By Christina Rivers

On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers surprised nearly everyone by tempering the Arizona Cardinals offense with strong defense and an offense that came alive in the final quarter of the game. Handing the NFC West leaders a 25-13 loss, the Steelers move to 4-2 on the season and a meeting with the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs looked primed to have a successful 2015 season, but after going undefeated in the preseason and a week one win, it has been all downhill in Kansas City.

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The Series and outlook

The Steelers began their series against the Chiefs in 1970, but have led the overall regular season both at home and away. The last time these two teams met, Pittsburgh handed Kansas City a 20-12 loss at Heinz Field in December 2014. Bell and Antonio Brown both had touchdowns, but the game was won on the leg of Shaun Suisham. In 2015, the Steelers have pushed through injuries while the Chiefs continue to devolve. The Steelers are favorites to win this match as well.

The Chiefs offense continues to self-destruct

Called “underachieving” and “stubbornly self-destructive” by the home town Kansas City Star, the Chiefs are on the verge of total collapse mainly due to a lack of creativity and ball control on offense. It is never good when a fumble that results in a defensive touchdown is caused by running into your own teammate, but ask Kansas City about the play and you’re likely to see a bunch of red faces. Charcandrick West simply missed the hole of his blockers, leaned in and watched as left tackle Donald Stephenson knocked the ball loose. It caused tight end Travis Kelce to remove his helmet and slam it on the ground. Jamaal Charles’ injury couldn’t have hurt the team any more.

Alex Smith has struggled this season and has yet to lead a game-winning touchdown drive in the last five minutes of any game since joining the team. He has watched his team blow big leads and orchestrated some truly poor offensive drives. Smith has yet to find a way to play from behind in an offense that seems to find no purchase on the turf. Smith is surrounded by talent, but despite running the ball well, getting necessary first downs and driving, he can’t get the team to finish strong. Tight end Travis Kelce, Smith’s top receiver against the Vikings (five receptions for 88 yards), said he felt the team was doing well, but Smith was only able to throw a single touchdown in the fourth quarter. Smith has been sacked 23 times this season, a statistic that has to worry any NFL team’s head coach.

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Defense in KC

Without Dontari Poe and after losing Mike DeVito, the Chiefs were able to put a good defensive front together and shut down Adrian Peterson. They will need that same stopping power against the Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams. The problem is this: Bell is performing at a much higher level than Peterson, and is younger. While Peterson was held to just 60 yards on 26 carries, the Chiefs saw Allen Bailey get the first back-to-back games with a sack in his career.

Marcus Peters was the story in the defensive backfield for Kansas City, jumping a Teddy Bridgewater route to grab his third interception of the season, tying him for third-most in the league this year. With safety Eric Berry over the top, Peters has been able to gamble a bit. The Chiefs will not have the luxury of taking chances with Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton or Martavis Bryant.

Chiefs to watch versus Steelers

With injuries hampering many, Albert Wilson has emerged as a viable target for Smith at receiver. Outside of Kelcie at tight end, Wilson put together a three-reception game that scored the only touchdown on the day for the Chiefs against the Vikings.

On defense, the Chiefs have ailing Tamba Hali (knee) and Joshua Mauga (groin) at linebacker that has forced Justin Houston to play a bigger role. Against the Vikings, Houston was able to pressure Teddy Bridgewater, batting a pass and nearly coming away with an interception. With the Steelers unsure whether it will be Michael Vick or Landry Jones at quarterback, Houston could give the offensive line trouble with protection.

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Christina Rivers has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers and National Football League professionally as a journalist and photographer for over a decade. Rivers studied Exercise Physiology and Sports Psychology at Brigham Young University as a student-athlete. Christina is a freelance writer covering all things NFL as well as a published author. Her work can be found on
Examiner.com.