The Kansas City Chiefs take on the Pittsburgh Steelers. Can Andy Reid’s club light up Mike Tomlin’s team like it did the Los Angeles Chargers a week ago?
Currently, only the New England Patriots (9) have been to the playoffs more consecutive years than the Pittsburgh Steelers (4) and Kansas City Chiefs (3). The latter two teams renew acquaintances on Sunday in a standout coaching matchup between Andy Reid and Mike Tomlin.
While the Chiefs come off a scintillating 38-28 road win over the Los Angeles Chargers, the Black and Gold stumbled their way to a 21-all tie with the Cleveland Browns.
As was expected, the Kansas City offense proved to be extremely explosive in the team’s Week 1 showdown with the Bolts. Yes, second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes earned AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors after connecting on 15-of-27 passes for 256 yards and four touchdowns last Sunday.
But it was wide receiver Tyreek Hill who lit up the Bolts. He burned the Chargers for a 91-yard punt return for a score the first time he touched the football in the game. He was also targeted eight times and caught seven passes for 169 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
So can Mahomes and the Chiefs inflict similar damage on the always-suspect Steelers’ defense? With Hill, fellow wideout Sammy Watkins, 2017 rushing champion Kareem Hunt and Pro Bowl tight end Travis Kelce, Reid’ team has a ton of big-play options.
Meanwhile, it will be extremely interesting to see how new Steelers’ offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner attacks the Kansas City defense. In recent meetings, with Todd Haley at the controls, running back Le’Veon Bell was a huge part of the team’s game plan when it faced Bob Sutton’s defensive unit. So does second-year running back James Conner get the same kind of workload as Bell?
Consider this. In the last three meetings between these clubs, including a playoff clash at Arrowhead Stadium in 2016, the Pro Bowl performer rushed for 144, 170 and 179 yards, respectively, on 18, 30 and 32 carries. Pittsburgh carved out victories in each of those three contests. Bell and the offensive line’s ability to control the clock in the latter two meetings was huge considering Ben Roethlisberger and company struggled to find the end zone in those contests.
Back to the Chiefs. Keep in mind that this was a team that started off like gangbusters a year ago. Reid’s squad opened with five consecutive wins and scoring a total of 164 points in those contests. But it was also a club that dropped seven of its final 12 outings, including a 22-21 home loss to the Tennessee Titans in the AFC wild card round in which Andy Reid’s club owned an 18-point halftime advantage.
And what about the Kansas City defense? They allowed a whopping 541 yards to Philip Rivers and the Bolts last week but managed a pair of takeaways. Sutton’s unit has allowed its share of yards in recent seasons and have become very dependent on forcing turnovers. A year ago, including the postseason win over the Titans, the Chiefs rolled up 24 takeaways in their 10 wins and forced only four turnovers in seven setbacks.
The Steelers come of a six-turnover performance in the rain at Cleveland. There seems to be some questions surrounding the team’s mindset in the midst of Bell’s holdout. It’s Week 2 and there are already some question marks surrounding the defending AFC North champions. So can Tomlin’s team keep pace on Sunday with Reid’s track team? Or will the Black and Gold play a little slowdown this weekend?