The Steelers took care of business against Miami in the Wild Card Round and now face a much tougher task as they head to Kansas City for the divisional round of the playoffs. Let’s take a look at how that could play out.
Why the Steelers will win:
- On offense the formula has been written. Get great play from the offensive line and Le’Veon Bell will have success on the ground and time for Ben Roethlisberger to throw. Last week against the Dolphins, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and company played great against the pass rush and created lots of room for Bell to run. Derrick Johnson is missing from the Chiefs’ defense, but Tamba Hali and Justin Houston are both pass rushing machines and Dontari Poe is a nose tackle very similar to former Steelers’ great Casey Hampton. These three will test the Steelers’ offensive line. Houston is returning from an injury, but that’s no guarantee that he’ll be any slower or less effective than he has been in the past. I expect The Steelers to test the Kansas City run defense quite a bit. Bell has hit his stride, and the KC run defense ranks near the bottom of the league.
- Avoiding turnovers will go a long way towards securing a Pittsburgh victory at Arrowhead. If Roethlisberger puts the ball in the hands of Marcus Peters or Eric Berry, either one can take it to the house and give their team a boost. Protecting the football is paramount in this game.
- On defense, the Steelers need to play with the same focus and physicality they’ve been building all season and showed against Miami. Spencer Ware is back for this game, and Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce are all capable of putting points on the board for the Chiefs. Stopping the running game with the same tenacity that they did against Miami will be job number one. That includes not letting Alex Smith take off and use his legs as well. Solid coverage from the secondary is also key. The Steelers’ defenders will need to prevent the big play. The secondary needs to keep the likes of Maclin, Kelce and speedster Tyreek Hill in front of them and if the Chiefs’ receivers do catch the ball, make them pay with hard hits.
- Why the Chiefs will win:
- Tyreek Hill kills them in the return game. If the Steelers kick anywhere near this dynamic young man, you can pretty much put six points on the board for Kansas City. The Steelers’ coverage units are plain awful this season and Hill is a gifted returner. I’d rather give Kansas City the ball at the 40 yard line than put it in Hill’s hands for any return. He’s that dangerous.
- If Ben Roethlisberger has any lingering effects of the tweaked ankle/foot injury that put him in a walking boot after the wild card win, his ability to extend plays will take a big hit. The Chiefs’ secondary is far better at this juncture than Miami’s. The easy throws may not always be there and Big Ben may need to “be Ben” and extend a play with his legs a bit to avoid Poe, Hali and Houston. If he can’t escape, the Chiefs pass rush could get to him and it could be a long afternoon for Steelers Nation.
- The tackling in the wild card round against the Dolphins was very, very good. Light years from the last two weeks of the regular season. If the Steelers revert back to lackluster tackling, the talented Kansas City play-makers will have a much easier time moving the ball and putting points on the board.
At the end of the day, this has all the makings to be a far tougher challenge for the Steelers than either the first meeting or the wild card round. The Chiefs are the winners of what was a very competitive division this year. They are well-coached by Andy Reid, disciplined and extremely talented at several positions in all three aspects of the game. I believe that the men in black and gold know this and will be ready for the challenge provided by the Chiefs and their record-breaking decibel levels at Arrowhead. The Steelers are red hot right now and week after week in this eight game winning streak, have found ways to win. When one aspect of the team hasn’t played well, the other members of the game day roster have stepped up and made plays to overcome the challenge. The Steelers have brought back Steelers’ football recently and they will bring that intensity to Kansas City and come out with a win.