PITTSBURGH STEELERS (11-5)
at KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (12-4)
Arrowhead Stadium – Kansas City, MO
Kickoff: Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET
Line: Kansas City -1.5, Total: 44.5
Pittsburgh dominated Kansas City in Week 4, but they’re an underdog in Arrowhead on Sunday.
The Steelers kicked off their postseason run in style last Sunday afternoon, spearing the Dolphins 30-12 in the friendly confines of Heinz Field (PIT -11). The game seemed to be over rather quickly, as QB Ben Roethlisberger completed touchdown passes of 50 and 62 yards on Pittsburgh’s first two respective drives of the game. Like the weekend’s other AFC Wild Card winner, Houston, the Steelers had the benefit of playing a backup quarterback and took advantage: They sacked Matt Moore five times, picked him off once, and forced and recovered two fumbles from him. They now advance to the Divisional Round of the playoffs to take on the AFC’s No. 2 seed, the Kansas City Chiefs, on the road. The Chiefs finished the regular season winning 10 of their final 12 games (8-3-1 ATS), a run that came on the heels of a 43-14 road shellacking to this same Steelers team in Week 4. Part of a series of early-season primetime matchups that were bemoaned as being uncompetitive, the game was 29-0 at halftime and 36-0 mere minutes afterwards. More recently, the Chiefs beat the Chargers 33-27 (SD +6.5) to win arguably the NFL’s best division in the AFC West and secure the bye on Wild Card weekend. Over the last 10 seasons, home favorites that have won three out of their last four games (KC) are 27-5 ATS against teams that have won at least eight of their last ten games. Over the last five seasons, games in which one team is looking to revenge a loss of at least 28 points are 26-6 Over the total when the total is set between 42.5 and 49. LB Justin Houston and RB Spencer Ware are probable for Kansas City for Sunday’s game. For Pittsburgh, S Robert Golden is questionable and TE Ladarius Green in doubtful. Roethlisberger aggravated a foot injury that kept him out of two games earlier in the season, but he is expected to play.
Roethlisberger (64.4 CMP%, 3,819 yards, 29 TDs, 13 INTs in the regular season) continued his annual tradition of missing a couple games, give or take, of the regular season due to injury, but still finished relatively high in counting stats: He was 17th in passing yards (ninth with 273 per game) and sixth in touchdown passes (on 509 attempts, fewer than anyone ahead of him). He didn’t have to do much after his two early touchdown passes against Miami, completing 13 of 18 passes for 197 yards (112 on those two touchdowns alone), those two touchdowns and two interceptions. His best game of the season was the Week 4 demolition of Kansas City, a game in which he completed 22 of 27 passes for 300 yards and five touchdowns. In 18 career playoff games, he has a 12-6 record and has completed 61.9% of his passes for 236.1 yards, 1.3 touchdowns and 1.2 interceptions per game. As was made clear last weekend, he has the NFL’s best receiver at his disposal in Brown (106 catches, 1,284 yards, 12 TDs). Brown led the NFL in receptions, was second in touchdown catches and fifth in receiving yards. He had four catches for 64 yards in Week 4, two of which were scores. He has gone over 100 yards in each of his last three playoff games. With WRs Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant out for the season, things get a little thin after that at wideout. Eli Rogers (48 catches, 594 yards, 3 TDs) has been good, but Sammie Coates (21 catches, 435 yards, 2 TDs) has only one catch in his last eight games. TEs Jesse James (39 catches, 338 yards, 3 TDs) and Ladarius Green (18 catches, 304 yards, TD) play important roles. RB Le’Veon Bell (261 carries, 1,268 yards, 7 TDs; 75 catches, 616 yards, 2 TDs) arguably joins Brown as being the best in the NFL at his position. He carried the ball 29 times against Miami for 167 yards and two touchdowns, and it was his seventh straight game with over 90 yards rushing. He looked motivated after missing the playoffs with injuries the last two years. On defense, the Steelers finished the regular season 12th in the NFL with 342.6 yards allowed per game and 10th with 20.4 points allowed per game. LB Lawrence Timmons led the defense with 14 tackles and two sacks against Miami.
While his numbers will never stack up with those of the Roethlisbergers of the league, fans of Chiefs QB Alex Smith (67.1 CMP%, 3,502 yards, 15 TDs, 8 INTs) know exactly what they’re going to get from him. Accuracy, for one: He finished seventh in the league in completion percentage and had the league’s 10th-best interception percentage at 1.6%. The other thing everyone has come to expect from Smith is wins: He is 81-59-1 in his career (.578 winning percentage), the seventh-best winning percentage of active quarterbacks who have started at least 100 games. In five career playoff games, he has completed 60.2% of his passes for 261.8 yards, 2.2 touchdowns and 0.2 interceptions per game—numbers considerably better than his career regular season averages, minus the completion percentage. He actually had a decent game, albeit a weird one, against the Steelers in Week 4, completing 30 of a season-high 50 pass attempts for a season-high 287 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The Kansas City offense has turned into a different monster since then, though, thanks in large part to the emergence of rookie WR/KR/PR Tyreek Hill (61 catches, 593 yards, 6 TDs; 24 carries, 267 yards, 3 TDs; 2 PR TDs, KR TD). As his stats clearly show, there’s no way in which Hill can’t get the ball into the end zone. He hasn’t caught a touchdown since Dec. 8 against Oakland, but has a rushing touchdown in two of the Chiefs’ last three games. He scored his second career touchdown pass earlier this season against Pittsburgh on a 10-yard reception, but did not have nearly as large of a role in the offense as he does now. The other gamebreaker on the unit is TE Travis Kelce (85 catches, 1,125 yards, 4 TDs), who led all NFL tight ends in receptions and receiving yards this year. He also was second in the entire league in yards after catch (655), only 30 yards behind Le’Veon Bell and the only tight end to be ranked in the top 16. WRs Jeremy Maclin (44 catches, 536 yards, 2 TDs), Chris Conley (44 catches, 530 yards) and Albert Wilson (31 catches, 279 yards, 2 TDs) also catch passes occasionally. RB Spencer Ware (214 carries, 921 yards, 3 TDs; 33 catches, 447 yards, 2 TDs) only rushed for 100 yards once this season, but he went for over 50 yards on the ground in all but two games he played and is a threat in the passing game, too. He found success with 82 yards on 13 carries against Pittsburgh in Week 4, but KC spent most of the night passing the ball to try and mount a comeback. The Chiefs defense was 24th in the NFL in the regular season with 368.5 yards allowed per game and seventh with 19.4 points allowed per game. LB Dee Ford led the team with 10 sacks and CB Marcus Peters had six interceptions.