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Chiefs vs. Steelers: Game and score predictions

Let’s see what Arrowhead Pride contributors — and our readers — think about Sunday’s playoff game against Pittsburgh.

NFL: DEC 26 Steelers at Chiefs Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

For the Kansas City Chiefs’ final regular-season game against the Denver Broncos, Arrowhead Pride contributors were unanimous in their belief that the Chiefs would win — but there was some disagreement about by how much. All but two predicted a blowout — and no one called for an easy win between eight and 13 points. It was the first time that’s happened this season. So our composite prediction of a 30-13 Kansas City win was 36 points removed from the 28-24 final against Denver. Our readers were less confident of a big win: about two in five thought it would be an easy win — and about one in 10 thought the game would be close.

On Wild Card Weekend, the Chiefs face the Pittsburgh Steelers at Arrowhead Stadium. According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Kansas City is favored by 12.5 points. Let’s see what the staff — and our readers — think about the matchup.


Tom Childs (@tomchilds56)

The NFL is getting exactly what it deserves for adding two extra teams into the playoffs: a far superior second seed facing off against a ridiculously outmatched seventh seed. Even if the Chiefs do end up blowing Pittsburgh away, no one will feel like they've learned anything about Kansas City. Bring on the real playoffs next week! Chiefs 42, Steelers 17

John Dixon (@Arrowheadphones)

After the team’s 36-10 rout of the Steelers in Week 16, it’s pretty tempting to think this will be another Kansas City blowout. But in the previous game, both teams were without key players — and in such a situation, I would be very surprised to see Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin come to the table without a better plan. Besides... this is the postseason. If Ben Roethlisberger goes down, he’ll go down swinging. I think the Chiefs will jump out to an early lead — but as the saying goes, the score will be closer than the game would indicate. Chiefs 28, Steelers 21

Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34)

The biggest difference between the Week 16 matchup and this Wild Card game is the health of Pittsburgh linebacker T.J. Watt, who was hindered by injured ribs in the last game. Watt — along with Alex Highsmith — will provide a challenge for the Kansas City offensive line, which has become one of the league’s more reliable units in protecting their quarterback. The Chiefs appear to be nearly at full health; running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire looks to be the biggest player who won’t go. The defense has to be prepared for Najee Harris, who broke some big runs the last time, but is questionable for the game. We must expect an all-out effort from Ben Roethlisberger, who could be playing in his last NFL game. But in that duel, I am still taking Patrick Mahomes any day of the week — and twice on Sunday. Chiefs 30, Steelers 20

Kristian Gumminger (@kgumminger)

Despite having started in two Super Bowls, this will be Patrick Mahomes’ first start during Wild Card Weekend — playing against a Steelers team he beat just three weeks ago. If the Chiefs can minimize the impact a healthy T.J. Watt can have on the game, the offense should flourish again. On the other side of the ball, a repeat performance from the Chiefs’ defense should be expected. Ben Roethlisberger is now a bad quarterback, ranking near the bottom in every passing efficiency category — while still ranking in the top five in attempts per game. He ranks 30th in air yards per completion and is last in the league in time in the pocket before getting pressured. In over 600 dropbacks, he has scrambled just three times. All this means that Roethlisberger wants to get the ball out quickly to prevent being hit — and that shortens the space that defenses need to cover. This plays into Steve Spagnuolo’s hands; according to DVOA, his defense is the league’s best in the short passing game. Overall, this is a great matchup for the Chiefs — but I expect Andy Reid to call a vanilla gameplan to keep the “January plays” for next week. Bold Prediction: Mecole Hardman has a major impact play, building on his first 100-yard receiving game from last week. Chiefs 27, Steelers 20

Mark Gunnels (@MarkAGunnels)

These two teams less than a month ago, when the Chiefs won 36-10. What makes that win more impressive is that Travis Kelce didn’t play — and Tyreek Hill played less than half the snaps. This is most likely Ben Roethlisberger’s last game, so I would expect the Steelers to play inspired football. And since nobody expects the Steelers to win, expect for them to play loose — and pull out all of the tricks. But Roethlisberger’s arm is shot, so I expect the Chiefs to stack the box, forcing him to take shots on the outside. At this point in his career, he just isn’t capable of consistently doing that. On the other side, the Chiefs should be able to run the ball — which will open things up for Patrick Mahomes in the passing game. Chiefs 34, Steelers 13

Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp)

