When the Kansas City Chiefs pass:
The Chiefs get a major break this week as Pittsburgh's best pass rusher, linebacker Joey Porter, will miss the game with a hamstring injury. Kansas City backup quarterback Damon Huard has surprised everyone by completing 70 percent of his passes with no interceptions in Trent Green's absence. He should have another good game against a suddenly porous Pittsburgh pass defense. The Steelers allowed Phillip Rivers his best day as a pro last week. That game came on the heels of a four-touchdown performance by Carson Palmer in Week 3 and a 260-yard effort from Byron Leftwich in Week 2.
The Steelers will test a shaky Kansas City offensive line with their exotic blitz packages. Pittsburgh will bring pressure from anywhere with anyone at anytime. Look for outside linebacker Clark Haggans to give Chiefs right tackle Kevin Sampson some problems. The Steelers may miss starting cornerback DeShea Townsend (game-time decision) in addition to Porter, but this will be a huge mountain for KC's passing offense to climb on the road.
When the Pittsburgh Steelers pass:
Ben Roethlisberger has gotten off to a rotten start this year. He's completing just 53.9 percent of his passes with seven interceptions and no touchdowns. At times, he appears extremely indecisive in the pocket. If his first read is covered, he almost always looks to scramble immediately. He's also throwing into coverage with abandon, as he did at the end of the Chargers game, throwing up an ill-advised duck when there was still six minutes left. The Steelers have almost no semblance of a downfield passing game this year, with just one completion over 30 yards during Roethlisberger's starts.
Kansas City's pass defense had its worst game of the year last week against the Cardinals, but has been much improved as a whole. They still rank fourth in the NFL. It will most likely be another frustrating day for Roethlisberger and the Steelers with Ty Law and Patrick Surtain manning the corner. Pittsburgh almost exclusively uses the shotgun formation when passing, especially on third down, but it did start putting Roethlisberger under center more last week.
When the Kansas City Chiefs run:
Larry Johnson had the worst start of his career last week, totaling just 36 rushing yards against Arizona. It won't get any easier this week against a Pittsburgh rush defense that is allowing just 88.5 yards per game. The Chiefs have struggled to run outside, but will likely scrap that approach this week anyway. It's almost impossible to get outside on Pittsburgh's linebackers. Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton presents a huge problem for Chiefs center Casey Wiegmann, who struggles with large defensive tackles. Johnson will most likely be shut down early, but could have some success later if Kansas City's defense can force time of possession in the Chiefs favor.
When the Pittsburgh Steelers run:
Willie Parker has been a one-man attack for the Steelers through the first month of the season, but he may get some relief this week from ex-Green Bay Packer Najeh Davenport, who appeared in his first game as a Steeler against San Diego. Davenport gives the Steelers the option of using a bigger back in the role that Jerome Bettis used to play. Pittsburgh rarely runs from spread formations and is mostly committed to running the ball between the tackles, but Parker frequently bounces outside to gain extra yardage. The Steelers will run the occasional pitch play. The Chiefs have been solid against the run, but this may be their biggest test since the opener against Cincinnati.
Both Pittsburgh and Kansas City have an outstanding pair of kickers. This one is a draw until you get to the return units. Rookie Santonio Holmes has struggled on both punt and kickoff returns for Pittsburgh, while veteran Dante Hall has been solid. Hall did sustain a hip pointer last week and is questionable for the game. If he plays, the Chiefs will have an advantage.
The Steelers are about as desperate for a win as a team can get in the NFL. With their backs against the wall at home, it will take a monumental effort for Kansas City to win. The Chiefs are also playing the second game of a two-week road trip, which almost always results in a loss in the NFL. Kansas City head coach Herman Edwards is 1-3 lifetime against Steelers head coach Bill Cowher.
The Steelers are not the same squad that won the Super Bowl last season. Kansas City's defense will feast on Roethlisberger's mistakes and Johnson will rebound from last week's poor performance in front of his family and friends in Pennsylvania.
Chiefs 20, Steelers 13
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