Chiefs vs. Steelers: Game plan for victory
By Ryan Tracy
The Kansas City Chiefs can win a divisional round home game for the first time in 20 years.
It’s been a long time coming. It has now been six years since the Chiefs hosted a playoff game at home in Arrowhead stadium. It has been a whopping 23 years since this organization WON a home playoff game. That was with Joe Montana at the helm. Marcus Allen was running the ball. Derrick Thomas and Neil Smith were crushing quarterbacks. THAT is how long it’s been.
It’s time for this franchise to turn that around. They have the star power to do it. They have the coach to do it. This team can win and go to the AFC Championship. There are four critical things they need to accomplish in order to do it.
Matt Williamson, former Browns scout and ESPN analyst, sat down to talk matchups for this game. Here’s the show:
The Top Priority
Ben Roethlisberger is an exception to one of my big quarterback rules. Normally, it helps the defense be productive when they can simply get pressure on a quarterback. That means moving him off of his spot and even hitting him, but does not necessarily mean getting a sack.
For Big Ben, the opposite is true. The key to stopping this passing game of the Pittsburgh Steelers is to hit and take down Roethlisberger. Moving him off of his spot or out of the pocket will not help the Chiefs defense enough to stop the Steelers. They have to make contact. They have to hit him or sack him, especially when he’s flushed from the pocket.
In away games this season, Roethlisberger has struggled late in downs. Making contact will provide the secondary with opportunities at interceptions. It will be important that Tamba Hali and Dee Ford are able to get the job done. While Justin Houston practiced in a limited capacity on Wednesday, we just don’t know if he’s ready to play like himself.
Do your Job
Ramik Wilson has to play the game of his short career. He is the key to stopping Le’Veon Bell.
Wilson must play with gap discipline. Bell makes a living on punishing over pursuing linebackers. Wilson must stay home and complete his assignment on every play. He will have to slip blocks from offensive guards. You will have to stay home and mind his Gap. Most importantly, he will have to continually defeat the block of the fullback. Wilson will also have to use his athleticism to play to the boundaries when Pittsburgh is in single back formations or split Bell out.
Wilson will have some help. Justin March is back and practicing. Andy Reid has been non-committal on March’s playing time. Although I don’t expect March to start, maybe on the field in passing situations.
I do expect the team to start Terrance Smith. However, a mix of players opposite Wilson will probably rotate through during the game. If Pittsburgh decides to focus on running the ball with either extra lineman or tight ends, I would expect DJ Alexander to get some playing time. Whoever plays opposite Wilson will have to play with discipline as well. They have to contain Le’Veon Bell.
The ‘playoff’ Alex Smith has to show up
Alex Smith has to come out fighting in this divisional game. He has to continue to play like the Alex Smith we have seen over the last five games. Over the course of the last five games, Alex Smith and Andy Reid have grown less conservative and have taken more shots downfield. In those same five weeks, those shots have been productive. Smith has thrown for over 12.3 yards per completion in four of those five games. He’s averaged a 69.5% completion rate.
Smith has to aggressively spread the ball around. Tyreek Hill has the speed to take the top off of a suspect cornerback group. Travis Kelce has to be decisive across the middle and down the seams. Kelce will draw coverage from the Steelers solid safeties as well as the speedy linebacker Ryan Shazier. That, in turn, will leave things open or Jeremy Maclin, who has been making progress in his return from injury and a mid-season slump. Smith also has to continue to look for Chris Conley on critical catches down the stretch. All these weapons and Smith’s penchant for playing well in the postseason can drive this offense to new heights.
Run to win
Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West cannot be forgotten. In the Chiefs first meeting with Pittsburgh in week 4, Reid called the lowest run percentage of the season. On that day, he called only 23.6% runs. Reid has to use the entire arsenal at his disposal including 6th offensive linemen, three tight end sets, and Anthony Sherman. Don’t forget about Sherman.
Over the last five contests, Reid has called his best stretch of the season. In all five games, he has called over 40% run plays. That has given this offense balance and allowed the deep shots to be more effective. It has also kept the Chiefs in control of the clock.
If Reid can maintain his focus and poise, this offense can be explosive enough to compete with anyone in the league. Most especially the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Enjoy the Chiefs game, Addicts!