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Week 7 Preview: Steelers at Chiefs

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Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-5)

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Mo. – TV: CBS

*TV announcers: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Stacey Dales

*Keys to the game: Ben Roethlisberger returned to 11-man drills in practice this week, but the safe bet is Landry Jones gets his first career start at quarterback for the Steelers. He displayed a good command of the offense in replacing injured Mike Vick (hamstring) last week, and Jones’ primary charge will be to protect the football. That means handing off early and often to RBs Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams as the reeling Chiefs still have a pass rush that can change the course of a game.

What Kansas City doesn’t have is an identity on offense following the season-ending knee injury to running back Jamaal Charles. QB Alex Smith is averaging just 7.5 yards per attempt and really struggles to move the ball vertically without the help of a strong ground game. Pittsburgh’s overhauled defense is allowing only 3.7 yards per carry and will hone in on RBs Charcandrick West (3.9 ypc) and Knile Davis (2.5). If WR Jeremy Maclin can’t clear the league’s concussion protocol in time, Smith will be even more reliant on underneath slants and screens to the likes of De’Anthony Thomas and Albert Wilson.

*Matchup to watch – Steelers LT Alejandro Villanueva vs. Chiefs OLB Tamba Hali: Villanueva takes over for Kelvin Beachum, who tore the ACL in his left knee last week. A former Army Ranger who is on an NFL 53-man roster for the first time this season, Villanueva saw his first extended action against Arizona last week and performed well. Hali, 31, has only one sack through six games.

*Player spotlight – Chiefs ILB Ramik Wilson: After not seeing a snap on defense through the first three weeks, Wilson took over for injured starter Josh Mauga in Week 4 and the rookie fourth-round pick has logged 121 snaps in the past two-plus games. He led the team with nine tackles last week.

*Fast facts: The Steelers are 7-4 without Roethlisberger since the start of the 2010 season. … Pittsburgh leads the NFL with a 75 percent touchdown rate inside the red zone (12 TDs in 16 possessions). … In 34 years in coaching, this is only the second time Chiefs coach Andy Reid has been part of a 1-5 team. The other? As the offensive line coach with the University of Missouri in 1989.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

The Steelers’ quarterback situation is an x-factor, but the Chiefs’ offense has little in the way of consistent playmakers and Pittsburgh should be able to grind out a road victory by controlling field position.

*Our pick: Steelers 20-16


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