Welcome to the AFC Divisional Preview: Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs! This is your one-stop shop for everything you need to know about the Steelers and their upcoming opponent! Mike Drakulich of Pittsburgh SportsNation brings you inside the huddle for both teams, provides a game outlook, score prediction, individual stats, team stats, the most up-to-date injury report, and even the weather at kickoff! The only thing you’re missing is a game uniform!
A look at the Pittsburgh Steelers!
Overall Record: 12-5
AFC #3 Seed
Head Coach: Mike Tomlin (10th Season with Steelers)
Overall Regular Season Record: 103-57 (.644)
Playoff Record: 7-5 (Qualified for playoffs 6 times)
Last Game: AFC Wildcard- Pittsburgh 30 Miami 12
Breakdown of the Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger will be the most crucial part of the Steelers chances to make the AFC Championship Game. Big Ben was 13-18 for 197 yards passing last week vs Miami with two touchdowns, but also tossed two interceptions on ill-advised throws. Neither pick cost the Steelers, but the Chiefs are a team that thrives off of other team’s mistakes, so Roethlisberger will have to minimize these types of poor passes Sunday night. Earlier this year, Roethlisberger torched Kansas City for 300 yards and five touchdowns.
Antonio Brown caught five passes for 124 yards last week and was the beneficiary of both touchdown passes from Roethlisberger. Brown’s speed and elusiveness was the main culprit in both scores, as he hit scampered into the end zone from 50 and 62 yards. He will once again serve as the Steelers main weapon in the passing game. Eli Rogers caught only one pass last week but is very dangerous out of the slot. Demarcus Ayers, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and Cobi Hamilton all made contributions last week. Sammie Coates was held without a catch. With Ladarius Green out, Jesse James started at tight end and managed one catch for six yards. Everyone is healthy with the exception of Green who is listed as doubtful for Sunday.
The receiving corps didn’t need to see much work as Le’Veon Bell bullied the Dolphins from start to finish. The best back in the NFL made his postseason debut by rushing for 167 yards and two scores. He also caught two passes for seven yards. Bell had 144 yards rushing against the Chiefs in week four. In what looks to be deplorable playing conditions Sunday night, you can expect the Steelers to feature Bell in every way possible. The Chiefs will have their hands full in trying to keep Bell under control.
The Steelers defense was superb last week against Miami. They held Jay Ajayi to just 33 yards rushing and sacked Matt Moore five times. Two of those sacks led to fumbles that Pittsburgh recovered. Ryan Shazier had an interception. Bud Dupree had six tackles and a half sack. He was a constant force in pressuring Moore all day. He had a highlight reel hit on Moore a split second after the ball was thrown. The play resulted in a penalty. In this writers opinion, one wonders how someone running at full speed is supposed to change direction in a millisecond. I highly doubt Dupree, as talented as he is, can imitate Neo from The Matrix. This game is played at incredible speeds by amazing athletes. Sometimes a hard hit is just a hard hit. It’s football, not the ballet. The hit by Dupree should never have warranted a penalty, let alone the ridiculous fine handed out by the NFL.
James Harrison continues to defy his age. He is playing at a level similar to when he won Defensive Player of the Year in 2008. Last week, Harrison recorded 10 tackles and 1.5 sacks. One of those sacks occurred late in the 1st half, causing Matt Moore to fumble and killing any momentum the Dolphins were looking to gain before halftime.
A look at the Kansas City Chiefs!
Overall Record: 12-4
AFC #2 Seed
Head Coach: Andy Reid (4th Season with Chiefs)
Overall Regular Season Record: 173-114-1 (.602) | 43-21 (.672) with Chiefs
Playoff Record: 11-11 (Qualified for playoffs 11 times)
Last Game: Bye
Breakdown of the Chiefs: Alex Smith isn’t a flashy quarterback. He’ll never be mentioned along the likes of a Tom Brady or an Aaron Rodgers. Given time, he can guide an offense to be efficient and productive. Smith threw for 3,502 yards passing…that’s only 317 yards less than what Roethlisberger had, but he only had 15 touchdown passes compared to Big Ben’s 29. Smith keeps his throws short and safe. That kind of style was responsible for Smith only being picked off 8 times all year.
Tyreek Hill has emerged as force for Kansas City. Hill led all KC wide receivers with 61 receptions for 593 yards and six touchdowns. He is also very dangerous out of the backfield, having rushed for 267 yards and another three scores. Jeremy Maclin battled injuries throughout the season and is also a very capable receiver for the Chiefs. Chris Conley and Albert Wilson round out KC’s top four wide-outs.
The Chiefs main weapon is tight end Travis Kelce, who caught 85 passes for 1,125 yards and four scores. Stopping Kelce will be one of Pittsburgh’s main goals.
