Sunday, 6:05pm, will be the time the Pittsburgh Steelers clash with the Kansas City Chiefs in one of this years most exciting playoff games.
The hunter has now become the hunted. The Pittsburgh Steelers destroyed the Miami Dolphins last week in the wildcard round in a game the Steelers viewed as revenge for a 30-15 spanking the Dolphins delivered earlier in the season in week six. This week the Chiefs will want to exact their revenge on a Steelers team that gave them a spanking in week four of the season, a game that ended 43-14 and was arguably Pittsburgh’s best performance of the year.
Let’s take a look at some of the areas that could define who wins this crucial AFC playoff game.
The Kansas City Chiefs are the 2nd seed in the AFC meaning they will be hosting the 3rd seed Steelers in Arrowhead Stadium. Arrowhead Stadium has become notorious for the electric crowds it gathers and the volume of noise generated from those hyped up fans, expect it to be even louder this week as KC fans have been starved of football for a week and they go into this game as a 2-point favorite over Pittsburgh.
The Steelers enter this match relatively healthy. Their quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sustained an ankle injury on an ill-advised pass play deep into the 4th quarter against Miami. Aside from the debate about whether Ben should have been throwing in that circumstance, it does open up suspicions that the veteran quarterback won’t be 100% healthy, meaning his accuracy/throwing strength could be compromised.
Tight end Ladarius Green remains in the concussion protocol, meaning Pittsburgh will be missing a valued target in the middle of the field. Rookie safety Sean Davis sustained a shoulder injury but nothing too serious.
The Chiefs come into this weeks game with two big impact players returning from injury. Accomplished pass-rusher Justin Houston will be a nightmare for Pittsburgh’s tackles, as will receiver Jeremy Maclin for the secondary.
Cornerback Phillip Gaines is also listen on the injury report with a knee issue.
Alex Smith, the epitome of steadiness and readiness, if Kansas City loses this game it won’t be because of him, because Smith rarely ever puts his team in a hole with interceptions or bad passes.
Smith holds a career postseason passer rating of 99.1 which is a big increase from his 85.3 passer rating in the regular season, his play does however have one major flaw; downfield passing. Smith rarely shoots deep, and that works to the advantage of Pittsburgh’s secondary that is still coming into it’s own. Being able to defend a shorter field play in play out makes stopping Kansas City’s offense an easier task.
For the Steelers it’s Ben Roethlisberger. Ben was looking to have one of the best postseason games of his career after throwing two early touchdowns vs the Dolphins last week and posting ten straight completions. Suddenly the passing offense took a back seat to the running game (rightly so) and Ben threw two bad interceptions.
Roethlisberger needs to play a good game versus Kansas City, his recent post season stats have left a little more to be desired, throwing seven touchdowns to seven interceptions in his last six playoff games. The news of his ankle injury earlier in the week will be another hurdle for the future hall of famer to overcome if the Steelers are to beat the Chiefs.
The main difference maker for the Steelers should come as no surprise. It’s Le’Veon Bell.
Bell, who earlier in the week said he is revolutionizing how the ball is ran, needs to come out and back up those statements with some excellent play. He faces a Kansas City Chiefs run defense that is ranked 26th in the league. After punishing the Dolphins defense last week to the tune of 167-yards on the ground, he needs to offset the potential downfall in his quarterbacks play due to injury by having another dominating performance. It wouldn’t hurt in the Steelers offensive line played the game of their lives this weekend also. Just saying…
Do I really need to mention who the difference maker for the Chiefs is, because we all know…
IT’S TYREEK HILL.
Stopping this man is a mission itself, he can turn a 5-yard screen into a 50-yard touchdown. He can turn a badly punt football into a 50-yard touchdown. He can turn a simple handoff into a 50-yard touchdown. He just creates touchdowns. Tackling on special teams will be a premium this week, as will tackling in general for the Steelers.
The Chiefs need to get Hill in space, any space, and then sit back and watch this man rip apart the Steelers defense because he is that special.
Just watch for yourself…
Food For Thought:
A couple of things to think about this week, first is that all the chatter regarding how Justin Houston is returning and how Kansas City is going to be rushing Ben Roethlisberger likes it’s nobodies business means people are ignoring how a former NFL defensive player of the year is playing.
Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison at age 38 is defying the odds, he singlehandedly outperformed the Miami Dolphins defense in a number of key statistics last week including sacks, pass quarterback pressures, and defensive stops.
His final stat line: 2 sacks, 2 hits, 3 hurries, 1 forced fumble, 4 run stops, 6 tackles, 4 assisted tackles, 0 missed tackles.
*insert fountain of youth reference*
The second is that Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has an incredible 19-2 record coming off a bye week, so not only will Pittsburgh have to overcome the immense crowd noise, but they will also have to overcome the fantastic coaching ability of Andy Reid.
Ben Roethlisberger: 1 TD, 2 INT’s, 250-yards passing.
Alex Smith: 2 TD’s, 290-yards passing.
Antonio Brown: 3 catches, 50-yards or less.
Jeremy Maclin: 4 catches, 90-yards, 1 TD.
Le’Veon Bell: 109-rushing yards, 65-receiving yards, 1 TD.
Tyreek Hill: 100 yards from scrimmage, 1 punt return TD.
Chiefs defense: 3 sacks, 2 INT’s, 1 fumble recovery.
Steelers defense 3 sacks, 1 fumble recovery.
Final Score: Kansas City 21 – Pittsburgh Steelers 10