As the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3) prepare for the first of their two trap games this month against the Kansas City Chiefs (1-7), they should realize that they are going to be in for a fight. Yes, on paper, the Steelers should be a favorite, but paper does not matter and reality is, the Chiefs have played the Steelers tough in recent seasons.The Chiefs have struggled defensively to keep teams from scoring. One of the reasons is that their offense has not given them a lead at any point this season; unbelievable factors that not only play on each other as the games progress. The Steelers appear poised to take another step forward both offensively and defensively, but have not yet demonstrated total consistency on either side of the ball for an extended stretch.
Going in, one would expect the offense to show up in this one, putting forth maybe a little extra for offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who was unceremoniously dropped as Chiefs head coach in the middle of 2011 after leading the team to the playoffs in 2010. For all the offseason banter, Haley has done an outstanding job for the offense, creating balance through periods of multiple injuries and keeping quarterback Ben Roethlisberger healthy. Unfortunately, for the Steelers, injuries will be a concern again as the offense will line up without three starters Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles), Marcus Gilbert (foot) and leading receiver Antonio Brown (Ankle).
Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders will start in place of Brown and Jerricho Cotchery take more snaps and both must pick up the slack on third down. Brown is an explosive wide out, who seemed to develop into Roethlisberger’s go to target on third down across the middle. If the Steelers can keep the chains moving and allow the newly established running game to keep the churning the clock, the offense will be in a great position against the Chiefs defense.
The big question for the running game is what backs will be available, as all five on the roster have been dinged in recent weeks. Last week against the New York Giants, Isaac Redman managed a career-high 147 yards and one touchdown, and should be in line for his second start. Behind him, it appears Jonathan Dwyer will return after missing last week with a Quad injury, and the third down role will fall between Baron Batch and rookie Chris Rainey who will be returning from a rib injury.
Another reason why the Steelers may look to possess the ball is to keep the Chiefs primary weapon, explosive running back Jamal Charles off the field. The defense has struggled at times against the run, and Charles has the ability to make them pay any time he touches the ball. If he can be successful in the run game, it may open things up for the passing attack that does boast some physical wide receivers that could present match-up problems for the secondary, which is again without safety Troy Polamalu (Calf).
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