“He’s extremely shifty,” Steelers linebacker Artur Moats said. “If you look at him, he’s an easy runner. It doesn’t look like he’s trying hard, but he’s still running by guys. You always see him catching the deep bombs. He’s just a guy who’s savvy too. Look at his route running. He’ll set a linebacker down or set a safety down. And then he has extremely strong hands as far as catching away from his body. He has all the things you like in a tight end – plus the speed.”
Spencer Ware leads the Kansas City rushing attack as it’s lead back. Ware ran for 921 yards on the year with three touchdowns. Ware was also very capable out of the backfield, nabbing up 33 catches for 447 more yards and another two TD’s. Charcandrick West is just as capable as Ware, as he rushed for 293 yards and a score, and grabbed 28 receptions for 188 yards in a few spot starts.
It’s Kansas City’s defense that serves as the team’s backbone. They led the NFL with 33 turnovers and tied for first with a plus-16 differential.
The Chiefs had 18 interceptions and 15 fumble recoveries. Cornerback Marcus Peters led the Chiefs with six interceptions, and SS Eric Berry had four. Both will represent the Chiefs defense at the Pro Bowl.
Game Preview: Just as the Steelers remembered being whacked 30-15 by Miami earlier this year, the Chiefs, no doubt, haven’t forgotten being humiliated 43-14 on a Sunday night in Pittsburgh in week four.
“We have to understand that the same passion and dedication that we put in to beat Miami, that’s how Kansas City is going to try to beat us,” said Le’Veon Bell. “We have to put that much more time into our detail. We have to do all the little things right because they’re going to try to take the things away that we did well last game and make us beat them a different way.”
The Chiefs, undoubtedly, know they have to stop Bell if they expect to defeat the Steelers.
“He has a unique style about him — that delay to get to the line of scrimmage,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said of Bell. “It’s been effective for him. He’s really the only one that does it, so it’s unique. The obvious thing is you have to contain him and take care of your gaps.”
Kansas City knows that its offense cannot go toe to toe with Pittsburgh’s high-powered unit. Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier understands that if his defense plays up to it’s potential and causes a few turnovers, chances are they will be heading to the AFC Championship game for the first time since 2010.
“We just try to get our offense the ball and watch them play football,” said Shazier, who has interceptions in three consecutive games. “If we can do that, we’re doing our job pretty well.”
If Pittsburgh is able to apply the same amount of pressure as they heaped upon Matt Moore and the Dolphins last week, the Chiefs will have to work for every yard they can gain. Kansas City likes to play safe, efficient ball, minimizing turnovers, and relying on defensive turnovers for short scores. They like to keep games close and take care of business come crunch time in the 4th quarter.
Keeping Travis Kelce contained will be key. He is the straw that stirs the Kansas City offense.
“Kelce is as dynamic as any tight end in football right now,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “Man, he’s a special guy. He’s a matchup issue. Too athletic for linebackers. Too big and strong often time for secondary people. It’s probably going to require a combination of both. That and some zone coverage and such to minimize his impact on the game.”
Same goes for rookie sensation Tyreek Hill. He is a danger every time he touches the ball, and corners such as Artie Burns, Williams Gay, and Ross Cockrell will need to keep Hill’s explosive plays to a minimum.
On the flip side, as good as Ben Roethlisberger and the Steeler offense is, they are prone to boneheaded throws by their quarterback. Sometimes Big Ben tries to do too much instead of taking what is right there and available–even if it’s a short pass that moves that gains a few positive yards.
“We have to do a better job of taking care of the ball,” Tomlin said. “It’s January. You have to take care of the ball. It’s catastrophic to your cause when it’s two good teams playing. It’s definitely going to be an issue this week.”
Roethlisberger is well aware of what Kansas City’s defense can do.
“It’s pretty special what their secondary can do,” Roethlisberger said. “They are a full-complemented defense, the rush and what they have in their secondary. They can do a little bit of everything.”
With the weather being less than ideal, Le’Veon Bell can expect to be fed the ball in every fashion possible. His patience in running the ball combined with his speed in sloppy conditions are a nightmare for opposing defenders. When he splits out wide on empty sets, there are very few, if any, linebackers with the skill to stay with him in the open field.
Antonio Brown is the main cog in the passing game. This week, it may be time for a few others to stand out and make their presence known.
Martavis Bryant was suspended before the season began. Markus Wheaton had his season marred by injuries and caught only four passes all year before being placed on IR. Eli Rogers, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Cobi Hamilton, Demarcus Ayers, and Sammie Coates have all been utilized in the passing game depending on who was healthy. Ladarius Green was signed at tight end to provide another dangerous weapon down the field for Roethlisberger. Green has only seen the field in six games and is doubtful to play this week as he in the NFL’s Concussion Protocol.
