Steeler Nation is a world-wide army that lives and dies with the NFL franchise that calls Pittsburgh it’s home. The six-time Super Bowl champions are a team that always strives for excellence, and their fans expect nothing less in return. This is the ultimate Steelers Game Day Preview that all followers of the black and gold come to find everything they need to know about the Pittsburgh Steelers and their upcoming opponent! Mike Drakulich (@PghSportsNation), who covers both Pitt football and the Steelers for NGSC Sports, brings you inside the huddle for both teams with a weekly game story, the Steelers offensive and defensive keys to victory, score prediction, game day information, a detailed breakdown of each team, and an up to date team injury report. Heck, you’ll even know the weather at kickoff. The only thing you’re missing is a game uniform.
Roethlisberger and Steelers look to shock the world and the Chiefs
Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers weren’t supposed to be at this party called the NFL Wild Card Playoff Weekend.
Roethlisberger was giving his farewells and headed to the NFL retirement home. His Steelers were headed for the off season.
But like Arya Stark was trained to say to the God of Death… “Not today.”
True, the Steelers won their last two games of the regular season, but when the Jacksonville Jaguars– the double digit underdog Jaguars, that is– shocked the Indianapolis Colts, the Steelers were amazingly headed to the playoffs.
The Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers game couldn’t end in a tie.
No way that would happen, right?
It took a last second field goal, in overtime, for the Raiders to beat the Chargers.
Thus, the Steelers were in, and from that very moment, not one person in the sports media was giving them one once of respect nor even a sliver of a chance of upsetting their Wild Card opponent, the Kansas City Chiefs.
“We probably aren’t supposed to be here, we’re probably not a very good football team,” Roethlisberger said to the media this week. “Of the 14 teams that are in, we’re probably Number 14. We’re double-digit underdogs. So let’s just go play and have fun and see what happens.”
I mean, why bother showing up, right?
“I hope we don’t go in and get blown out by 20 to 30 points. We just go in and hope we keep it close,” Roethlisberger continued. “We’re probably 20-point underdogs and were going to the Number 1 team that won the AFC the last 2 years, arguably the best team in football. We don’t have a chance. Let’s go in and have fun.”
If Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is smart, he will turn his quarterback loose this week and let his team come out swinging.
The Steelers have to open their offense if they expect a different outcome than the 36-10 beating they took vs the Chiefs on December 26th.
Pittsburgh, under Matt Canada’s bland offensive scheme, has managed to scored just 22 points in the first half of the past seven games and just lone one touchdown in the four road games before they defeated the Ravens last week 16-13 in OT.
However, when the game is turned over to Roethlisberger’s control, the offense suddenly opens up and amazing things happen… like scoring!
Roethlisberger has 52 game winning drives in his career, seven alone this season, and when he is in command, the offense has scored the most 4th quarter points in the NFL this season.
He’s a future Hall of Famer, so that helps,” said Chiefs coach Andy Reid about Roethlisberger. “He has the talent and the mind. We’re aware of that. They’re the best — if not the best, one of the best — in football this year.
“He has the aptitude and he has the ability to do those things.”
Steelers running back Najee Harris, who dinged up his elbow vs the Ravens, could also be a major factor in their bid to upset the Chiefs.
“The elbow’s doing good,” Harris said after Friday’s practice. “I got a little PRP shot in it, so it was sore for a couple days, but it’s feeling better.”
Harris and the Steelers will also get a surprise offensive player back from injury this Sunday night, that being wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster.
“Obviously, everybody was pretty energized, asking around if he’s playing,” Harris said. “I don’t know if he’s playing or not — I’m not the coach — but just to see him out there and practicing, obviously that gives a big boost to everybody to have a key player back.”
Defensively, the Steelers defense will need to improve drastically to slow down Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and their high powered offense.
T.J. Watt, who tied Michael Strahan’s single season sack record last week at 22.5, has yet to record a sack in the two playoff games he has played.
