Chiefs vs. Steelers: 3 key matchups to watch

KANSAS CITY, MP - JANUARY 15: Cornerback Marcus Peters
KANSAS CITY, MP - JANUARY 15: Cornerback Marcus Peters /
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In their 3rd matchup in two seasons the Kansas City Chiefs take on their achillies heel in the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Since Andy Reid became the head coach of Kansas City, the Chiefs have faced the Pittsburgh Steelers a total of four times including once in the playoffs. In those four matchups, the Chiefs have gone 1-3 with their only win coming against a Landy Jones-led Steelers squad.

The Steelers marquee players, wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell, have both consistently done well against the Chiefs. Bell currently averages 138.25 total yards per game and Brown averages  92 total yards per game. Combined though in a total of 9 games the duo has scored just 4 touchdowns. Will this time be any different? Lets find out.

Kareem Hunt vs. Cameron Heyward

With a litany of stars on the field the biggest matchup to watch may involve the youngest of the stars. Kareem Hunt has a chance to become the first rookie running back in NFL history to start his career with 6 straight games of over 100 total yards. Against the Steelers, Hunt will be facing the currently 28th ranked run defense in the NFL. Fellow rookie running back Leonard Fournette rushed 28 times for 181 yards and 2 TDs just last week in a 30 to 9 blowout by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Fournette was able to consistently get past the defensive line and into the secondary which eventually led to his all-NFL long touchdown of 90 yards in the 4th quarter.

So far in 2017, the Chiefs and Jaguars rank similarly in run blocking by Football Outsiders. Chiefs currently rank 5th with 4.5 adjusted line yards and Jaguars are at 6th with 4.48 adjusted line yards per play. Kareem Hunt and the Chiefs still currently lead the NFL with 6.2 in running back yards per play. The Chiefs are also the last team in the NFL that still have a 100% power success. This basically means the Chiefs have converted every run on 3rd or 4th down with 2 yards or less to go. It also includes runs on first and second in goal to go situations. It’s fair to say the Chiefs run game is among the best if not the best in the league.

Despite their 28th ranking in rushing yards per game given up, the Steelers defensive line is ranked 8th in run defending by Football Outsiders. They’ve given up just 3.68 adj. line yards to opposing offensive lines. What has killed the Steelers the most is they are giving up 5.21 ypc to running backs which is 29th in the NFL. What does this mean? It’s hard to say for certain, but with their 26th and 32nd ranking in 2nd level and open field yards given up there may be a tackling issue. The players are getting themselves into position to make a play but aren’t able to tackle the ball carrier. This should give particular advantage to Kareem Hunt who ranks 1st in forced missed tackles in the NFL.

With all this in mind I’m projecting Kareem Hunt should be in line for a 21 carry 157 yard day. Hunt has been on a tear this season, and the Steelers have been one of the most tearing defenses on the ground this season. Hunt should easily be in line for a big game.