Those seven active receivers have caught a combined 125 passes total. That 14 less than Brown caught himself.
The time has come for someone to take a little pressure off the back of Brown.
The best candidates moving forward this postseason are Rogers and Ayers.
“We have the best running back in the game, potentially one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game and the way A.B. is heading in the course of his career, probably one of the best receivers in the game,” Ayers said. “Opportunities are slim because we want the ball in our best players’ hands. But when it’s not in their hands we feel comfortable with the guys who are touching it.”
It will be cold and rainy. Fans may have to ice skate to the game, but this is Kansas City we’re talking about here. The crowd will be loud and behind their team. It will be up to the Steeler offense to quiet those rabid Chiefs fans and send Kansas City packing for the offseason.
Expect the Steelers defense to get after Alex Smith and make every throw as uncomfortable as possible. Pittsburgh should be able to contain the Chiefs running game. They must keep the Chiefs best playmakers in front of them and make open field tackles.
Roethlisberger and the Steelers need to play to their strengths, but to also be smart about controlling the ball. Any turnovers could lead to a change in momentum and give an average Kansas City offense the extra chances they need to put points up on the scoreboard.
In other words, don’t force throws.
Pittsburgh was better in week four and I believe they are the better team now. The trio of Roethlisberger, Bell, and Brown will be too much for the Chiefs to keep under wraps. If Pittsburgh plays a clean game, this will be wrapped up by the start of the 4th quarter.
Prediction: Steelers 31 Chiefs 17
AFC Divisional Playoff
#3 Pittsburgh Steelers (12-5) at #2 Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)
Venue: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO.
Game time: Sunday, January 15th, 8:20 pm
TV: NBC | Announcers: Al Michaels (play-by-play) Chris Collinsworth (analyst) | Michele Tafoya and Heather Cox (sideline)
Local Radio: Pittsburgh- 102.5 WDVE-FM | Announcers: Bill Hillgrove (play-by-play) Tunch Ilkin (analyst) | Craig Wolfley (sideline)
National Radio: Westwood One | Announcers: Kevin Harlan (play-by-play) Trent Green (analyst) | Hub Arkush (sideline)
Weather at Kickoff: Rainy and cold. Freezing rain possible. Low of 32. Winds 5-10 mph. Chance of rain 100%.
Vegas Line: Kansas City -1.5
- Series History: Series began in 1970.
- The Steelers are 21-10 in the overall Regular Season series against the Chiefs.
- Steelers are 10-6 vs the Chiefs in Kansas City.
- Streak: Steelers won previous meeting.
- Last Regular Season Meeting: Oct. 2, 2016, at Pittsburgh- Pittsburgh 43 Kansas City 14
- Steelers are 0-1 in the Post-Season vs the Chiefs.
- Last Post-Season Meeting: Wild Card Jan. 8, 1994 in Kansas City- Kansas City 27 Pittsburgh 24, OT
- Steelers OC Todd Haley was the head coach of the Chiefs for three seasons (2009-11).
- Kansas City head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder was an asst. athletic trainer at the University of Pittsburgh from 1991-93 after graduating from the university in 1987.
- The Steelers look to improve to 36-24 in postseason team history.
- Ben Roethlisberger with a win, would improve to 13-6 in the postseason as a starter (5-2 on the road).
- Roethlisberger is 262 passing yards from surpassing Dan Marino (4,510) for the sixth-most in NFL playoff history.
- Antonio Brown is 68 receiving yards from surpassing Heath Miller and Ernie Mills (587) for the fourth-most in Pittsburgh playoff record books.
- Brown is 80 receiving yards from becoming the fourth Steeler with at least 600 postseason receiving yards.
- Le’Veon Bell with 100 rushing yards on Sunday, will become the fourth player in Steelers playoff history to record consecutive 100 yard games in the postseason, joining Franco Harris (three games) and Barry Foster and Merril Hoge (two games).
- James Harrison is 1.0 sack from registering 10.0 in his Steelers’ postseason career and to join LaMarr Woodley (11.0) as the only players with at least 10.0 sacks in team playoff history.
- Chris Boswell is one field goal from tying Shaun Suisham (nine) for the fifth-most in Steelers postseason history and two to match Norm Johnson (10) for the fourth most.
