The 2019 NFL Playoffs are right around the corner, and those Wild Card matchups are starting to take shape in both the AFC and NFC. When looking at the potential matchups, there are some games which fans, and likely some players, would love to avoid.
For instance, a divisional opponent playing for the third time in a season is always difficult. Beating a team three times in one year is a tall task, even though the Pittsburgh Steelers have done that to the Baltimore Ravens in the past.
With that said, Bill Barnwell, of ESPN, writes what every playoff contender’s kryptonite is, and which team they should avoid. After the Steelers 17-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday Night Football, many of the fans don’t see the Steelers as being much of a threat to anyone. But not Barnwell. He has them being the biggest problem to the Kansas City Chiefs.
See what he had to say:
Kansas City Chiefs
Playoff kryptonite: Patrick Mahomes’ health
Team to avoid: Pittsburgh Steelers
Naturally, the Chiefs will want to avoid teams that batter opposing quarterbacks. No team has given opposing quarterbacks more bumps and bruises than the Steelers, who are second in the league with a sack rate of 9.1%. They have the sixth-highest blitz rate in the league. With T.J. Watt playing like a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, Pittsburgh has one of the best pass-rushers in all of football.
Mahomes absolutely torched the Steelers for 326 yards and six touchdowns when the Chiefs faced the Steelers in Week 2 of 2018, but that was a different Pittsburgh defense. None of the starters who lined up in the secondary for the Steelers in Sunday night’s loss to the Bills was in the starting lineup for that Chiefs game. Minkah Fitzpatrick was on the Dolphins and Steven Nelson was on the opposite sideline. Devin Bush, a huge upgrade in pass coverage on then-starter Jon Bostic, was still in college. Both Watt and Bud Dupree have also elevated their games to new levels since that 2018 contest. I suspect the Steelers want a second crack at Mahomes after what happened last time.
Since the Steelers are in the playoff hunt, if the playoffs started today, Barnwell dug deep into their psyche and picked a team who would be a horrible matchup for Devlin Hodges and company.
See what was said about the Steelers in the postseason:
Playoff kryptonite: The intermediate game
Team to avoid: New England Patriots
Devlin Hodges is a little like an appliance from the 1960s. While some modern marvel of a device might be able to toast your bread to one of 20 different specifications on demand through your phone, Hodges has two options: short or deep. A whopping 43.6% of his passes have been thrown at or behind the line of scrimmage this season, which is more than 10 percentage points ahead of Nick Foles for the highest rate in all of football. Foles is closer to 26th than he is to Hodges, who leads all 41 passers with 100 attempts or more.
At the same time, though, Hodges also gets the ball downfield quite frequently, as 13.7% of his pass attempts have traveled 20 yards or more in the air. Of those 41 passers, Hodges is tied for the 10th-highest frequency of long throws with Steelers teammate Mason Rudolph.
When you look at throws in the intermediate range -- between 5 and 15 yards in the air -- Hodges has trouble. He attempts only about four of those passes each game, and his passer rating on those throws is 66.5, which ranks 38th in the league. (Rudolph, coincidentally, ranks 39th on those same passes.) I mentioned that the Bills typically take away deep passes, and when they forced Hodges to throw intermediate passes on Sunday, he went 6-of-11 for 54 yards with an interception.
Hodges realistically needs those occasional deep shots to move the ball on offense and create some breathing room for his checkdowns and quick throws, so any team that erases deep passes should give him fits. Enter the Patriots, who have embarrassed opposing quarterbacks brave enough to throw downfield on them this season. The Pats are allowing a QBR of just 18.2 on deep passes, nearly 30 points better than any other team. If you prefer passer rating, the Pats are giving up a mere 32.0 rating on those deep throws, which is nearly 30 points better than the second-place Steelers.
Pick a stat for downfield pass defense and the Patriots are the best in the league, usually by a considerable margin. That’s bad news for Hodges. The Steelers wouldn’t be in line to face the Patriots until the AFC Championship Game if they make it to the postseason, but they would have to face the Ravens in the divisional round, and Baltimore ranks third in passer rating against deep throws since Week 5. Neither matchup seems particularly appealing for Pittsburgh’s young quarterbacks.
If Steelers fans are being totally honest with themselves, it becomes glaring how the team doesn’t matchup well against any potential playoff team, from an offensive standpoint. Pittsburgh’s offense has become so anemic it requires a big play from the defense to truly give them a chance to add to their point total for the game.
However, the Steelers’ defense is at the completely other end of the spectrum. Feasting on sacks, QB hits, tackles for loss and takeaways, they would be a nightmare for almost all potential playoff team to have to face — regardless of venue.
With all that said, what do you think about the thought of the Steelers playing a team like the Chiefs? Is there a matchup you prefer over another? Let us know in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for the New York Jets in Week 16.