KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Injuries have riddled the Chiefs offensive line thus far this season, but the team appears close to returning to full strength.
Backup lineman Jah Reid will miss his second-straight game with a combination of ankle and knee injuries, but the Chiefs expect to have back starting right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. Starting left guard Parker Ehinger also returned to practice this week in a limited role after sustaining a concussion and foot injury.
The Chiefs plan to start Fulton at left guard and Duvernay-Tardif at right guard against the Steelers, a source confirmed to The Topeka Capital-Journal and ChiefsDigest.com.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Contain Le’Veon Bell
The Steelers offense needs its three-headed monster of Bell, Brown and Roethlisberger to operate at peak efficiency. The offense has struggled without Bell, but his return this week creates a look the Steelers have yet to show in 2016.
Bell torched the Chiefs for 121 yards on just 17 carries last year at Arrowhead Stadium, and that was without Roethlisberger on the field.
The Steelers rank 18th in rushing with 100 yards per game without Bell, but the Chiefs rank 24th against the run, surrendering 123 yards per game.
Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson says the defense must slow down the Steelers run game.
“Why not run the ball?” Johnson asked. “We haven’t been doing as well stopping the run. I think they would run the ball, and we have to gear up. It’s going to be a big challenge for us to stop the run.”
Pressure Big Ben
The Chiefs did not bring down New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick last week, but they rattled him enough to force six interceptions.
Johnson said Fitzpatrick hurried the get the ball away before the pressure got to him, leading to the turnovers.
“We got a lot of pressure on Sunday, just not any sacks,” Johnson said. “Of course we’re disappointed about that, but our plan is to get there. We practice on getting sacks and getting turnovers.”
Rattling a quarterback with pocket sense and cool under pressure such as Roethlisberger is a tall order. But the Chiefs can make life difficult for him by forcing him out of the pocket and getting hits in when they can.
Give Roethlisberger a clean pocket, and he can pick even the best secondary apart with a receiver such as Brown.
Until the Chiefs offense wakes up from its slumber and begins scoring points, its continent on the defense and special teams to score points and setup short fields.
The Chiefs offense scored only 10 of the team’s 24 points last week, and even those 10 points came after turnovers.
Offensive co-coordinator Matt Nagy felt the team should have scored more points last week against the Jets.
“When you look back and reflect on the game, you’re wishing you could have some of those back,” Nagy said. “At the same time, that’s football. There may be a game this year where we score a lot of points, and for whatever reason, the defense is struggling.”
On the road at Pittsburgh poses a tough enough challenge without adding the primetime element. The Steelers and their fans should be primed for this one. Yet the Steelers appeared vulnerable last week on both sides of the ball. Neither offense has yet put together a solid full-game performance, but Bell’s return to the backfield should change looks for the Steelers. The Chiefs defense does its job, but the Steelers eek out a squeaker, 17-16.
TALE OF THE TAPE
• The Chiefs rank 21st in rushing (91.3 yards per game) and 22nd in passing (241.0 yards per game).
• The Steelers rank 18th in rushing (100.0 yards per game) and 14th in passing (254.0 yards per game).
• The Chiefs rank tied for 24th against the run (123 yards allowed per game) and 11th against the pass (225.0 yards allowed per game).
• The Steelers rank fourth against the run (75.3 yards allowed per game) and 31st against the pass (332.0 yards allowed per game).
THE LAST TIME
The Chiefs edged past the Steelers 23-13 at Arrowhead Stadium last October. The win marked the second victory of the season for the Chiefs, moving the team to 2-5 and beginning a 10-game winning streak.
Charcandrick West posted a career-high 110 rushing yards and added a rushing touchdown. Chris Conley scored his first career touchdown on 6-yard pass from Alex Smith to ice the game in the fourth quarter.
The Steelers played without Roethlisberger, and his backup Landry Jones finished 16-of-29 passing for 209 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
• It’s the 2016 Haley Bowl. Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley served as Chiefs head coach from 2009-11, posting a record of 19-26.
• Steelers backup offensive lineman B.J. Finney grew up in Wichita, Kan., and started for four years at Kansas State, which he became one of our three players in school history to earn all-conference honors four times.
• Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt’s father, Craig Colquitt, earned two Super Bowl rings during six season as punter for the Steelers from 1978-84.
• Steelers linebacker Steven Johnson walked on to the Kansas football team before earning a scholarship his junior year. He posted 120 tackles his senior season, then signed as an undrafted free agent with the Denver Broncos in 2012. He signed with the Steelers as a free agent this year after a year with the Tennessee Titans.
Los Angeles native Andy Reid on growing up listening to Vin Scully, voice of the Dodgers:
“Nothing better than a Farmer John Dodger Dog and Vin Scully in the booth, man, doesn’t get any better. He’s one of those guys that even if you can’t see it on TV or be there, you listen to it on the radio, and you’d almost turn the TV off to hear him do the game.”
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin on the Peters’ ballhawking skills:
“He’s ball aware. He’s a calculated risk taker, the type of calculated risk taker that’s required to be great at that position. He’s highly competitive. You see that in his bump man-to-man techniques. He’s highly competitive. So he’s checking off all the boxes and really he needs no endorsement from me. His numbers speak for themselves.”
Roethlisberger on whether Peters baits quarterbacks to throw his direction:
“You know what, I’d love for you to ask him and tell me his answer. It’s hard to tell. Like I said, it looks like he has the other team’s playbook. He’s reading routes. Now is he guessing? Does he know? I don’t really know, but whatever he’s doing, he’s pretty successful with it.”