Kansas City Chiefs-Pittsburgh Steelers Week 10 Preview: Who Has the Advantage?
Kansas City Chiefs-Pittsburgh Steelers Week 10 Preview
The Steelers (5-3) are riding high after beating the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants. That victory not only gave Pittsburgh a three-game winning streak, but it also showed that the Steelers are capable of beating a contending team.
Pittsburgh’s newfound dominance has come at the right time in a wide-open AFC. If the message hasn’t been made clear to football fans, this nationally televised game will let everyone know that the Steelers should be taken seriously.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the Chiefs (1-7). Nothing has gone their way this season, and they are currently trying to snap a five-game losing skid. Many say that they are the front-runners for the first pick in next year’s draft, and by the looks of things, it might be true.
The Chiefs can hang their hat on the fact that they have one of the league’s best rushing attacks. It’s too bad that their success in the running game gets pushed to the side by their inconsistencies at the quarterback position, and the fact that they lead the NFL with 29 turnovers.
This game definitely looks to be a cakewalk for the Steelers, and should give them more momentum with their next three games being against divisional opponents.
This may not even be necessary, but let’s look at who has the advantage across the board in this AFC battle.
Kansas City just hasn’t figured it out at the quarterback position. Matt Cassel has only six touchdown passes versus 11 interceptions this season. Even the Chiefs’ backup signal caller Brady Quinn has struggled, completing only 59.1 percent of his pass attempts for no touchdowns and three picks. Pittsburgh’s quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a better completion percentage (67.1 percent), and has thrown more touchdowns (16) and fewer interceptions (4) than Cassel and Quinn combined. Roethlisberger’s 101.1 quarterback rating overshadows Cassel and Quinn as well. Even though the Chiefs’ pass defense is ranked 11th in the NFL, Big Ben shouldn’t have a problem dissecting Kansas City’s secondary.
The Steelers have been one of the best rushing offenses in the league over the past three weeks, averaging 155 yards on the ground in that span. Steelers running backs Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer are the reasons for Pittsburgh’s recent success in the running game, and both are expected to play this Monday night. Chiefs’ running back Jamaal Charles is fourth in the AFC in rushing, and ninth in the entire league with 634 yards. Charles has proven that he has fully recovered from last season’s injury to his ACL. Charles’ speed was displayed earlier this season when he ran 91 yards for a touchdown. Even though Kansas City has one of the premier running backs in the NFL, I still think that having two hot running backs in the backfield is better than one.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Pittsburgh may be without the team’s second-leading receiver in Antonio Brown. Emmanuel Sanders will replace Brown, who injured his ankle in Week 9, if he is a no-go. Brown has shown that he can step up when called upon. Last week he caught a touchdown and converted on a huge third-down play to help the Steelers get their third win in a row. The players that have cashed in the most in the passing game are Mike Wallace and Heath Miller. Wallace has found the end zone five times so far this season, while Miller continues to lead the Steelers with six touchdowns on the year. Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe has been the go-to guy in Kansas City’s air attack; unfortunately, he has been the only playmaker receiving wise.
Looking at the numbers in pass protection, the Chiefs and the Steelers have similar offensive lines. Kansas City has allowed 17 sacks, and Pittsburgh has let defenders get to their quarterback 16 times. However, despite the recent success of the Steelers in their running game, the Chiefs offensive front has opened holes for their backfield that has made them the third best run offense in the league with an average of 149.9 yards per game. The bitter-sweet play of Steelers rookie offensive tackle Mike Adams still concerns Steeler Nation, and Kansas City’s pass rush will test him all night long.
The defensive lines of both teams haven’t filled up the stats sheet. The combined five sacks from both defensive fronts should tell you that. Both lines are really designed to make room for their linebackers to make plays in stopping the run and generating pressure on the quarterback during passing situations. The glaring difference on both lines is the nose tackle position. Kansas City’s rookie Dontari Poe is a first-round draft pick, but is still a work in progress. On the other side, Pittsburgh’s Casey Hampton and backup nose tackle Steve McLendon are two major reasons why the Steelers are giving up an average of only 88.6 yards per game on the ground (tied for seventh in the league).
Just like the defensive line, there are some similarities between the two groups of linebackers in this game, mainly in the pass rush. Twelve of Kansas City’s 14 sacks have come from linebackers Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, and Derrick Johnson. Pittsburgh’s linebackers Larry Foote, James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons, LaMarr Woodley, and Jason Worilds have combined for 11 of the Steelers’ 14 sacks on the season. Even the interceptions between the two linebacking groups are similar; the Chiefs have one while the Steelers have two. However, just like the defensive line, the ability to stop the run is what puts the Steelers’ linebacking corps over the top of the Chiefs’.
Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against the New York Giants. Taylor registered the team’s fourth interception of the season, and had seven tackles. Even though the Steelers’ defensive backs have a total of two interceptions this season, the fact that Kansas City leads the league in turnovers should help improve that number. Taylor and the rest of the Steelers’ secondary have done a superb job in defending the pass, which is why Pittsburgh’s defense is number one against the pass. Interceptions are good, but the stat that matters the most is 174.0 passing yards allowed per game.
In last week’s game, Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown and Chris Rainey both left the game with an ankle injury and injured ribs respectively. Assuming that both are unable to play this week, Emmanuel Sanders will more than likely fill in as Pittsburgh’s primary return man. Having Sanders play more as a receiver, and filling the duties as a kick and/or punt returner may take its toll on him throughout the game. As for the kickers and punters, Kansas City’s Ryan Succop and Pittsburgh’s Shaun Suisham have both been reliable kickers all season long. Steelers rookie punter Drew Butler is averaging just a few more yards per punt than Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt.
Everyone knows that Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau are two of the best at their position in the NFL. However, in this game, all the attention will be on offensive coordinator Todd Haley. For the first time, Haley will be facing the team in which he was the head coach of, and was fired from just last season. Pittsburgh’s offensive game planning should be the x-factor in this Monday night matchup. Haley should still know the tendencies of Kansas City’s defense, and should have no problem in strategizing around the Chiefs’ weaknesses. This will be the reason why Pittsburgh wins this game easily.
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