About the opponent:
The Chiefs are coming off of a solid 2015 season, one that saw them go 11-5 and make the playoffs. After blowing out Houston in the AFC Wild Card game, they were defeated by New England in the divisional round 27-20.
The Andy Reid coached Chiefs are a bit of a throwback; they feature a rock solid defense and a ball control offense. The Kansas City defense is one of the best in the league, finishing ninth against the pass (231.1 yards/game), seventh against the run (98.2 yards/game), and 7th in total defense last year.
This offseason, they locked up one of their franchise players, Safety Eric Berry, by placing the franchise tag on him and for good reason. He's amassed 350 career tackles and 10 interceptions in six seasons. He's also been named to the Pro Bowl four times and the NFLs All-Pro team twice.
However, Berry was not present for the Chief's three-day minicamp which began on June 14th. This could signal that he's putting pressure on Chiefs management to work out a long term, lucrative deal.
Berry isn't the only star player on the Chiefs defense though. Linebacker Justin Houston is also a four-time pro bowler and two-time All-Pro. However, Houston just had ACL surgery in February and could miss considerable time during the upcoming season.
But Chief's General Manager, John Dorsey, expects Houston to play in 2016. In a Bleacher Report article from April, Dorsey admits that he isn't certain of the timetable, but states that "our doctors have reassured us that [Houston] will play this season."
The team also kept the rest of their linebacking corps in tact this season by signing Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali to new contracts. The downside there is that they're 34 and 33 years old respectively.
Offensively, the Chiefs are led by workman-like quarterback, Alex Smith. Smith isn't dynamic. He's not Ben Roethlisberger, but he's certainly not Kent Graham either. His strength is managing the game and not making mistakes, which is evidenced by his stats last season: 20 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, and a passer rating of 95.4.
He'll be helped this coming season by the return of two-time All Pro, Jamaal Charles, who missed nearly the entire 2015 season due to injury.
The Chiefs are also looking to move on from a problem that had plagued the Steelers during their two 8-8 seasons in 2012 and 2013: upheaval in the offensive line. Last season, injuries forced the Chiefs to go with 9 different starting line combinations.
They've also had a number of lineman who'd started games during the past three seasons leave via free agency. Going into 2016, the team looks to have finally solved the problem. According to sportswriter, Adam Teicher, "Of the top seven linemen on what would be a current depth chart, six are under contract at least through the 2017 season."
While the Chiefs have solidified their roster by locking up a number of high-profile players, they also upgraded their talent through the draft, particularly on defense. Three of their first four picks were defensive players, highlighted by their first selection, 6-6 308 pound defensive tackle Chris Jones from Mississippi State.
They also drafted two cornerbacks, Kei'Varae Russell from Notre Dame and Eric Murray from Minnesota, and bolstered their wide receiver corps by selecting receivers in rounds four and five.
The Bottom Line:
The Chiefs are rarely an easy out for the Steelers. Last season, the Chiefs upset the Steelers 23-13 after starting off the season 1-5. The previous four contests before 2015 were decided by an average of 7 points, with two of those games going into OT.
Something that could very well play a part in this game is the nature of the two coaches. Andy Reid is notoriously conservative, while Mike Tomlin likes to take risks. It's possible that Tomlin could look to get the advantage by calling a trick play or going for it on fourth down at an unusual point in the game.
That being said, it should be interesting to watch which team makes the fewer mistakes. Turnovers would appear to favor the Chiefs. They were second in the league last season with a +14 turnover differential, while the Steelers were tied for 15th at +2.
The outcome may very well come down to turnovers and, more than likely, the team with the fewer turnovers will walk away with the victory.