The Steelers are coming off a rather disappointing tie against the Cleveland Browns. They have to bounce back and get a big win in Week 2, considering their schedule gets considerably harder as the season drags on. With the Bengals now at 2-0, the Steelers need to gain a win to get early position in the division. Thus, with a young, upstart Chiefs team coming to town, the Black-and-gold need to be ready.
Patrick Mahomes is a young gunslinger who reminds me a ton of Brett Favre with his arm and do-or-die tactics. For a second-year QB, Mahomes looked very comfortable against the Los Angeles Chargers last week. He had a great game and was slinging the ball around with ease. He's a rare breed of being a great deep passer as well as being extremely accurate. If that wasn't enough alone, the guy is mobile and can scramble at will. Tyrod Taylor gave the Steelers fits on the ground last week, so that will be an aspect to watch for the Steelers. Needless to say, he's only played two games, but the young Mahomes looks like a future superstar. Coming out of the Draft, I was very high on him, and so was resident Behind the Steel Curtain draft analyst Nick Martin. He will immediately test this secondary’s ability to defend the deep ball.
As for the Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger is coming off of one of the worst games of his career. He almost single-handedly caused the tie with the Browns by coughing up the ball five times, with three of those being interceptions. He's missed a good portion of the week with an elbow injury, but I believe he will play and be just fine. Usually after Ben as a bad game, he finds some way to miraculously bounce back. I'm expecting a big game from No. 7, but if he doesn't play, I'm not that confident in Joshua Dobbs. I supported the decision to keep him over Landry Jones, but it's simply undeniable that Dobbs isn't ready to start a game against an upper-tier team and lead the Steelers to a win. If Dobbs plays, he'll have to be much more of a game manager, but considering the team they're facing, he'll also have to be a gunslinger and create big plays.
Advantage: Steelers, if Ben plays.
The Chiefs trot out one of the most dangerous arsenals of weapons in the NFL. Led by stud speedster Tyreek Hill, this team might have the deadliest vertical passing game in the league. Hill himself could have a huge day with both Steelers corners injured heading into Sunday. Hill is no longer just a one-trick pony either. He showed in Week 1 that he can run a variety of other routes, and that's a huge difference from the previous years where Hill had little semblance of a route tree. His companion on the other side is Sammy Watkins. Watkins wasn't worth the $16 million it took to sign him, but that doesn't mean he's not a threat. Watkins is speedy as well and can be fleshed out into the slot in a variety of exotic looks. If Artie Burns plays, Cam Sutton likely has to slow down Watkins, Sutton is likely up to the task, but Watkins is good enough to get his catches. Chris Conley and DeMarcus Robinson are excellent depth receivers if they decide to look the football in. Robinson, in particular, has a bad case of the dropsies.
But that's not the end of it, as borderline Top-5 running back Kareem Hunt patrols the backfield. The Steelers shut him down in Week 6 of last year, but Ryan Shazier was a huge part of that effort. Hunt is speedy and agile and he'll make you miss if you don't tackle well enough. For Pittsburgh's sake, Jon Bostic is going to need to have a good game on run-defense. Mahomes won't check it down very often, but Hunt is a huge threat in the receiving game too. On top of all that, Travis Kelce is one of the biggest mismatches in the game at Tight End. If there's one Chief who has diced the Steelers, Kelce is the guy. Rookie Terrell Edmunds will be tasked with stopping him. Edmunds played lockdown against David Njoku last week, so a similar performance would be great.
As for the Steelers, James Conner is coming off of an impressive Week-1 performance. Given his solid performance in all facets, I expect much the same against a pretty weak run defense that the Chiefs employ. Stevan Ridley is likely to get in on the action too. Randy Fichtner alluded to that when he mentioned he made a mistake in not getting him on to the field last week. Finally, Vance McDonald will be returning -- a big piece of the offense the Steelers will have back. McDonald will be great from the slot and on passing downs, he should give Roethlisberger a great safe option. Jesse James will likely get in on the action too, and he'll be the normal, solid Jesse James. He will never wow you, but he does his job.
