By Jeremy Hritz
Hritz 2012 Prediction Record: 6-2
Chiefs at Steelers Rankings Breakdown
The momentum is slowly building in Pittsburgh as the Steelers are riding a three game winning-streak heading into Monday Night’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs. If the Steelers claim the victory, they will up their record to 6-3 heading into the first of two monumental showdowns against their AFC North nemesis. If the Steelers can intensify the momentum they have established over the last three games against the Chiefs, they will be a white-hot fireball headed directly at the Baltimore Ravens.
Considering the performance of the Chiefs this season and their 1-7 record, there should not be any doubt that the Steelers will win this game. However, as we have seen against lesser opponents in the Oakland Raiders and the Tennessee Titans, assuming a win can be dangerous. While this Steelers team has evolved and has shored up many areas of need, there are still improvements that must be made and weaknesses that can be exposed.
Ultimately, though, if the Steelers are truly a championship caliber team, they should make light work of these Chiefs, as five of their losses have been by sixteen points or more. Combine that with a juiced-up (and sauced-up) Monday Night crowd at Heinz Field and the Todd Haley revenge factor (we can deny it won’t be a motivator all we want) and this should be an entertaining night in the favor of the Steelers and their fans.
The Steelers Will Win If…
They avoid turnovers and stop the Chiefs rushing attack.
The Steelers are the clear favorites in this game, yet the great equalizer in the NFL, turnovers, can quickly flip the game into the Chiefs favor. The Steelers must continue to protect the football, and this must start by keeping outside linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, who have totaled 11 sacks this year, in check. As pressure leads to turnovers, protecting Ben Roethlisberger will go a long way in keeping the ball secure throughout the game. The Steelers have shown that at times they are vulnerable to pressure from the outside, and they need to continue to improve in this area.
While the Steelers defense has improved against the run, they still cannot be considered dominant. The Chiefs will enter Heinz Field with an effective ground game that is averaging 149.9 yards per contest, led by Jamaal Charles, a quick and shifty cutback type runner that has historically given the Steelers defense fits. If the Chiefs are able to get some early success running the football and are able to keep this game close, they will give themselves a chance to win in the fourth quarter. The Steelers rushing defense needs to continue its consistent improvement and elevate its game this week.
The Chiefs Will Win If…
They force turnovers by getting to Roethlisberger frequently, and they put together long drives that result in points from their running game.
Again, the only hope that the Chiefs have in this game is to pressure Roethlisberger into mistakes to disrupt the rhythm of the Steelers offense.
They can also disrupt the rhythm of the Steelers offense by giving them a taste of their own medicine by controlling the clock with their offense, especially by keeping drives alive through the running game. Quarterback Matt Cassel has been awful this season and cannot be expected to be a factor, putting the pressure squarely on the shoulders of the Chiefs running game. If the Chiefs can have success on the ground and tip the time of possession in their favor, which teams have not been able to do against the Steelers, then they will have a chance to keep the game close and sneak out of Pittsburgh with a win.
While there were questions abound following the loss to the Titans, the Steelers have steadily improved. In the offseason, I made the statement that the Steelers would be a better team in the second half of the season, and based on the previous three games, I see them continuing that trend. The Steelers haven’t dropped the calculator on a team yet this season, but Monday Night that all changes. The Steelers send another strong message as they gear up for the first of two payback games against the Ravens.
Steelers 41 Chiefs 10