KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs (8-6) look to get a big win on the road in a battle of playoff hopefuls against the Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5).
The Steelers currently are the fifth seed in the AFC standings, while the Chiefs are the first team outside the field and both teams can win their way into the playoffs.
But while the postseason pressure mounts, Chiefs coach Andy Reid doesn’t want the focus to change from any other week.
“Both teams know that you’re down towards the end of the season,” Reid said, “so it should be a heck of an environment for a football game and a great atmosphere.
“The players, there’s a little extra juice involved in these things. At the same time you’ve got to go through the process. If you eliminate the process then you’ve got problems.”
In order to get a win, the Chiefs will have to slow down an offense that leads the league in yards per game (424.9), yards per play (6.2) and time of possession (33:11).
And then there are the weapons.
Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell is currently the league’s second-leading rusher (1,278) , wide receiver Antonio Brown leads the league in receptions (115) and yards receiving (1,498), while quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is second in yards passing (4,415).
“They’ve got a really high-powered offense that is really moving right now and they have tremendous balance between the running and passing game,” Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. “They are all individually very talented and collectively they are working really well together and complementing each other very well.”
While some outside the team may focus on the playoff implications, Reid wants his team focused on staying consistent to what go them here.
“You focus on the things we’ve talked about each week and that’s: study the opponent, you always respect the opponent, you study the opponent and then you make sure that you study the scheme that you’ve been delivered by the coaches,” Reid said. “Then you let your personality show within that.”
TALE OF THE TAPE
• The Chiefs rank seventh in rushing (126.3 yards per game) and 30th in passing (196.7 yards per game).
• Pittsburgh has the 10th-best rushing attack (118.2 yards per game) and ranks second in passing (306.7 yards per game).
• Kansas City’s run defense is ranked 28th (132.6 yards per game) and its pass defense is the league’s second-best (199.2 yards per game).
• The Steelers run defense ranks 11th (103.6 yards per game) and the pass defense ranks 25th (252.9 yards per game).
THE LAST TIME
The Steelers have won the last two games against the Chiefs by a combined seven points.
Sunday will mark the 30th meeting between the two teams, a series Pittsburgh leads 19-10.
The Chiefs last won in Pittsburgh in 1986 and have not won at Heinz Field. Kansas City is 4-9 overall as the visitor in Pittsburgh.
The Chiefs have their hands full facing a Steelers offense offering a three-headed monster.
Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell has become one of the NFL’s best backs and is currently the league’s second-leading rusher as well as second in yards from scrimmage this season. Additionally, Brown is the Steelers second-leading receiver.
Chiefs safety Kurt Coleman knows that slowing down Bell won’t be easy.
“He is a very versatile back,” Coleman said. “He is very graceful; he reads his blocks and he is not a guy that is just going to hit a hole. He is going to be patient and allow it to open up and make his one cut. It’s just going to add another element to what we have to do defensively to match up against them.”
While Bell may be the most impressive Steeler, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been excellent as well. Roethlisberger sits near the top in many passing categories, including second in yards and fourth in both quarterback rating (103.4) and completion percentage (67.2).
Chiefs defensive Coordinator Bob Sutton knows that Roethlisberger presents some unique challenges for his unit.
“We’re going to have to be on top of our game,” Sutton said when asked about Roethlisberger’s ability to keep plays alive. “It’s going to demand a lot of different people to work on these guys and if it was only one thing we had to worry about, it would be a lot easier, but unfortunately we have several things here that are going on at once.”
Wide receiver Antonio Brown makes up the final piece of the trio. Brown currently leads the league with 115 receptions and 1,498 yards receiving.
“Not one guy can stop Antonio Brown,” Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith told The Associated Press. “It’s going to take all 11 (defenders). Pass rushers, great technique and we’re going to have to bring everything we got because those guys are playing at a very high level.”
Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce on Alex Smith’s consistent ability to maintain composure:
“He might get pretty excited if he runs over a guy in Buffalo, but that is really about it.”
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin on former Chiefs coach and current Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley:
“He loves all things Pittsburgh. He grew up here. It’s more than a job opportunity for him. He’s been a consistent, positive contributor to our efforts.”
Chiefs linebacker Frank Zombo on how the team is approaching the game:
“It’s a playoff game. That’s the fact that it is and the winners are going to be able to go on. That’s how we’re looking at it.”
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith on whether he wants to throw the ball more often:
“I think I’ve played long enough that I don’t think like that. I want to win. That’s the best part of this game, is winning, whatever way it is.”
Chiefs defensive end Kevin Vickerson, a Michigan State alumnus, on why Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, also a Spartans alumnus, has enjoyed success:
“He’s a Michigan State guy.”
The Chiefs don’t usually play well in Pittsburgh and the Steelers have the type of team to give the Chiefs trouble.
The Chiefs defense will have their hands full dealing with Pittsburgh’s home field advantage, a strong rushing attack, the league’s top wide receiver and a quarterback who can keep plays alive.
Offensively, the Chiefs may have to create some big plays to keep up with the prolific Steelers offense, something the team has lacked all season. Against a defense that thrives off turnovers, quarterback Alex Smith must protect the ball while keeping the defense honest.
While the Chiefs will put up a fight, their struggles against the run will be their undoing in Pittsburgh.
Outcome: Steelers 31, Chiefs 21.