What the Steelers will do: Look for them to reduce the pressure on QB Ben Roethlisberger and get back to giving the ball to Willie Parker 25 to 30 times a game. The Chiefs have a solid secondary and good cover corners, but the interior of their defense is suspect. That also will slow some of the pass rush on Roethlisberger, who was sacked five times in San Diego. The Steelers will commit to stopping RB Larry Johnson (see story) but their other concern is TE Tony Gonzalez.
What the Chiefs will do: Believe it or not, one of the Chiefs' strengths is their defense. Their secondary has received a lot of guidance from new coach, Herman Edwards, a former cornerback, and has benefitted from the addition of CB Ty Law (Aliquippa). Also, the addition of rookie DE Tamba Hali (Penn State) has brought energy to the defensive front. Hali, who will line against RT Max Starks, and DE Jaren Allen will try to apply pressure from the outside on Roethlisberger. Offensively, QB Damon Huard has been better than expected, throwing five touchdowns and no interceptions with a 107.4 passer rating.
Keep an eye on ...
TE Tony Gonzalez: A seven-time Pro Bowl selection, Gonzalez has 18 receptions for 172 yards, which, for him, is a significant dropoff. He doesn't have the same comfort level with Huard as QB Trent Green, and he has been used more in pass protection because of the weakness of offensive tackles Jordan Black and rookie Kevin Sampson. Last week, Huard didn't throw a pass in Gonzalez' direction until 2 minutes remained in the third quarter. But he is the team's all-time leading receiver and maybe the best tight end in the league.
Game: Steelers (1-3) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (2-2).
When: 4:15 p.m.
Where: Heinz Field.
Radio: WDVE-FM (102.5), WBGG-AM (970).
There is no more time for excuses. Hines Ward said the Steelers have to scratch, claw, bite, do whatever for a victory, so lack of focus or consistency is no longer an excuse. The Steelers have lost three in a row. The Chiefs have won back-to-back games, but this is their first time playing in Pittsburgh since October, 1989.
To win, the Chiefs must ...
1. Get LJ on the LBs. Johnson has been unable to get outside, where he can use his speed to outrun the linebackers.
2. Clock Big Ben. Pressure Roethlisberger from the outside and force him to step into the pocket, something San Diego did with sucecss.
3. Have a Big Mac Attack. Injuries in the secondary might prompt Huard to go after CB Bryant McFadden, who makes his second start.
To win, the Steelers must ...
1. Run till they're done. The Chiefs are not very strong in the middle and allow an average of 106.5 yards per game rushing.
2. Feast on Damon's ribs. Huard has been very efficient since replacing Trent Green and has been sacked only eight times.
3. Be focused in the fourth. The Steelers have been outscored, 26-3, in the fourth quarter in the past three games, all losses.