The Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs are preparing to go head-to-head in the AFC Divisional round of the playoffs, and it’s a rematch of the Week 4 game at Heinz Field which saw the Steelers beat the Chiefs 43-14.
A lot has changed since then, and to get the lowdown from the other side of the fence, I went behind enemy lines to ask Joel Thorman, editor of Arrowhead Pride (SB Nation’s Chiefs website), questions about the upcoming game.
Burning questions such as how can the Steelers neutralize Tyreek Hill, which Killer B will the Chiefs try to take out first, and more! See the full interview below.
Alex Smith is a tough nut to crack. Looks great one minute and dreadful the next. What do Chiefs fans expect from their signal caller in the playoffs?
Alex has an 11:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio in the playoffs and also actually has one of the highest quarterback ratings in the playoffs (really). The Chiefs are at their best when he's completing a high percentage of short passes, the receivers are picking up some yards-after-catch and Alex is hitting the occasional 25-plus yard play. A huge key to his game as well is running. He was terrific at that last year but it just wasn't happening this year until only a few weeks ago when it picked up. I'm not sure how successful he'll be against that Steelers defense, but it's something to watch for. If Alex turns it over twice in the first quarter like the last time around, the Chiefs are done. If he keeps a clean stat sheet, this game will be close. I say that about the turnovers but I should also note that the Chiefs have a few come-from-behind wins this year which wasn't exactly Alex's forte in previous years. It's not over ‘til it's over.
Tyreek Hill is certainly getting his fair share of publicity in the last half of the season, and rightfully so. Has any team neutralized him, and how did they do it?
Andy Reid can neutralize him. Somehow, Tyreek didn't have a touch during the second half in the loss to the Titans a few weeks ago. He's had a few drops at receiver, but it comes down to Andy Reid getting him the ball. If it's not at receiver, it needs to be at running back. The Chiefs have shown a willingness to do both lately. The thing about neutralizing him, though, is that it only takes one play. Let's say the Chiefs give him eight touches on Sunday and the Steelers do their job on seven of those touches. But on that one touch, he goes 75 yards for the score. We say a lot of players are home-run threats or a threat to take it the distance at any time ... truer words have never been spoken about Tyreek Hill.
The Steelers’ dynamic offense is well documented. What about this unit scares Chiefs fans more: Big Ben to AB, or Le'Veon Bell?
I know I'm just picking my poison but I'll say Antonio Brown because he's more likely to pick up the chunk plays. Don't get me wrong, Le'Veon Bell carrying it 30 times at five yards a clip will also be difficult to deal with, but AB provides the big play. That's so deflating to a defense to see Brown catch it 15 yards down field and then take it 60 yards (trust me, I see Tyreek Hill do this to other teams). I'm pretty much resigned to Bell and Brown getting their 100-plus. The Chiefs are going to want to stop the big play and make the Steelers march down the field methodically instead of with chunk plays. Hey, it's a good plan, right?
As dynamic the Steelers’ offense is, the defense certainly has their warts. How do you think the Chiefs will try to attack the Steelers’ defense?
With two weeks to prepare, I expect Andy Reid's offense to have some success. The Chiefs will try to use their speed. Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill with screens, Tyreek on stretch plays out of the backfield and also trusting Alex Smith's accuracy to find the holes in the defense. They'll dink and dunk you plus the occasional long ball. One player I think could have a big game is Jeremy Maclin. There's been so much attention on Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill lately, and Maclin has been slow to return to form after missing a month with an injury earlier this year. He's rested and needs to be part of the offense. Those are the three players you're going to want to watch out for. Spencer Ware will be the main back and Charcandrick West will be back there, too. They catch the ball out of the backfield so that’ll be another factor in the game.
How do you see this game panning out? Will the Chiefs get their first home playoff win since Joe Montana was the QB, or will the Steelers advance to the AFC Championship game?
I'm taking the Chiefs. How can I not? The one thing I'm hanging onto is the Steelers home and road splits. Clearly, Ben Roethlisberger's numbers are much different on the road. If he throws a pick or two, that might be what the Chiefs need to secure this win. Additionally, the only place where I feel like the Chiefs have a big advantage is special teams. Special teams aren't discounted in Kansas City. It’s won them games.