This seems to be a recurring theme with the opponents of the Steelers heading down the stretch. Teams that can only do one thing well on offense - and in the Chiefs' case, run the ball - the Steelers can have success. It's likely Kansas City will still run the ball well. It's what they do. But it can't be all they do. The Steelers have struggled against good passing teams in terms of surrendering the big play, but without great speed among their receivers, the Steelers' defense can force a good third down offense into a less-than-usual output. That will be a huge key in this game.
It's All About the TOs
The Steelers are 6-0 this season when they have a +1 or better turnover ratio. They're 3-5 when they're even or negative. Kansas City doesn't give a whole lot away in terms of interceptions (just six this year) but this Chiefs team has not been great in terms of pass protection this season. The Steelers need to steal at least one possession in this game, and they'll need to make big plays on defense. Cornerback William Gay made a huge play against the Falcons in Week 15, who's going to do it this week?
Return of Harrison
Speaking of that pass rush, it will be interesting to see what Steelers coach Mike Tomlin does with James Harrison and Jarvis Jones, two players appearing on the field in the same game for the same team for the first time ever. Harrison has been the Steelers' best pass rusher so far this season, and Jones is still coming back from an injury that forced him off the field for half the year. With second-year left tackle Eric Fisher largely struggling in a must-win game for the Steelers, it would make sense to put Harrison in there more than Jones, particularly due to his strength in the run game. Having two of them in there for different reasons in different situations will play to their strengths, especially when Kansas City hasn't seen the two of them together.
The Chiefs' defense is an outstanding unit. But the athleticism and mismatch-making personnel of the Steelers' offense is difficult to handle snap-to-snap. Spreading the Chiefs' out and forcing their outside linebackers into coverage is a workable strategy. Expect a similar game plan the Steelers' had against the Jets, only this time, push the ball wider on the edge. That's to be expected because that sharp, inside movement kind of plan is typical of Todd Haley's offense against fierce pass rushers. They're going to look to go right on by the dominant edge rushers of the Chiefs in a more contained approach. But ultimately, they need to use their athleticism down the field. Attack the seams and protect the ball, they can move on this defense, and from there, look to score tough touchdowns but make three or four field goals.
Kicking at Heinz
Speaking of kicking...no one in the business is better at Heinz Field than Shaun Suisham. A huge portion of his contract extension was given due to the fact Suisham is 54-for-56 on field goals at Heinz field since 2012. This game will be about field position and special teams, and Suisham needs to, and has previously, come up big. Teams can move on Kansas City but an excellent red zone defense is likely to halt the Steelers' advances, forcing three points instead of seven. That's just the burden the Chiefs lay on their opponents. Suisham can keep the Steelers in it and help bolster a field position battle by keeping the Chiefs going the long way down the field after putting the pressure back on a kicker Cairo Santos, who's never kicked at Heinz Field.