Kansas City Chiefs loss to Steelers happened in the trenches

KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 15: The Kansas City Chiefs line up against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the game at Arrowhead Stadium on October 15, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 15: The Kansas City Chiefs line up against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the game at Arrowhead Stadium on October 15, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /
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KANSAS CITY, MO – OCTOBER 15: Running back Le’Veon Bell
KANSAS CITY, MO – OCTOBER 15: Running back Le’Veon Bell /

It doesn’t take a football expert to understand that if the Chiefs allow a running back to gain 179 yards rushing, it makes it hard to win. The problem wasn’t just the yards they were allowing though. The Chiefs once again displayed a bend but don’t break philosophy on defense. The Steelers racked up 439 net yards but only had 19 points to show for it. If you have the highest scoring offense in the NFL through five games and your defense only allows 19 points at home you should win that game.

So this loss is mostly on the offense right?

Well, not so fast.

Yes, the offense absolutely deserves their fair share of the blame as we just finished discussing. HOWEVER, part of the reason the Chiefs weren’t able to muster very much on offense is because they didn’t have the ball. You can point to the defense only allowing 19 points and say they did their job, but that ignores the fact that their inability to stop Le’Veon Bell allowed the Steelers to dominate the time of possession. Again, some of that is on the offense for not maintaining possession of their own but the Chiefs barely touched the ball in the first half as Bell and the Steelers offense sustained multiple long, clock-draining drives.

The Chiefs like their defensive linemen. Chris Jones, Bennie Logan, Allen Bailey, and Rakeem Nunez-Roches are all talented guys who have shined at times this season. During this game they simply didn’t win the battle at the point of attack enough. Not only did they not get their hands on Bell, but they often weren’t able to occupy enough blockers to free the linebackers up to make the tackle. Now, to be fair, there were times that the linebackers had chances and Bell just made them miss. However, other times Bell was through the front seven before anyone really got a hand on him.

You just have to look at the Chiefs top three leading tacklers to see the issue.

Terrence Mitchell: 6 solo, 2 assists
Daniel Sorensen: 4 solo, 4 assists
Derrick Johnson: 3 solo, 3 assists

When you give up 194 yards rushing and your two leading tacklers are defensive backs you are getting worked at the line of scrimmage. Period.

The Chiefs are now giving up the fourth most yards per carry in the entire NFL. Despite the fact that they are 5-1 they are still giving up the seventh most rushing yards per game. Yes, they gave up a ton on Sunday, but given that they were playing with a lead for most of the other five games, it’s staggering that they are still giving up that many rushing yards per game. The Chiefs have to find a way to sure up their run defense moving forward. As the weather gets colder, teams will look to run the ball more and more and the Chiefs have to be able to get stops up front more often.

Finally, if the Chiefs want to get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks without sending a blitz those same defensive linemen have to get some push up the middle on passing downs. Obviously, the heart and soul of the Chiefs pass rush is Justin Houston and Dee Ford. They have to make plays off the edge. However, time and time again on Sunday Ford and Houston were ran around the outside by Pittsburgh’s tackles as Ben Roethlisberger stepped up in the pocket and got rid of the ball.

You could argue that the difference in this game between Big Ben and Alex Smith is that Ben was able to comfortably step up in the pocket and Alex wasn’t. The Chiefs interior rushers simply weren’t able to get enough push up the middle to force Ben outside of the pocket where Houston and Ford could get to him.

While you can point to plays missed here and there by different players on both sides of the ball, this game was lost in the trenches and the Chiefs need to make sure that it doesn’t become a trend going forward. The good news is that they should get some of their starting interior line back from injury soon. Also, not many teams have the speed on defense to cause the problems for K.C.’s offensive line like Pittsburgh did. Most teams also don’t have the offensive line and Pro Bowl running back to dominate the line of scrimmage in the run game either. So the Steelers definitely deserve credit for how they played on Sunday.

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The Chiefs shouldn’t panic after this loss but they also shouldn’t ignore the problems they had in the trenches. They either need to get these problems fixed or hope they don’t have to face Pittsburgh again in the playoffs. If they do, I worry we may see the same result that we have seen the last several meetings.

As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!