Now if you thought the Chiefs receivers were good, welcome to the Steelers' receiving core. With the best receiver in the game in Antonio Brown and a future star in JuJu Smith-Schuster, expect the Steelers to have a huge game through the air. The Chiefs do not have a corner capable of handling either of them, and hopefully James Washington also gets more playing time this week. I wonder if his lack of snaps last week was due to the wet weather, and since Washington is mainly a vertical receiver, it's possible that's why he didn't play much. However, Washington is a great tool for a matchup like this, and he should get ample opportunities to show what he can do.
Advantage: Chiefs, but not by much
The Chiefs' offensive line doesn't scream great, but it's solid. Eric Fisher is a good Left Tackle and will test Bud Dupree. While Mitchell Schwartz is good, T.J. Wattis likely to get a few pressures because he's taken a leap this season. Mitch Morse and Dr. Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff are good players on the inside of the line, but I have questions as to whether they can match up against the elite defensive line of the Steelers. As for Cam Erving, he's very bad. He was terrible last week, giving up four pressures and, unfortunately for him, he sees Cameron Heyward this week. That's not what he wanted to see, I'm sure.
As for the Steelers, they'll likely be missing David DeCastro as he recovers from a fractured hand. However, with B.J. Finney as an adequate backup, I am not too worried by the injury. DeCastro should be back for the duel with Tampa Bay in Week 3 and Finney is a starter-level linemen who happens to be our main backup at three positions. Alejandro Villanueva faced Myles Garrett last week and, reviewing the tape, I couldn't blame him too much. Garrett was just that good. Bad news is he sees Justin Houston this week. Houston is an elite pass rusher, so Villanueva will once again be tested. Maurkice Pouncey is coming off of an impressive performance. For some reason, PFF ranked him as the 31st best Center last week, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Ramon Foster will have his lapses, but he'll do what's required of him. Marcus Gilbert must bounce back this week, but he faces meme-level player Dee Ford.
Good luck defending this guy, Marcus.
As for the defensive line, the Steelers employ Cam Heyward, Javon Hargrave, and Stephon Tuitt. These guys terrorized the Cleveland offensive line last week and I expect somewhat of a similar performance. These guys are great and make this defense so much better.
For the Chiefs, Chris Jones is streaky, but when he's on, the guy is a great player. He has an inconsistent streak in him, so he will have his great plays but sometimes goes silent. Xavier Williams is an under-the-radar player, and while he's very strong, he's not a 3-down defensive linemen. I worry about his ability to hold his gap, which Derrick Nnadi can do, but he fails to shed blocks well enough to capitalize off of that. Allen Bailey will be a nice task for Ramon Foster, but Foster is a superior player. Bailey loses his leverage too often and Foster is a great leverage player.
Since both of these teams run a 3-4, it's natural to put both the outside and inside linebackers in the linebackers category.
As mentioned earlier, Justin Houston is a monster and will give any offense trouble. Lets just hope it's not nearly as bad as it was last week, as Ben Roethlisberger will need time to take shots down the field. He rotates with Tanoh Kpassagon, who in his second year is turning out to be a really nice edge player. He's better than Dee Ford, I can assure you of that. He has some nice bend to him and he's very athletic, so he'll give you some speed rush off the edge. Speaking of Dee Ford, the guy had a good game last week, but overall has been rather bad. His lack of awareness really holds him back and he often fails to get pressure. He's a huge weak link on this defense. Rookie Breeland Speaks is promising, but he should be playing inside.
As for the Steelers, T.J. Watt seems to have taken a leap from good rookie to great player. Watt had the best game of his career and likely the best game out of any defensive player last week. I haven't seen a dominant performance like that since the days of prime James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley. Watt will get his opportunities this week too. As for Bud Dupree, he may go back to being stonewalled. He got eight pressures last week, four of which were unblocked via PFF. But this week I have questions about whether he can beat Eric Fisher. Fisher plays with good leverage, which is something Dupree lacks.
