TV: CBS (map)
Radio: WDVE and other affiliates
What To Watch For
1. Streaks Are Made To Be Broken
The Chiefs haven't thrown a touchdown pass to a wide receiver this season. That basically guarantees that they'll have at least 2 against the Steelers. The Steelers have a propensity to let teams break streaks against them. Two years ago, the 1-7 Chiefs did not have a lead in regulation all season (their only win was in overtime) and the Steelers let them run out to a 10-0 lead to start the game. I can live with the Chiefs breaking their streak of no touchdown passes to a wide receiver if Ben Roethlisberger also breaks the Chiefs streak of not allowing a 300-yard passer this season.
2. Record Breakers
Last week, several Steelers broke single-season team records. Even more will be broken this week. Against Atlanta, Ben Roethlisberger broke his own record for passing yards in a season. This week, he needs just 10 completions and 3 passing touchdowns to break his own records in those categories. Le'Veon Bell broke Barry Foster's yards from scrimmage record and Ray Mathews' record for receiving yards by a running back. Bell still needs over 400 rushing yards to break Foster's single season rushing record, which seems out of reach at this point. The most impressive record-breaking performance has been Antonio Brown who broke Hines Ward's record for receptions in 14 weeks. Brown needs 2 more receiving yards to break his own yardage record and 2 TDs to break the record held by Ward and Louis Lipps for receiving touchdowns. Unexpectedly, Big Play Will Gay had another pick-6 last week, his 3rd of the season which broke a Steelers record and put him one away from tying the NFL record.
3. Strength on Strength
The Steelers have one of the top 5 offenses in the league and the Chiefs are one of the top defenses. The Chiefs have the second best passing defense in the league, largely due to their potent pass rush. Tamba Hali and Justin Houston are terrors on the outside and the Chiefs have an absolute stud in Dontari Poe in the middle at nose tackle. Houston has posted 17 sacks so far this season and has been basically unblockable, which presents a tall order for either Marcus Gilbert or Mike Adams. The weakness in their defense is down the middle and if the Steelers are going to exploit them, they will have to attack their inside linebackers and safeties.
4. Stop the Run
The Chiefs offense is based around their running game. Jamaal Charles is the best cut-back runner in the game and has the breakaway speed to make teams pay. Backup Knile Davis has tortured teams as a change-of-pace back but still has a reputation as a fumbler. Davis and rookie D'Anthony Thomas can both absolutely fly and are dangerous in the return game as well as out of the backfield. This is not to take anything away from Charles, who averages over 5.2 yards per carry. The Steelers defense has not been good against the run this season, but they will need to slow down the Chiefs ground attack if they want to have a chance in this game. If the Chiefs can control the game on the ground and let Alex Smith be a situational passer, they will steal a victory from the Steelers. The Steelers need to take the Chiefs running attack out of the game and force Alex Smith to beat them through the air. Smith is not a great passer and has proven to be a tentative downfield passer, even when the situation called for it.
5. Scoreboard Watching
Not necessary this week. If the Steelers win, they are in the playoffs. If we lose, we are on the outside looking in. Simple as that. Losing would put us in a bad situation because the Chiefs have a home game against San Diego next week. We need to take care of our own business first and wrap up a playoff spot before we take a peek at the scoreboard and worry about other things. But just in case you're interested...
The Steelers and Ravens are tied in the AFC North and for the last 2 Wild Card spots. The Steelers hold the tiebreaker on Baltimore right now. A Steelers win and a Baltimore loss would mean that the Steelers would clinch at least the #5 seed. Houston is starting Case Keenum though, so this doesn't seem likely.
If the Steelers win, they will have a chance to win the AFC North title in Week 17 against Cincinnati, regardless of what the Bengals do. However, the Steelers could be in position to knock the Bengals out entirely if the Steelers beat Kansas City and the Bengals lose to Denver. Something else to consider is that the Steelers-Bengals game is one of 3 games that could be flexed to Sunday night in Week 17. The other two are the Falcons-Panthers and Lions-Packers (which seems like the most likely game at this point).
The Browns are not technically eliminated yet but a loss to the Panthers would knock them out for sure. Also, wins by Carolina and Atlanta would set up a Week 17 showdown for the NFC South title, which could effect the start time of the Steelers-Bengals game.
This is a bit of a stretch but due to the Steelers head-to-head win over the Colts, if the Steelers were to win out and the Colts lose one of their last two (much more likely that they lose to Dallas than to 2-13 Tennessee), then the Steelers would actually get the #3 seed in the playoffs.
A Saints victory would put them a win or Carolina loss away from the NFC South title. However, if Atlanta and Carolina both win it sets up a head-to-head for the division title in Week 17. A Carolina-Atlanta matchup would certainly get some consideration as the Sunday Night Football Game of the Week. Don't think that NBC would shy away from it just because of their records, they chose the Seattle-St Louis game a few years ago when Seattle was 6-9 and St Louis 7-8 and the two played for the NFC West title in Week 17.