Pittsburgh Steelers Vs. Kansas City Chiefs: Critical Pre-Playoff Match-ups


At 9-5 the Pittsburgh Steelers are still in the AFC playoff fight. To close out the regular season, the Steelers will face two other playoff contenders making the month of December a pre-playoff proposition.

First up is the 8-6 Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs are coming off a home victory over the Oakland Raiders after two consecutive losses to the Arizona Cardinals and the Denver Broncos. What are the key match-ups in this battle for a surefire ticket to the AFC playoffs?


The Steelers have won nine games this year mostly due to their talented offensive playmakers. The Steelers have more weapons than balls to go around but none are better and more valuable than wideout, Antonio Brown. Brown leads all NFL receivers in first down conversions—nine more than Julio Jones at No 2.

Brown will likely play opposite of KC rookie corner, Phillip Gaines. Gaines was one of the Steelers targets in the 2014 draft to aid their beleaguered secondary. Had he slipped past the Chiefs at pick #87, Steeler fans would not be complaining about the wasted pick of Dri Archer.

More from Ben Roethlisberger

Brown schooled Gaines’ fellow rookie corner, Desmond Trufant, last week catching 10 for 128 yards in the win over Atlanta. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed passes to five players behind the solid protection of his undervalued offensive line.

This week they must slow down the stinging Chiefs’ pass rush long enough to test the inexperienced Chiefs secondary. Brown, Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant, Le’Veon Bell, and Lance Moore have been blazing opponents in recent weeks.

3rd DOWN & OUT

The Steelers offense has been very successful on third downs this season. Their No. 6 ranking will be challenged this week by the league’s top-sack master, Justin Houston and teammate, Tamba Hali. Roethlisberger has faced Kansas City four times in his career and has won 3 of the 4 match-ups. He needs to win this match-up to keep the Steelers on the field and, maybe even more importantly, keep punt returner D’Anthony Thomas on the sidelines.

Even though punter Brad Wing and the Steelers punt unit are giving up just 8.5 return yards per punt, limiting Thomas’ opportunities is crucial.

The Steelers defense has been surprisingly tough to beat on third down this season. They are currently ranked No. 2 in third down defense and have used their evolving pass rush to limit the damage to their besieged secondary. They held big-armed quarterbacks, Andy Dalton and Matt Ryan, to just 9 of 22 third down completions.

The methodical but steady quarterback Alex Smith has lit it up as of late, going over 290 yards in his last two games.  The absence of Troy Polamalu (doubtful-knee) raised the importance of the Steelers pass rush. Smith has also been sacked 11 times in the past three games.

If the Steelers defensive line, led by Cameron Heyward, rookie Stephon Tuitt, and an outside linebacker combination of Jason Worilds, Jarvis Jones, and James Harrison, can take advantage of a sketchy Chiefs offensive line, Sunday will be the end to the Steeler’s playoff drought.


The hometown Pittsburgh crowd is ready for another playoff run. If they can keep the ball on offense and shut down the Chiefs return game, they will finally give the Rooney’s a chance at their seventh Super Bowl ring.