At inside linebacker, the Chiefs recently signed Anthony Hitchens and return Reggie Ragland, who combine to create a great run-stopping duo in the middle. However, their coverage is suspect to say the least. The middle will be exploitable throughout the game, and Randy Fichtner will likely recognize it as such, so expect the Steelers take shots on crossers over the middle.
For the Steelers, Jon Bostic is coming off of one of the best games in his career. He was that good last week. Bostic had a great game in all areas, and if his coverage skills are like that every week, the ILB situation might be solved. Vince Williams had a bit of an inconsistent game, missing three tackles and taking some poor angles. However, he also had seven tackles for a loss. Williams will need to be consistent against the likes of Kareem Hunt.
Advantage: Chiefs, only because of Justin Houston
I don't know where to start here. Right now, this is a mess of two secondaries missing their leaders. The Steelers will be without Joe Haden and the Chiefs without Eric Berry. However, if the Steelers are also without Artie Burns, things could go awry, very fast.
The Steelers need Burns because he's the only true CB on the team, Haden included, that has the length and speed to keep up with Tyreek Hill. If Burns plays, and I expect him to try and tough it out with his toe injury, this changes as a whole. Mike Hilton will man the slot and slow down anyone who comes in there, so I don't have much of a concern about the slot as a whole. Cam Sutton has to be physical to bump Sammy Watkins off his game this week. Watkins’ weakness is contact at the line, but Sutton has never been a great man-coverage cornerback. If Sensabaugh starts, pray that he's competent, because, if not, it could be a long day.
As for the safeties, Sean Davis comes off of one of the best games of his career in his first start at FS. I expect the Steelers to employ lots of deep zones to keep Hill in check and Davis will be in full command of those deep zones. It very well could be man-coverage for everyone outside of Davis. Terrell Edmunds has a shot to face an elite TE and prove he can slow him down. Kelce will get his catches in, but if Edmunds can slow him down, it'll help a ton. Morgan Burnett will be used in his dual SS-ILB role and will be key to stopping Kareem Hunt. I believe Burnett has the capability to do that as well with his physicality and lateral speed.
The Chiefs have one true CB in Kendall Fuller. Fuller, who was traded from Washington, has the task of dealing with Antonio Brown. But even for a good CB like Fuller, that's a tall task. Orlando Scandrick is burnt toast, and while Steven Nelson is better, he's not that much better. Hence, Washington and JuJu will get their catches this week.
At safety, Ron Parker and Eric Murray make up an underwhelming duo. In Week 1, Phillip Rivers carved up these two, as receivers got behind them consistently. While Parker is good against the run, his coverage is simply underwhelming.
Even with the injuries, the Steelers have a wide advantage at safety, but the corners worry me. It's almost two bad secondaries against one another, but if Burns plays, the Steelers win this far and away.
Player to Watch: Cam Sutton
No player has more to prove on Sunday than Cam Sutton. He had a rough game when he came in last week, but if he shows that he can shut down Sammy Watkins or even slow down Tyreek Hill, that'll be a huge confidence booster. Sutton plays better in the slot, but if Sutton can show the ability to slow down these receivers, he could find himself as the true heir to Joe Haden at CB.
Matchup to Watch: Travis Kelce vs. Terrell Edmunds
Tyreek Hill might be the most dangerous player on the KC offense, but Kelce is the chain mover. If you cannot stop Kelce, you likely will not stop Hill and Hunt. This offense, at its focal point, runs through Travis Kelce. If Edmunds can slow him down, the Steelers’ chances instantly increase to win the game. If the Steelers exploit the Chiefs defense like they should, this matchup becomes the key to a few key stops for the Steelers defense.
The injuries make this game so much more unpredictable, and I truly don't know which Ben Roethlisberger will show up, but I'm confident in the Steelers' offense to get points on the board. If Burns plays, the Steelers' defense will get a few stops. Due to that, plus the Steelers playing at home, I'm giving the Steelers the advantage in the game, albeit, a close one.