I almost didn’t write this. I considered just taking the week off from my usual previews and focus on other things. But then it dawned on me. That’s the worst thing I could do, and it seemed like it would so easy and so harmless. When it occurred to me just how bad an idea it was, I realize that same sort of attitude could be shared by the Pittsburgh Steelers as they prepare to take on the Kansas City Chiefs tonight. And by God, if they aren’t going to take the week off, neither should I.
But, if you think about it, if there was ever a trap game, it’s this one. The Steelers are on a roll, and staring down a three game stretch against division opponents including a brutal pair of games against the Baltimore Ravens. So the notion of looking past a team like the Chiefs has to be on the minds of the coaching staff, players and fans.
So what has to happen to be sure that the Steelers come out of this game with a win?
First, they must understand their history. The Steelers haven’t lost a home Monday night game in over 20 years. This isn’t the weekend to start. They must also recognize that the Chiefs have talent. It’s all just lost its way and the coach has lost them. But talent is talent and there are players on that roster who can flat out play.
When the Steelers have the football-It’s going to be Isaac Redman back in the backfield as fellow running backs Jonathan Dwyer and Rahsard Mendenhall are still dinged up. The Steelers need to grind it with Redman and soften up a struggling Chiefs defense. It also minimizes the chances of mistakes and turnovers, so I say play it safe. With Antonio Brown out with injury and Chris Rainey dinged up, the receiving group is a little short handed. There’s still enough with wide receivers Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders, along with tight end Heath Miller, to pick the Chiefs secondary apart. I see no reason to force the football downfield and risk mistakes. There’s a good chance it’s going to be raining and windy, so I say play it safe.
When the Steelers are on defense-The Chiefs quarterback situation has been a grease fire, so the emphasis needs to be on shutting down the Chiefs running game led by Jamaal Charles. The Steelers need to crowd the line, blitz the gaps on run downs and force the Chiefs into 2nd and 3rd in long where the Chiefs will be forced to throw and the Steelers can just tee off on quarterback Matt Cassel. Cornerback Ike Taylor will follow wide receiver Dwayne Bowe around all game, and it will be up to the rest of the defense to just play with intensity and sound fundamental football. Tackle, don’t let players get behind them and force turnovers. It’s really football 101 tonight.
Player to watch-Steelers-Emmanuel Sanders, WR-With Brown out, it’s going to be Sanders who’s going to get the one on ones opposite Wallace. When Roethlisberger takes his shots down field, it could be to Sanders where he should have the advantage. I expect a big play or two from Sanders.
Player to watch-Chiefs-Jamaal Charles, RB-I wrote a few weeks back that the Chiefs were going to put Charles on a pitch count so to speak. If the Chiefs have a prayer in this game, they are going to need to feed Charles the football and hope he can pop off a big play or two against a stout Steelers defense.
X-Factor-Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin-Tomlin has a lot to deal with this week. He’s minus some key players yet again, has a bad football team coming to town, and has to work to keep his players focused on this game, rather than the next three, not to mention all the nonsense about offensive coordinator Todd Haley and his history with the Chiefs. How well this team plays will hinge on how ready Tomlin has them.
Prediction-I want to say a big win going away by the Steelers. It’s not going to work that way. I believe the Steelers are too talented to lose this game, but they aren’t too cocky to overlook the Chiefs. Even in Tweets by players this week, I don’t sense the urgency or intensity of a prime time game. The Steelers will win, but I won’t be shocked if it’s within a touchdown and they don’t put it away until late.