The Chiefs head to Pittsburgh this week for another early season road test. They will look to reach the 2-0 mark by defeating the Steelers, who have been a difficult opponent to beat recently. Ever since Andy Reid became head coach, the Steelers have had Kansas City’s number. There was one win for the Reid-led Chiefs, but that was without likely future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger. Will this finally be the year the Chiefs can knock off this nemesis? There are plenty of storylines to look at for this Chiefs-Steelers contest, so let’s get started.
Saved By the Bell?
What exactly has been the reason that the Chiefs have continued to struggle against the Steelers? Several elements contribute, but one big reason has been running back Le’Veon Bell. Bell hasn’t just run all over the Chiefs, he has put up video game numbers against them. In five career games, Bell has 100 touches for 844 yards. That is close to a monstrous eight and a half yards per touch.
Fortunately for the Chiefs, they may have caught the Steelers at the right time. Bell has still not reported to the Steelers in midst of a contract holdout. He has been franchise tagged twice and he doesn’t feel like that is enough for what he’s worth. As he has led on, Bell wants to payed more like a hybrid type offensive player, not just a runner. During the holdout, plenty of big-name stars have received mega, record-breaking extensions. Guys like Aaron Rodgers, Khalil Mack and Odell Beckham Jr. have all become the highest paid players at their respective positions right before the regular season, and Bell is the one who is watching and waiting.
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Patrick Mahomes was drafted to be the future of the Kansas City Chiefs. If he can lead the Chiefs to victory on Sunday, Mahomes will already have done something that Alex Smith could not do for Kansas City. Smith was 1-4 as a Chief against the Steelers, with one of those losses coming in the playoffs. He did not throw a lot of interceptions in those contests, which is usual for him, but the offense struggled mightily in those games. Arguably, the best part of the offense in those five contests was the field goal kicking. Why is that? The Steelers run a zone coverage defense and the windows must have been too tight for Smith to throw into. Mahomes will have no fear to try and thread the needle between the defenders. Could the struggles against the Steelers have been one of the bigger reasons Smith is no longer in Kansas City? We’ll see if Mahomes can right the ship.
Matchup to Watch: Chiefs Pass Rushers vs Steelers Offensive Line
Last week the Chiefs got some pressure on Philip Rivers, yet registered just one sack. Roethlisberger was sacked four times against the Browns in week one. The pressure that Cleveland forced resulted in six turnovers by the Pittsburgh offense. If the Chiefs want to continue to make the Steelers look sloppy, they will need constant pressure to throw Roethlisberger off of his game.
Roethlisberger owns the Chiefs in his career, with a 7-1 record. However, his starts to the season are different than his late-season surges. In September, the Steelers winning percentage is .512 throughout his career, while in all other months it is .740. Could Kansas City have caught Pittsburgh at the right time?
It’s been 31 years since the Chiefs have won in Pittsburgh. That occurred on December 21st, 1986 when the quarterbacks were Bill Kenney for the Chiefs and Mark Malone for the Steelers. Come Sunday, it will be 11,592 days since that last Chiefs road win in the Steel City.
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