Aug 24, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Eric Berry (29) and free safety Tysyn Hartman (31) celebrate a sack against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second quarter at Heinz Field. The Kansas City Chiefs won 26-20 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

5 Keys to Victory: Chiefs vs. Steelers Follow Up

Addicts, it’s with great pleasure that for the first time in the 2013 season – okay, okay, it’s still the preseason, but still – I get to write a “5 Keys to Victory” follow up article that actually resulted in a victory.

In case you were an Addict on the wagon or under a rock last night, the Chiefs defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 26-20 in overtime. Yes, I said overtime, as in an extra period because a preseason game actually ended regulation in a tie.

This doesn’t happen often, but the Chiefs needed the extra period to bump their former head coach, Todd Haley, and his team from a win. Let’s see how this week’s 5 Keys played out. As always, my original comments are in normal print and my follow up comments are in bold.

#1 Is there a J. Charles in the building?

Rumor has it that JC25 may seem some action, even if it is small, in tonight’s game. Reid is obviously treating his star running back with kid gloves after his foot strain, but letting Charles touch the ball a few times and seeing how he cuts and runs could be beneficial to everyone. I would expect him to share the first team load with his apparent backup, Davis, but anytime JC has the ball in his hands, the Chiefs have a better chance of winning.

Charles did indeed play, and while his numbers weren’t anything to write home about – 10 carries for seven yards – he looked healthy, he wasn’t limping and his cuts were sharp. It looks like any remaining doubts about his foot injury earlier this preseason can take a walk. JC is good to go, and will be good to go week one of the regular season against the Jacksonville Jaguars. And oh, by the way, Knile Davis didn’t look to shabby either.

Key #1: Achieved

#2 Special Teams are really special

Normally, special teams are just a way for bottom of the roster guys who are on the bubble to make the team. This season, however, the Chiefs special teams unit has a chance to really be…well…special. They’ve already had a return for a TD and a couple of close calls. It’s only preseason, but if this is a preview of what’s to come, I’m all in on this unit. When Pittsburgh Steelers’ QB, Ben Roethlisberger marches his team down the field and scores a TD, nothing will turn the tide and morale of the team like a Quentin Demps, or Knile Davis or Devon Wylie or Dexter McCluster return for a score.

This special teams unit is something else. As I explained to my football challenged sister-in-law after Knile Davis returned a kickoff 109 yards for a TD to re-tie the game: “returning a kickoff in one game is difficult enough. Returning kickoffs for TDs in two consecutive games with two different returners is nearly impossible.” Leave it to special teams coordinator, Dave Toub to deliver the nearly impossible. And oh, by the way, they blocked a potentially game winning field goal as well. AA Editor, Andrew Kulha said it and I’ll echo it, the Chiefs’ special teams unit will win the team at least one game this year. I’d go even further and say they may be able to deliver two or three close ones in the red and gold’s favor.

Key #2: Achieved

#3 Keep Alex Smith on his feet

Last week, the Chiefs’ offensive line was…well…offensive. They gave up seven total sacks in the game, four of those were against Alex Smith. That can’t happen. Of course, Smith looked like he was, perhaps, trying to find some down field targets and held onto the ball too long, but still, the hogs up front get paid to protect the QB. So, protect him. Fans want Smith to find some down field targets, but the line needs to protect Smith in order for him to find those targets. Which leads me to the next point.

The Chiefs’ offensive line still has some work to do. Not only were they committing penalties, they’re still a little porous when it comes to allowing rushers at the QB. Although they managed to fend off the first team defense and only allow them to get to Alex Smith once during the first half, Chiefs’ backup QB, Chase Daniel, found the turf at Heinz Field three times and was forced out of the pocket on several other occasions. Smith tried to help his line by getting the ball out quicker and more efficiently. Still, this unit has to get better. For that reason, I’m still not sold.

Key #3: Not Achieved

#4 Is there a WR on this team not named Dexter McCluster on this team

Thus far in the preseason, Alex Smith has completed passes to his running backs, tight ends and wide receivers…wearing #22. There are other guys on this team who Smith needs to connect with. Dwayne Bowe, Donnie Avery and even newly acquired A.J. Jenkins have to get involved in the passing game if the Chiefs are going to move the ball consistently. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Smith doesn’t have to throw 40 yard strikes consistently. He just needs to get the ball to the guys who can do something with it and make the strike when the time comes.

Dwayne Bowe, meet Alex Smith. Alex Smith, meet Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery and Junior Hemmingway. Smith was all over the place with the ball last night. He hit his #1 and #2 receivers for 12 receptions and 127 total yards. And in the absence of his previous favorite WR, slot receiver Junior Hemmingway hauled in a five yard TD from Smith. This half is exactly what realistic Chiefs fans have been wanting (and hoping) to see from Smith. And oh, by the way, the 38 yard scramble didn’t hurt either.

#5 Defense…keep doin’ what you’re doin’

Thus far in the preseason, the defense has been pretty damn good. They’ve held when they needed to hold and stopped when they needed to stop. They’ve gotten to the quarterback, they’ve stuffed the run and they’ve created some turnovers. I hate this cliché,  but “on paper” the Chiefs have one of the best D’s in the league. That needs to translate to the field in order to win against the Steelers, or any team. Roethlisberger is one of the hardest signal callers to bring down. But, he’s also been the bologna in a Houston/Hali sammich! As disturbing as that visual may be, I wouldn’t mind seeing that once or twice tonight

It’s preseason, so I’m really trying to curb my enthusiasm here. A couple of long pass plays that Chiefs defenders looked completely lost on helps me do that. But for the most part, this defensive unit is looking really good. As a unit, they managed to rack up 5 sacks and though there were no interceptions, there were several plays defensed. The best one that I saw was Brandon Flowers forcing an incompletion at the last possible second and saving a touchdown. The Tysyn Hartman/Eric Berry sack sandwich on Ben Roethlisberger was fun to watch as well.

Key #5: Achieved

There you have it, Addicts. The Chiefs met four of the five keys we set out for them and were able to pull out a win. It’s now on to next week and the final preseason game against the Green Bay Packers back home in Arrowhead!

Thanks for reading, and GO CHIEFS!!!

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