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Chiefs-Steelers preview: Rookies Mecole Hardman and Darwin Thompson look to build upon last week

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The AP Nerd Squad highlights what to watch in Saturday night’s matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Cincinnati Benglas v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

The Chiefs are inching closer to the regular season. We should expect to see a little bit more of the players that are going to make this roster Saturday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers (how to watch).

On this week’s game preview edition of the Arrowhead Pride Laboratory, we talked about three things on offense and defense we’re paying attention to.

Offense

Hardman and Darwin

It was a good first impression for Mecole Hardman and Darwin Thompson last week. If they can build upon that success into this week, that’ll be a huge boost of confidence for them and the decision-makers regarding their utilization in the offense. I want to see more routes run by Hardman to get a better feel for how much he needs to develop in that space. For Thompson, I want to see a little more consistent vision and productivity in the passing game opportunities he gets.

Bell vs. Yelder

Neither Blake Bell or Deon Yelder did a ton to separate themselves from the other. I’m looking for more clarity at the TE2 spot. Bell seems to have a slight upper hand, but the margin can be reduced rather quick here. Both these guys aren’t just playing for the TE2 spot but also a roster spot in general. They can both play well enough to warrant making this football team and convince the Chiefs to keep three tight ends.

Marcus Kemp

Marcus Kemp had an excellent week of practice by all indications this week. He’s a special teams regular for Dave Toub, but with such a competitive wide receiver group, he’ll likely still need to show something as a receiver. Last week was a step toward that for some. Let’s see if it carries over into the game. Some productivity in a game setting could help him solidify a spot on this team.

Defense

Pass rush

This week’s pass rush will look a little closer to what it will during the regular season. There were notable absences last week on defense with Frank Clark, Alex Okafor and Emmanuel Ogbah all missing time. We’re looking forward to seeing what the rotation looks like and who is getting opportunities in the first half. The pass rush was largely underwhelming for most of the game. Let’s see if that changes tonight.

Breeland Speaks usage

Speaks admittedly “had a little too much fun” this offseason and has said he’s lost some weight during camp. Do we get more clarity tonight on how he’ll be used tonight? The entire defensive end group should be back tonight (or at least most of it), so perhaps he kicks inside a little more (where he’s looked best).

Charvarius Ward

This is a big week for Charvarius Ward and the rest of the cornerback group, going up against a better receiving group than they saw last week. Ward had a rough start to his 2019 preseason getting beat by Bengals receivers. Let’s see if he’s learned from his mistakes and taken a step in a scheme that will require him to play more off coverage. Ward’s best value is when playing press at the line of scrimmage, but he may not be afforded those opportunities as much under new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. He needs to show some growth this week.

Arrowhead Pride Laboratory

We went into further detail on these storylines, broke down Claiborne and listed players we’re looking forward to watching on the game preview edition of the Arrowhead Pride Laboratory.