It is playoff time in the NFL, and the Kansas City Chiefs are in their first Wild Card game since the Patrick Mahomes era began.
After a whacky Week 18, the Pittsburgh Steelers backed their way into the playoffs when the Indianapolis Colts failed to defeat the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars with their season on the line. This will be the second matchup in a month for these two historic AFC franchises. In their last matchup, the Chiefs ran away with a 36-10 victory.
However — with a healthy T.J. Watt — the Steelers defense could be more of a problem for Andy Heck’s offensive line. In this post, we look back at the Week 16 Chiefs win as we anticipate what to expect this Sunday night.
Each tackle gets help from chips in the last Steelers matchup, clean pocket and easy completion pic.twitter.com/6lcAldKDvL— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) January 13, 2022
Early on, the Chiefs offered their offensive tackle some help.
Left tackle Orlando Brown gets help from tight end Noah Gray on the left while wide receiver Byron Pringle slows up Watt to support right tackle Andrew Wylie. This additional help allows time for the deep comeback from Tyreek Hill to develop and gives Patrick Mahomes plenty of pocket space to deliver a well-timed throw.
Sorry for the ‘pause’ button but I wanted to show Watt’s pre snap movement which I think Wylie handles nicely and Brown does well with his 1-on-1 with Highsmith on the left side pic.twitter.com/wYHjwB4WtW— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) January 13, 2022
Watt starts wider than the slot but slides down right before the snap, and while Wylie goes down to his knees toward the end of the clip, the quick pass is able to negate anything afterward that may have happened.
Meanwhile, Brown does well with his rep on the left side. He and Alex Highsmith was a battle all game, and it will be again.
Watt tries to swat Wylie’s hands away but 77 is having none of it, good rep there, Trey Smith loses his balance and goes to the turf, and Brown is really struggling to work Highsmith around the pocket pic.twitter.com/4dcn5CA8RE— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) January 13, 2022
Wylie deserves praise for his performance throughout the 2021 regular season. He stepped up multiple times against top-tier talent. In Week 16, he was aided by Watt’s rib injury, so we may see more help being schemed that way now that Watt is healthy.
In this clip, we see how Wylie can keep his hands from getting clubbed away while maintaining his leverage. On the other side, Brown is working hard to keep the pocket in tact while Highsmith tries to win with speed and quickness. Right guard Trey Smith keeps his feet in cement on this rep and loses his balance. The pass looks a little rushed due to the ensuing interior pressure.
Pretty good example of where Brown & Wylie each struggle the most. Brown gets beat by a quick shoulder dip & Wylie has a difficult time when rushers get into his chest pic.twitter.com/1WkUDooUfV— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) January 13, 2022
Brown has been a good offensive tackle for the Chiefs, but his shortcomings are well-documented. He can have tough outings when he deals with speed guys. Highsmith went to that well quite often against the much bigger Brown.
Highsmith’s shoulder dips were seen repeatedly, and we can see why. To be fair, Brown does get to Highsmith a hair late due to a slight pause to check Heyward. Wylie gets exposed the most when being challenged with a bull rush. If defenders get into his chest, No. 77 has difficulty anchoring down.
Highsmith attacks Brown with a spin move the play after beating him outside with a shoulder dip, Watt goes for the bull rush on the second consecutive play but Wylie is ready this time, Smith offers some late help pic.twitter.com/F6VcGMnAzt— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) January 13, 2022
This is the very next rep, and Brown sees an interior spin move this time after consistently seeing moves to the outside. Highsmith nearly makes contact with Mahomes.
Brown would see multiple spin moves after this one and overall handled them without must distress. This was the first time he saw it, and it caught him slightly off guard. Wylie is able to hold his ground more effectively the second time Watt attempts the bull rush.
Brown and Highsmith saw plenty of each other in Week 16 and it will be a key matchup in the wildcard game pic.twitter.com/gBpZPYLncN— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) January 13, 2022
Watt is dropping back into coverage, allowing Wylie to double with Smith. Highsmith goes back to the dip but Brown gets enough of his hands on him this time. It isn’t perfect, but Brown should be prepared to withstand whatever is thrown his way.
Highsmith tried a bit of everything, which means Brown has plenty of film to study.
Watt goes for the inside move, you can see him pull up a bit, keep in mind Watt had injured ribs at the time, that isn’t the case anymore pic.twitter.com/fGmY8QQ2A6— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) January 13, 2022
Watt was clearly bothered by his ribs and was playing in pain, as is evident on this play.
After Watt knifes inside, he pulls up and even looks as though he starts to grab his right side. Wylie had a nice game during Week 16, but with a healthy Watt, the right tackle spot might need some help.
Both tackles are able to control their man on this rep giving Mahomes a squeaky clean pocket pic.twitter.com/qCNVjeyymg— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) January 13, 2022
Taco Charlton comes in to replace Watt. Highsmith is still on the left side, but the Brown and the rest of the Chiefs’ men in the trenches give up zero pressure on this rep. Creed Humphrey and Joe Thuney are solid with their double while Smith improves his footwork a bit to keep upright. Wylie halts Charlton’s progress up the field.
The bottom line
The Chiefs gave up two sacks to the Steelers — one to Alex Highsmith that caused a fumble (which was recovered by the Kansas City) and another to Cameron Heyward.
We mentioned how Watt would be healthier, so it will be a much different challenge for the Chiefs. However, the group is well-coached, and the play-calling should aid in the goal of protecting Mahomes.