NFL Wire News

Week 16 Preview: Chiefs at Steelers

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Kansas City Chiefs (8-6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5)

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at Heinz Field, Pittsburgh – TV: CBS

*TV announcers: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Evan Washburn

*Keys to the game: The Chiefs cruised by Oakland last week minus a dominant ground game thanks in large part to improved protection for QB Alex Smith. He was sacked once, hit once and averaged 9.9 yards per attempt (he’s averaging 7.1 for the season).

Playing ball control on the road in cold conditions plays to the Chiefs’ strengths, but coach Andy Reid may also open up the passing game if the protection is holding up. Pittsburgh gives up an average of 252.9 passing yards per game and the secondary is the Steelers’ potential Achilles heel.

The Chiefs will also receive a litmus test for their defense, which is ranked fifth in points allowed (18.1 per game) and eighth in total defense. However, Kansas City has played only three teams ranked in the top 10 in offense – Denver twice and New England – and allowed an average of 334 yards. So the Steelers’ well-balanced offense averaging 424.9 yards per game will provide a measuring stick.

Pittsburgh RB Le’Veon Bell has topped 2,000 total yards. The Steelers will test the middle of the Cheifs’ 28th-ranked run defense early to set up play-action and improved protection for QB Ben Roethlisberger to stretch the field vertically.

*Matchup to watch – Chiefs OLB Justin Houston vs. Steelers RT Marcus Gilbert: Gilbert is expected to return after missing three games to an ankle injury. Houston is tied for the NFL lead with 17 sacks.

*Player spotlight – Chiefs ILB James-Michael Johnson: If Josh Mauga (oblique strain) can’t go, Johnson will get the start next to Joe Mays in a critical position defending against Bell in both the run and passing games.

*Fast facts: The Chiefs have allowed two rushing touchdowns, which would tie the NFL record set by the 1934 Detroit Lions, 1944 New York Giants, 1968 Dallas Cowboys and 1971 Minnesota Vikings, all of whom played a 14-game season. … The Steelers can win their first division title since 2010 by winning their final two games. They finish against Cincinnati next week.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

It’s ball control vs. high octane. The Steelers appear to have shed their Jekyll & Hyde ways, finding more balance in their explosive offense, and a Chiefs team still without a touchdown by a wideout isn’t built to fully exploit Pittsburgh’s weak secondary.

*Our pick: Steelers 27-23


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