As a Chiefs fan, it’s okay to be overconfident heading into Wild Card weekend; the Steelers are not the kind of team that usually qualifies for the playoffs. In fact, I’d argue they weren’t even one of the 10 best AFC teams this season; their minus-55 point differential (the fifth-lowest in the conference) proves that. It’s the Chiefs who can’t be overconfident — and I’m not worried they will be. I believe Kansas City will take care of business, controlling this game with a strong rushing attack and building momentum into the Divisional round. Chris Jones highlights the defense by obliterating the Steelers’ offensive line. Chiefs 30, Steelers 17

Rocky Magaña (@RockyMagana)

I don’t expect this game to be the same 60-minute body slam that the Chiefs put on the Steelers in Week 16. This is Ben Roethlisberger’s last hurrah before he rides off into the sunset — and at this point, Pittsburgh is playing with house money. Expect Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin to pull out all of the stops — first-half onside kicks, trick plays, etc. — to try and keep his underdogs in the game. The Steelers want to run the ball, so Kansas City needs to be ready to play sound gap-assignment football. T.J. Watt is healthy this time around, so I think that in an attempt to exploit Kansas City’s loss of right tackle Lucas Niang, Tomlin is going to dial up the pressure on the right side of the ball. Meanwhile, I think the Chiefs go after the Steelers’ 31st-ranked run defense; Pittsburgh has allowed 200+ yards rushing on four different occasions this year. I foresee the Chiefs jumping out to an early lead — and then pounding the rock the rest of the way home. Chiefs 31, Steelers 20

Kramer Sansone (@KramerTalks)

I am not going to be the person who thinks the Chiefs are going to walk all over the Steelers; I believe this game will be close. Kansas City will start out by scoring on their first drive — and in the majority of their first-half possessions — but as it has the past two weeks, the offense will then slow down. The Steelers will be the exact opposite. They’ll start off slow and finish strong — and that’s where the writing is all over the wall. I feel like T.J. Watt will make his presence known throughout the game — but also that Patrick Mahomes will bail out his team. Chiefs 27, Steelers 24

Jared Sapp (@TrumanChief)

This week, only the Chiefs can beat the Chiefs. As fans, we have experienced Pittsburgh’s perspective many times: entering a playoff game with the inferior quarterback, hoping that running the ball and playing good defense will bring a win. Unfortunately for the Steelers, the outcome is likely to be similar to the ones suffered by many Kansas City teams that entered the playoffs with the same plan. The Chiefs’ offense will again be efficient — if not exciting. The Steelers’ offense will perform better with rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth, who will be available after missing the first game with a concussion. But Ben Roethlisberger’s limited arm (and middling offensive line play) will again seal Pittsburgh’s fate. After a choppy two weeks, the Chiefs defense will return to form for at least one week, delivering a performance that temporarily creates chatter linking defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to the New York Giants’ head coaching vacancy. Chiefs 27, Steelers 13

Stephen Serda (@StephenSerda)

On paper, there just aren’t very many ways the Steelers should come out ahead. But in the NFL, you should never take games for granted — see the Indianapolis Colts in Week 18. The Steelers’ pass rush should be more of a problem — and down the stretch, Najee Harris has really come on for them. The Chiefs' run defense continues to struggle; we should expect the Steelers to attack that part of it. At the end of the day, though, Ben Roethlisberger’s limitations as a passer just crush any chance for his offense to be explosive — and that works in the Chiefs’ favor. With tight end Travis Kelce active in this game, I’d expect Kansas City to attack the Steelers in a similar fashion to what we saw in Week 16. Chiefs 27, Steelers 13

Matt Stagner (@stagdsp)

The Steelers — like Ben Roethlisberger — have had a good run. They have plenty of talent — and in the last couple of weeks, have done enough to get into the playoffs. But that run should come to an end in Kansas City. The Chiefs have been tested all year — and in the postseason, too. They’ve had big comebacks — along with games where they went out to a big early lead. Patrick Mahomes has now seen it all, including defenses that limit his ability to throw deep or bring tons of pressure. The coaches know that if they do what they do, the opponent won’t matter so much. If the offense is efficient, protects Mahomes and takes care of the football (limiting both the drops and the turnovers) — and if the defense tackles well and pressures the quarterback — this team will win against any opponent. The Steelers are just the unfortunate franchise that has to face the Chiefs twice within a few weeks. This one will be closer than the last one — because it’s the playoffs, and the Steelers have nothing to lose — but expect a big game from Mahomes and the Chiefs running backs, along with a couple of game-changing plays from Chris Jones, Melvin Ingram and/or Frank Clark. This team was built for a postseason run — and that starts on Sunday night. It’s the postseason in Kansas City. Enjoy the ride, folks! Chiefs 35, Steelers 24

Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_)

I respect the Steelers’ organization; if you make the playoffs, you belong — period. If it wasn’t the case, another team would have that No. 7 seed. But beyond the easy-to-see conversation points for both of these teams, in terms of Xs and Os, this is just a brutal matchup for Pittsburgh. The team is just not built in a way that enables it to succeed against a team like the Chiefs. Just a few weeks ago, we saw it live when the Chiefs won 36-10 at Arrowhead. Sunday night will be highlighted by fans full of energy — and while Pittsburgh might want to play the “nobody believes in us” card, I don’t think it will amount to much. Ben Roethlisberger goes out with a tough loss in Kansas City. Chiefs 30, Steelers 16

Pete Sweeney (@pgsween)

The Chiefs have said all the right things when it comes to their blowout of the Steelers three short weeks ago — and that is (paraphrasing here) that they have flushed it and moved on. T.J. Watt is an absolute game wrecker — but the last time around, he was a shell of himself, battling through severe pain due to an injury to his ribs. The Chiefs will need to find a way to neutralize the now-healthy Watt so that their offense can operate. Ben Roethlisberger is now unofficially playing for his career. I think that motivates the Pittsburgh offense to have a better game — but not by all that much. The only way the Steelers have a chance is if they can hold Kansas City under 20 points — and even with Watt, I don’t think they can. Watt or not, this is still Patrick Mahomes vs. Roethlisberger. Chiefs 30, Steelers 20

Ethan Willinger (@ecwillinger)

I expect the Steelers to perform better than they did in the first matchup between these teams. In the rematch, Mike Tomlin will throw everything he has at the Chiefs — and Ben Roethlisberger won’t go out without a fight. With a healthy T.J. Watt in the lineup, the Pittsburgh defense will be ready to capitalize on any Kansas City mistakes. But if the Chiefs are primed to make a run in the playoffs, they will roll over an overmatched Steelers squad. The offense will need to prioritize patience — and the defense simply can’t beat itself. Assuming Najee Harris can go, Pittsburgh’s priorities on offense will be apparent: establish the run and test the aggressiveness of Kansas City’s secondary. The Chiefs will need to sell out to stop the run and refrain from committing costly penalties in the passing game. It sounds simple enough — but for two consecutive weeks, they have struggled to force opposing offenses out of their comfort zones. Feeding off the energy at Arrowhead, I expect Kansas City’s defense to take a step in the right direction. The Steelers will hang in there — but start to finish, the Chiefs will be in control. Chiefs 30, Steelers 17

Poll

Who wins Steelers (9-7-1) at Chiefs (12-5)?

This poll is closed

  • 23%
    Chiefs in a blowout (14 or more points)
    (436 votes)
  • 44%
    Chiefs in an easy win (8-13 points)
    (809 votes)
  • 22%
    Chiefs in a close game (7 or fewer points)
    (410 votes)
  • 7%
    Steelers in a close game
    (135 votes)
  • 0%
    Steelers in an easy win
    (14 votes)
  • 0%
    Steelers in a blowout
    (16 votes)
1820 votes total Vote Now

2021 Standings

TW LW Staffer W L Pct Err
1 1 Tom Childs 14 3 0.8235 34.1
2 2 Kristian Gumminger 13 4 0.7647 30.7
3 3 Talon Graff 12 5 0.7059 29.8
4 4 Bryan Stewart 12 5 0.7059 30.0
5 5 Rocky Magaña 12 5 0.7059 30.7
6 6 Jared Sapp 12 5 0.7059 31.3
7 7 Kramer Sansone 12 5 0.7059 33.8
7 8 Mark Gunnels 12 5 0.7059 33.8
9 9 Pete Sweeney 12 5 0.7059 34.6
10 9 Matt Stagner 12 5 0.7059 35.1
11 11 John Dixon 11 6 0.6471 30.0
12 12 Stephen Serda 11 6 0.6471 30.9
13 13 Ethan Willinger 11 6 0.6471 33.4
14 14 Ron Kopp Jr. 10 7 0.5882 35.8

Ties in the standings are broken with prediction points error — how much each prediction misses the actual point spread and the number of points scored by each team.

In Week 18, John Dixon had the closest individual prediction for the Broncos game. His 27-20 pick had only eight points of error, giving him his first win of the season. Kristian Gumminger was the only other staffer who thought the game would be close. His prediction for a 24-17 victory was 14 points off.