Sunday, November 11, 2012

Gameday: Kansas City Chiefs

Heinz Field
TV: ESPN (ABC locally)
Radio: WDVE and other affiliates

What To Watch For

1. Scoreboard

The Chiefs are bad. Really, really bad. They have not had a lead during the regular season at all this year. Yes, read that again. The only time the Chiefs had a lead this year was when they beat the Saints in overtime. This is a team that not only struggles to score, but didn't put more than 17 on the board during the entire month of October. The Steelers need to get out to an early lead and just keep building on it. The Chiefs have the 29th ranked scoring offense in the league and are just the kind of team that can be put away early in a game. However, the longer they're allowed to hang around, well, we all know what happened against Tennessee and Oakland.

2. Turnovers

It's Monday Night Football, but most teams that play the Chiefs feel like they're out to Sunday brunch. The Chiefs have turned the ball over 3 or more times in all but one of their games (against Tampa they only turned it over twice). In the last two weeks the Chiefs have turned the ball over 8 times. They lead the league in both interceptions and fumbles lost. Quarterback Matt Cassel is the leading criminal, throwing 11 interceptions and fumbling 7 times. On the whole, the Chiefs have committed an astounding 29 turnovers through 8 games.

3. Life Without Brown

Antonio Brown has been ruled out with an ankle injury for this week and it's uncertain how many games he will miss. Coach Tomlin will tell us "injuries are a fact of life in the National Football League" but the long and the short of it is that Brown was the most clutch playmaker we had on offense. Look at his receiving stats on 3rd downs over the last two years. Time and time again Brown came up with big grabs in key moments. Emmanuel Sanders will step in as the second wide receiver opposite Mike Wallace and Jericho Cotchery will fill the #3 role. Sanders is capable and might have the best hands on the team outside of Heath Miller.

4. Backfield By Committee

The "Running Back by Committee" approach the Steelers have been forced to use has worked so far and as we enter the second half of the year, the situation is not nearly as dire as it was over the last few weeks. Isaac Redman is still nursing two sprained ankles and Jonathan Dwyer is recovering from a quadriceps injury and is listed as probably. Rashard Mendenhall is still a week or so away from returning from his Achilles injury. Chris Rainey is listed as probable after injuring his ribs last week. Somehow, Baron Batch seems to be the only running back on the team that hasn't gotten hurt this year. Despite all the injuries, Steelers backs have 3 consecutive 100-yard games (Dwyer with 2 and Redman with 1) and all in all the Steelers have rushed for over 100 yards as a team in 4 of the 5 games since the bye week. The Steelers have won all four of the games when the team ran for more than 100 yards, and the Chiefs are averaging allowing 126 yards per game on the ground.

5. Todd Haley's Revenge

This storyline will probably be talked about to death by ESPN before the game. The Chiefs unceremoniously fired Todd Haley as their head coach halfway through last season. Now that Haley is the offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh, this is somewhat of a "revenge" game for him. Haley's offense has been built around throwing quick passes and hitting receivers in stride so that they can make plays with the ball in their hands. But with Antonio Brown out of the game and the nation watching on Monday Night against his former team, the Steelers and Haley have a chance to make a big statement - particularly with Baltimore coming to town next week. I would not be surprised to see them go deep early and often against the Chiefs. The problem we have had with bad teams is that we go for the kill-shot (like against Tennessee where we hit the long pass to Wallace) but then never follow it up with another deep throw to drive the nail in the coffin. Monday night might be the perfect time for Haley to open up the playbook and go long.

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