,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid recalled of the game this week. “We had the first drive and we got after them on the first drive and then after that they did a good job against us. This will be a real good challenge for us offensively.”
While the defense may not be what you think of first when you think of the Pittsburgh Steelers, this year they have been the best in the league when it comes to defending the pass. Where they struggle is against the run, and that could open things up things for one key player on the Chiefs that knows nothing of the struggles of Steelers past—rookie Kareem Hunt.
The early offensive rookie of the year favorite has put up more than 100 yards from scrimmage in each and every game of his young career, and that includes four games of 100 yards rushing or more. Only one Chiefs rookie in the organization’s history has put up more 100-yard rushing-games than Hunt, and that’s Joe Delaney with five.
After a quiet game against the Los Angeles Chargers, tight end Travis Kelce put up 111 yards against the Redskins, then 98 yards in only one half against the Texans. Despite concerns he wouldn’t be able to go because of a concussion, he’ll suit up on Sunday. Tyreek Hill should also play even though he popped up on the injury report midweek with a hamstring issue.
As Joe Haden and the Steelers secondary deals with Hunt, Kelce and Hill, it may be worth paying special attention to the trenches Sunday, as this week, Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler made a point of it to call out Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher.
“Well, it’s always good to have James Harrison when you play Kansas City and let their offensive tackle see him,” Butler said after practice Thursday, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I’ll just say that.”
Harrison has had the best of Fisher in the past.
The other name to watch is linebacker Ryan Shazier.
“He’s not a real big guy, but he plays so physical and he’s so fast, he’s got a great feel,” Reid said of Shazier. “He covers almost like Troy Polamalu, just did it at the level two instead of the backend. They just let him do some things to have a little freedom there to move and roam and read the quarterback. He does it very well.”
Expect Zach Fulton and Cam Erving to once again be filling in for Mitch Morse at center and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif at right guard, respectively. With Chris Conley headed to injured reserve, the Chiefs have called Marcus Kemp up to the main roster. Rookie Jehu Chesson could see some of the first work of his career on Sunday.
Ben Roethlisberger will need to rebound from his five-interception performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday if the Steelers are to beat the Chiefs.
After Sunday’s poor performance Roethlisberger told media members he may not “have it” anymore out of frustration, then was testy when they asked him about it this week.
Roethlisberger will be looking to prove otherwise against the Chiefs and he has the weapons to do so. Wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell are two of the league’s best at their given positions, WR Martavis Bryant is very talented and WR Eli Rogers should be back in the lineup.
To counteract the Steelers offense, the Chiefs may continue to use their three-safety look, greater utilizing the hybrid skill set of Daniel Sorensen.
Though you can fully expect Brown to give the Chiefs fits, the question on defense will be whether or not they can manage that production and still come out victorious.
At the end of the day, the Steelers are a rare team who has had the Chiefs’ number in recent years, but this is a different team.
The 2017 version of the Chiefs has a different offensive system, a different defensive system and a quarterback in the midst of the best year of his career.
The Steelers have had their way recently, yes, but they have yet to meet these Chiefs.