Individual Statistics (Regular Season)
QB- Ben Roethlisberger (3,819 yards passing | 29 TD passes | 13 interceptions | 17 sacks)
RB- Le’Veon Bell (1,268 yards rushing | 7 rushing TD’s | 75 receptions | 616 yards receiving | 2 receiving TD’s)
RB- DeAngelo Williams (343 yards rushing | 4 rushing TD’s | 18 receptions | 118 yards receiving | 2 receiving TD’s)
WR- Antonio Brown (106 receptions | 1,284 receiving yards | 12 receiving TD’s)
WR- Eli Rogers (48 receptions | 594 receiving yards | 3 receiving TD’s)
WR- Sammie Coates (21 receptions | 435 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
WR- Cobi Hamilton (17 receptions | 234 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
WR- Darrius Heyward-Bey (6 receptions | 114 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
WR- Demarcus Ayers (6 receptions | 53 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
TE- Jesse James (39 receptions | 338 receiving yards | 3 receiving TD’s)
TE- Ladarius Green (18 receptions | 304 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s) *Doubtful
TE- Xavier Grimble (11 receptions | 118 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
K- Chris Boswell (Extra Point: 36-36 | FG: 21-25 | 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 2-2 | 30-39: 8-9 | 40-49: 11-12 | 50+: 0-2 | Long: 49)
Kansas City Chiefs
QB- Alex Smith (3,502 yards passing | 15 TD passes | 8 interceptions | 28 sacks | 134 yards rushing | 5 rushing TD’s)
RB- Spencer Ware (921 yards rushing | 3 rushing TD’s | 33 receptions | 447 yards receiving | 2 receiving TD’s)
RB- Charcandrick West (293 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD’s | 28 receptions | 188 yards receiving | 2 receiving TD’s)
WR- Tyreek Hill (61 receptions | 593 receiving yards | 6 receiving TD’s | 267 yards rushing | 3 rushing TD’s)
WR- Jeremy Maclin (44 receptions | 536 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
WR- Chris Conley (44 receptions | 530 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
WR- Albert Wilson (31 receptions | 279 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
TE- Travis Kelce (85 receptions | 1,125 receiving yards | 4 receiving TD’s)
K- Cairo Santos (Extra Point: 36-39 | FG: 31-35 | 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 8-9 | 30-39: 15-17 | 40-49: 6-7 | 50+: 2-2 | Long: 53
Steelers – Chiefs: Offensive vs Defensive Comparison (Regular Season)
Steelers Offense: Steelers average 372.6 YPG | Chiefs allow 368.5 YPG
Rushing: Steelers average 110 YPG | Chiefs allow 121.1 YPG
Passing: Steelers average 262.6 YPG | Chiefs allow 247.7 YPG
Scoring: Steelers average 24.9 PPG | Chiefs allow 19.4 PPG
Steelers Defense: Steelers allow 342.6 YPG | Chiefs average 343 YPG
Rushing: Steelers allow 100 YPG | Chiefs average 109.3 YPG
Passing: Steelers allow 242.6 YPG | Chiefs average 233.8 YPG
Scoring: Steelers allow 20.4 PPG | Chiefs average 24.3 PPG
Injury Report (1/13/2017)
Out: LB Anthony Chickillo (ankle)
Doubtful: TE Ladarius Green (concussion)
Questionable: DE Ricardo Mathews (ankle), RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (concussion)
Kansas City Chiefs
Final NFL Standings
Pittsburgh Steelers 2016 Schedule
Friday, Aug. 12 DETROIT L, 30-17
Thursday, Aug. 18 PHILADELPHIA L, 17-0
Friday, Aug. 26 @ New Orleans W, 27-14
Thursday, Sept. 1 @ Carolina L, 18-6
Regular Season (11-5)
Monday, Sept. 12 @ Washington W, 38-16
Sunday, Sept. 18 CINCINNATI W, 24-16
Sunday, Sept. 25 @ Philadelphia L, 34-3
Sunday, Oct. 2 KANSAS CITY W, 43-14
Sunday, Oct. 9 NEW YORK JETS* W, 31-13
Sunday, Oct. 16 @ Miami* 1 p.m. L, 30-15
Sunday, Oct. 23 NEW ENGLAND* L, 16-27
Sunday, Oct. 30 BYE WEEK
Sunday, Nov. 6 @ Baltimore* L, 14-21
Sunday, Nov. 13 DALLAS* L, 30-35
Sunday, Nov. 20 @ Cleveland* W, 24-9
Thursday, Nov. 24 @ Indianapolis W, 28-7
Sunday, Dec. 4 NEW YORK GIANTS* W, 24-14
Sunday, Dec. 11 @ Buffalo* W, 27-20
Sunday, Dec. 18 @ Cincinnati* W, 24-20
Sunday, Dec. 25 BALTIMORE W, 31-27
Sunday, Jan. 1 CLEVELAND* W, 27-24 OT
Sunday, Jan. 8 AFC Wildcard: MIAMI W, 30-12
Sunday, Jan. 15 AFC Divisionals: @ Kansas City 8:20 p.m. (NBC)
Sunday, Jan. 22 AFC Championship
Sunday, Jan. 29 Pro Bowl (Orlando, Fla.)
Sunday, Feb. 5 Super Bowl LI (Houston, Texas)