Remember the whole narrative about the Steelers struggling to cover tight ends? Could that return this week?
How about red-zone defensive woes? Those are back as well.
The Kansas City Chiefs have one of the game's better route-running tights ends in Travis Kelce. While he may be better known now for a hand gesture he made that was caught on national TV in a Chiefs game against Denver earlier this year, fans should know the third-round pick out of Cincinnati in 2013 is developing into one of the best all-around tight ends in the game.
What the Chiefs lack in wide receiver play, they make up for with Kelce's production. He leads the team with 56 catches and 747 yards. The Chiefs are second in the NFL in red-zone touchdown scoring, getting touchdowns on 67.5 percent of their red-zone trips. That's bolstered by Kelce but probably more indicative of a team that runs the ball very well.
The Steelers' run defense has improved over the course of the season and they're now sitting at 11th overall in the NFL at 103.6 yards per game.
Defending the pass has been more of the issue during the second half of the season, and the Steelers, while rotating cornerbacks throughout each of the last three games, are allowing 252.9 yards per game - good for 25th in the NFL. The Chiefs simply are not a great passing offense, but with Kelce and a steady quarterback like Alex Smith (completing 65 percent of his passes for just south of 3,000 yards with six interceptions), they won't lose games based on the failures of their passing attack.
They might not win many with it, either. But they can run the ball, and they don't throw it to the other team. They just fumble it a bit more often than the average team does (10 lost fumbles in 14 games), and they don't force takeaways of their own - ranking last in the NFL with 10 takeaways.
They make up for that with sacks. Outside linebacker Justin Houston is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, tied for the league lead with 17 sacks heading into Week 16. Coming off of the offensive right side, he'll either go against Marcus Gilbert, who missed the last three games with an ankle injury, or Mike Adams, who has lacked quality pass- protection ability for most of his career. His presence on the opposite side of Tamba Hali creates a dual-threat the Steelers have seen too closely before. Hali and Houston met on an escaping Ben Roethlisberger in 2012, causing a significant injury to Roethlisberger that caused him to miss three games.
This Chiefs team is dangerous in a low-scoring affair and their run-game will help them control the tempo. The Steelers' best chance is to suffocate that running game on early downs and force them into long-down situations. From there, the Steelers' mediocre secondary is going to have to make plays on the ball. Takeaways will be highly valued, as they usually are. When the Steelers win, they almost always either win or draw even in turnover differential.
But with outstanding individuals like Kelce, Houston and Jamaal Charles, this is a tough team to beat.