By Daniel Benjamin
The Pittsburgh Steelers continue their early schedule of alternating home and away games with a Week 6 trip to Arrowhead Stadium to face the Kansas City Chiefs. Kickoff is set for 4:25 p.m. ET on Oct. 15 and the game will be televised on CBS.
Pittsburgh (3-2) will look to bounce back from a horrendous performance in their 30-9 home loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars (3-2) on Sunday afternoon. The Steelers did not score a touchdown, turned the ball over five times, and allowed Jacksonville to accumulate over 200 yards on the ground.
Kansas City (5-0) is the best team in the league thus far. The Chiefs are coming off an impressive 42-34 victory over the Houston Texans. K.C., which has the second best point differential in the league (+53), has won each of its games by seven or more points.
The Steelers and the Chiefs are meeting for the fifth time since the start of the 2014 campaign. The Steelers have won three of the last four meetings, including last year’s divisional round matchup at Arrowhead (18-16). The Steelers have taken 11 of the 18 games in Kansas City, and lead the all-time series 22-11-0.
Kansas City enters the Week 6 contest as the NFL’s highest scoring team at over 32 points a contest. The Chiefs have scored at least 27 points in all five games, topping the 30-point plateau on three occasions. The 42 points that they put up on the Texans matched their season-high total. K.C. beat New England 42-27 in the season opener.
Quarterback Alex Smith, who is having an MVP type season, leads a balanced offensive attack. Smith is on pace to shatter his personal best of 23 touchdowns and 3,502 passing yards. He’s coming off his second 300-yard game of the season after completing 29-of-37 passes (78.4%) for 324 yards along with three touchdown passes against Houston. More importantly, Smith has tossed 11 touchdowns and no interceptions.
Smith is not only a threat throwing the ball, but he is also a valuable asset in the Chiefs’ running attack, and has accumulated 108 yards on 23 carries for 21.6 yards a game. However, rookie Kareem Hunt has been the catalyst for the league’s No. 2 running attack (156.0 yards a game).
When throwing the ball, Smith has several options with six Chiefs already hauling in double-digit receptions. Tight end Travis Kelce, who is in the league’s concussion protocol, leads the team in catches (29) and targets (37). Versatile speedster Tyreek Hill is the Chiefs’ most dangerous weapon, besides Hunt, as he can cause problems as a receiver, as a runner and as a punt returner.
While the Chiefs offense has been one of the best in the league, their defense has been inconsistent at best. K.C. is giving up the 27th most yards per game (366.0), though the Chiefs rank 17th in scoring defense at 22.2 points a game. They have held only one opponent to under 20 points this season.
The Chiefs’ biggest problem has been stopping the run. K.C. has given up at least 100 yards on the ground in all five of their games so far, and they are tied for 20th in the league, allowing 118.0 rushing yards a game. However, they have yet to give up 100 yards to a single player.
The Chiefs’ pass defense is a different story. They haven’t been awful against the pass, but they have given up an awful lot of big plays. Kansas City ranks 25th in yards allowed (248) and 20th in yards per attempt (7.2), as they have been burnt 19 times on plays of at least 20-yards.
On the positive side, K.C. is only permitting opposing quarterbacks to complete 51.4% of their passes. The Chiefs have also registered 14 sacks, which ranks eighth in the league, and have forced seven turnovers.
Chiefs Players to Watch: Kareem Hunt and Justin Houston
Kareem Hunt: Hunt has gotten off to an amazing start to his NFL career. He is just as dangerous as a receiver as he is a runner, and leads the NFL in rushing yards (609), yards per game (121.8) and is third in rushing touchdowns (4). He also has 16 receptions for 166 yards and two scores.
The 22-year-old rookie has topped the 100-yard rushing mark four times and has only been held to less than 120 yards of total offense once. Hunt joined Adrian Peterson as the only other back to record 100-yards of total offense in five straight games to start the season when he accounted for 116 yards against Houston. Hunt, who is averaging nearly 20 carries a game, has gotten 75% of his rushing yards in the second half of games this season.
Justin Houston: Houston has been a menacing problem for opposing offenses for several years and this season is no different. The pass rushing specialist’s biggest issue recently has been staying healthy. So far so good in that department, and Houston is making opposing offenses pay. He recorded three tackles and 1.5 sacks against the Texans to up his totals to 22 tackles and a team-high 5.5 sacks, respectively. Houston, who has collected a sack in four of his five games this season, has 65.5 sacks in 80 career games.
Outcome: Chiefs 24, Steelers 21
The Steelers really need this victory to keep pace in the AFC North, as they are currently tied with Baltimore (3-2) for the division lead. But there is little indication the offense is going to snap out of their funk in time for the game against Kansas City. The Steelers are at their best when their defense wreaks havoc, causing turnovers and setting up the offense with a short field. The thing is, the Chiefs don’t turn the ball over, losing just one fumble all year.