There’s no bigger game in Week 6 than the Pittsburgh Steelers returning to the scene of the AFC Divisional crime of 2016 for a rematch with the Kansas City Chiefs. Heading into this matchup, I was able to talk with Joel Thorman, editor of Arrowhead Pride (SB Nation’s Chiefs website), to discuss the upcoming game.
Check out the insight on this AFC matchup and be sure to check out Joel and his team’s work at Arrowhead Pride leading up to kickoff. There’s no better Chiefs website on the internet.
The Chiefs are the lone unbeaten team in the NFL. What’s been their key to success throughout their 5-0 run?
They're not turning it over and they're forcing turnovers. It's classic Chiefs football. The thing that’s pushed them over the top is Alex Smith. He's playing at a high level. He’s going deep a little more often, but the biggest difference is he's connecting on those deep passes. Kareem Hunt has added another dimension the Chiefs haven't seen since Jamaal Charles was here (and healthy). The core of this team has been in this offense for several years so Andy Reid is adding more and more to the offense, especially some of the spread concepts that you see in college. Defensively, Justin Houston is back to his normal self averaging a sack a game. Everything is clicking right now.
Alex Smith seems to have rebuilt himself this season and the offense hasn't missed a beat. How can an opposing defense stop or slow down the Chiefs' offense?
Strong defensive lines have given the Chiefs some trouble this year (see the Eagles and Redskins game). The Chiefs struggled in the first half of those games. What they do well is adjust in the second half after seeing what you're doing. So I think it starts with a strong front-seven putting some pressure on the Chiefs’ line and forcing the Chiefs into obvious passing situations (I say that after they just had a great game on third and long, but that's probably more the exception than the rule). That can get you more defensive backs on the field and it can take Kareem Hunt out of the game (literally out of the game as the Chiefs will sometimes bring in Charcandrick West in obvious passing downs). The Chiefs will be down two starting offensive linemen so have at the interior of the line.
Arrowhead Stadium. Yeah, we know it’s loud, but how have the Chiefs played at home recently compared to on the road?
Believe it or not, the Chiefs have been better on the road with nine consecutive road wins, however, they're winning everywhere this year. Despite that road record, the Chiefs would prefer to play at home. It's more comfortable for everyone. At 5-0 and the best team in football, I imagine the Arrowhead crowd will be plenty pumped up, but I also know from previous games that you Steelers fans travel very well. You'll see some towels out there.
How has the Chiefs' defense been playing this year? Haven't heard as much buzz around them as usual.
They lost Eric Berry which was tough. They still seem to be giving up a lot of yards between the 20s, which they’ve done in recent seasons. With the way the offense has been playing, the defense has been good enough. Not elite as in years past but good enough. Justin Houston has been rushing the passer well with 5.5 sacks. Dee Ford has been out and Frank Zombo, while not known as a great pass rusher, is a competent run defender on the outside. Chris Jones gets a push up the middle and can cause Big Ben some real problems trying to step up in the pocket. In the secondary, some teams avoid Marcus Peters and some teams go right at him. Generally he's pretty good but he is coming off of a tough game a couple weeks ago against Washington. The other corner, Terrance Mitchell, is among the most targeted corners and I suspect he will be again on Sunday facing the Steelers. Mitchell is good but, because he's been targeted so often, he does give up big plays. I don't think you're consistently going to dink and dunk your way down the field against the Chiefs’ defense. However, they can be susceptible to the big play.
Give us an update on the injury situation—the Chiefs have suffered some big ones this year. Also, how do you think Sunday’s game will play out?
The Chiefs could be down two starting offensive linemen - C Mitch Morse and RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. They could be without LB Dee Ford, their other starting pass rusher. Wide Receiver Chris Conley was just lost for the season last Sunday night. TE Travis Kelce is in the concussion protocol. No doubt the Chiefs have a lot of injuries. Somehow, I'm not too worried because they repeatedly show they can replace whoever they lose. I will say that, if Kelce can't go, the Chiefs could be in trouble. He's one of the keys to the offense.
Joel’s Prediction for the game: 28-27 Chiefs