Matchup: Steelers vs. Chiefs
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When the Chiefs have the ball: It is not a good sign that the offense has not generated a lead at any point this season in regulation. Not when they are facing a defense that ranks No. 1 overall in the NFL. But that is a little surprising because the Chiefs have the AFC's No. 1 rushing attack, enjoy a four-minute advantage in average time of possession and rank seventh in the league in third-down conversions (44.2 percent). The run game is led by Jamaal Charles, who is fourth in the conference with 634 yards. The Chiefs average 149.9 yards per game and have a per-carry average of 4.7 yards. LT Branden Albert, a No. 1 pick in 2008, is their best lineman and will be lined against OLB James Harrison. QB Matt Cassel will start against the Steelers because Brady Quinn has a concussion. The Chiefs also have lost 15 fumbles, resulting in an NFL-high 29 turnovers. The top receiver is WR Dwayne Bowe, who has 45 catches for 571 yards, but Cassel will dump a lot of passes to his running backs, especially McCluster (29 catches) and Charles (22).
When the Steelers have the ball: The Chiefs defense is in disarray, too. Coach Romeo Crennel relieved himself of defensive coordinator duties and promoted LB coach Gary Gibbs into that role; lineman Shaun Smith was signed to help improve their run defense; and, in an embarrassing move, cut CB Stanford Routt after signing him in free agency to a three-year, $19.6 million contract. Curiously, the Chiefs have a lot of young talent on all three levels of their 3-4 defense, but they struggle against the run and give up the fourth-most points (240) in the NFL. They have three No. 1 picks along the front line, led by rookie NT Dontari Poe. ILB Derrick Johnson leads the team with 65 tackles, including five for losses. S Eric Berry was the fifth overall pick in the 2010 draft, but he missed nearly the entire 2011 season after tearing the ACL in his left knee.
Keep an eye on
QB Matt Cassel ... The Chiefs lead the league with 29 giveaways, but the biggest culprit has been their quarterback. Cassel has been a turnover machine for the Chiefs, throwing 11 interceptions and losing seven fumbles. His 18 turnovers are more than any player in the league. The good news for him -- the Steelers have only eight takeaways, including just four interceptions. Both are the second fewest in the AFC.
This game has a little added incentive for offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who was fired as Kansas City's head coach with three games remaining in the 2011 season. The Steelers have won three in a row and need a victory to remain a game behind the Baltimore Ravens, whom they play twice in the ensuing three weeks. They are 3-0 at home and have allowed only 36 points in those games. What's more, they are unbeaten in their previous 14 home games on Monday night. ... Since 1992, nine of the past 11 meetings have been in Kansas City (including playoffs). Neither team has won back-to-back games in the series in that span.
To win, the Chiefs must ...
1. Chop the run. Haley's offense has become more balanced and diverse with their ability to run the ball the past three games.
2. Get it all from Jamaal. He averages 108.4 yards from scrimmage per game since 2010.
3. Have Baldwin burrow. This former Pitt receiver has to be more of a factor attacking the secondary.
To win, the Steelers must ...
1. Invade Cassel. Not even Michael Vick has been responsible for more turnovers (18) than the Chiefs QB.
2. Halt Hali. He creates pressure and forces fumbles with his relentless style of rushing the pocket.
3. Slow Bowe. He is the Chiefs' only deep target and will draw the attention of CB Ike Taylor.
First Published November 12, 2012 12:00 am