Final Score - Chiefs 7, Steelers 17
I’m not sure what it was about this game that made it different from the Chiefs’ first preseason game (or even some other games this weekend), but as the kids say, this game simply wasn’t it. The game was delayed over an hour and there is no way to tell how much that affected the players on either side of the ball. Both teams came out looking rather lackluster in terms of energy and sharpness.
The Chiefs’ first-team offense looked to be picking up right where it left off last week with a couple of easy completions and a short scramble by Patrick Mahomes to start the game. After the first drive stalled out, the second drive kicked on with some quality runs from Carlos Hyde, who still looks slow but finds the open space when available. Hyde quickly backtracked any goodwill he made as he fumbled away the football and Mahomes’ last chance to take a snap Saturday evening, as his day was done after the second drive.
The passing offense wasn’t quite as sharp as the previous week. It took each unit a few drives before it started to really click.
Mecole Hardman struck again with another touchdown this week on a seam route that he was able to generate separation on. Marcus Kemp got free down the seam for a nice catch and took a big hit. Byron Pringle and Cody Thompson’s routes and releases off the line of scrimmage still pop compared to other non-starting wide receivers.
Darwin Thompson continues to show that he has a higher level of quickness than the other Chiefs’ running backs that take the field. Thompson had one jump-cut out to the left side when nothing was available up the middle that was quite impressive. He actually saw his night end in the first half, which points to safety on the depth chart. Darrel Williams and Hyde appear to be battling for a spot on the depth chart — not roster, as keeping four running backs seems highly possible.
The offensive line struggled. The Chiefs continued to move players around along the interior. Rookie Nick Allegretti is now taking snaps at center with the second team, showcasing the positional versatility that the Chiefs like out of their offensive linemen. The player that stood out the most along the offensive line was Cameron Erving and not for good reason, as Bud Dupree was having his way with Erving.
Nerd Squad Player of the Game (Offense)
WR Cody Thompson - This game didn’t have a ton to write home about from an offensive standpoint for the Chiefs heading into the fourth quarter. Darwin Thompson was nearly named the winner for a second week in a row by simply flashing playmaking ability, but in the fourth quarter, Cody Thompson was given more targets, and he continued to shine. Thompson’s blend of size, change-of-direction ability and route running has simply been impossible for second and third-string defensive backs to cover. Thompson could continue to climb the Chiefs’ wide receiver rotation as he brings a different skill set to the room.
Fans got a look at the Chiefs’ full starting defense this week, as both Frank Clark and Alex Okafor began the game. Both players took no time to make their presence felt. Clark showed his explosive first step and a strong cross-chop to slip by the left tackle. Okafor ripped through the right tackle on a later third down and netted a sack.
The Chiefs’ second-team pass rush was not as productive. Breeland Speaks and Tanoh Kpassagnon still rotate as defensive ends on early downs and defensive tackles on later downs, but neither flashed anything outstanding against backups.
The interior of the Chiefs defense continued to show more toughness and a stout run defense up the middle, as Derek Nnadi and Chris Jones manned the tackle spot early on. Behind them, the Chiefs opened the game up with a bigger nickel package, using Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson as the linebackers. Darron Lee continues to flash his athleticism as a coverage linebacker, while Ben Niemann has a great understanding of the defense and operates as the second team MIKE.
Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller got clear first-team reps at cornerback, as they left the game with the rest of the defensive starters. Charvarius Ward, on the other hand, played the entire first half, making a couple nice plays including an interception and a third-down pass breakup. Ward also showed his struggles in off-coverage—the Steelers were able to target him in the first half to help move down the field.
Herb Miller had some flashes, looking comfortable playing in off-coverage and locating the football, but his average athleticism told the tale of limited upside. He was beaten downfield on a couple occasions.
Nerd Squad Player of the Game (Defense)
DE Alex Okafor- The entire first-team defense played well even without much splash to the game. Frank Clark deserves some credit for crushing the pocket on the Chiefs’ first sack of the game and generating early pressure on another play, but Okafor takes home the hardware. Okafor showed power when he was able to capitalize on good coverage and land the sack.