The Steelers have also found themselves down 21-0 and 28-0 in their last two playoff defeats.
“It’s pretty obvious that once an offense gets up by 14, 21 points, whatever it is, that they can pretty much do whatever they want to do,” Watt said of their last two playoff games. “Run the ball, drain the clock, all that stuff limits the opportunities for splash plays, which is what we, specifically, here in Pittsburgh strive for. It’s difficult, but a lot of the times, it’s on us for not stopping the offense.”
Watt, and his fellow teammates like Cam Heyward know they must rise to the occasion to shock the world.
“It starts with getting off the field and not having the sustained drives they were able to have, specifically early in the game, the first time,” Watt said.
“If you don’t win, you go home. So we need to lock it in, almost hit the reset button, and put all your feelings aside, because nobody cares if you’re tired. We need to win this game and that’s what we’re here to do. I’m willing to take anybody along with me because I am not ready to go home.”
The Chiefs will be without starting running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and back-up Darrel Williams is questionable.
Steelers Game Plan for Success
- Start fast: To hell with scripted plays… come out fast, perhaps in a no huddle K-Gun that Ben Roethlisberger thrives in. It would behoove the Steelers to score on their first possession to boost their confidence and reverse the disaster that first halves have been for them, especially on the road.
- Throw deep: KC will be daring the Steelers to throw long, but that is where they will be susceptible. Call their dare and maybe Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, or James Washington find gold at the end of one of those rainbow throws.
- Najee Harris: The rookie has a chance to shine in this game, both by carrying and catching the ball. Harris’ ability as a dual threat could go a long way to springing a monumental upset.
- T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward, and Alex Highsmith: The trio will need to be at their best, for if those three plus an additional blitzer can generate heavy pressure upon Patrick Mahomes, perhaps they can cause a few errant throws that Mahomes has been prone to doing this year, and create a few key turnovers.
- Be physical: This defense has not lived up to their standards, partly due to injuries, but now they get one more game to make amends and play Steelers type football, that being physical and punishing.
It’s the entire world against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Hell, the way it has been talked about, it’s the Avengers teamed up with Thanos and his army vs the Steelers.
“If I were Andy Reid, I would consider resting Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill this week,” FS1’s Nick Wright said. “Make sure they’re primed and ready to go for when the playoffs actually begin.”
Don’t count Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes thinking that way.
“I think the first thing you realize is that at any moment, one play can change the entire game,” Mahomes said. “It’s like that in the regular season, but the playoffs, it even goes to another level. One play can end your season or keep it going.”
This is the NFL playoffs, and on any given Sunday, as they say… just ask the Colts how they are feeling right now.
“We’re just going to go out and play care-free and whatever happens, happens,” Ben Roethlisberger said.
What do they have to lose, right? It was just a few weeks ago when the Chiefs pasted this team 36-10. That was without TE Travis Kelce and a hobbled Tyreek Hill.
The Steelers were missing LB Devin Bush that game as well. Bush hasn’t played up to his billing, but he has the capabilities to make a major difference. Tight end Pat Freiermuth was out, too. Chris Boswell, who has been money all season, missed a 36 yard field goal. T.J. Watt was playing with injured ribs. Oh, and Juju Smith-Schuster is back and will provide another target for Roethlisberger.
Don’t be surprised if the Steelers spring the upset. That’s IF the coaches get out of the way and let Roethlisberger go out playing his type of game. Look at the stats again when he takes control.
If the Steelers and Roethlisberger are going down, they will go down fighting to the last minute.
Unfortunately, the feeling is the Chiefs will find a way to escape with their lives… Chiefs 24 Steelers 23
Game Day Information
AFC Wild Card Playoffs
#7 Pittsburgh Steelers at #2 Kansas City Chiefs
Game-time: Sunday, January 16th, 8:20 PM.
Vegas line: Kansas City -13.5
Venue: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO.
- Field: Latitude 36 Bermuda Grass
TV: NBC (Local- WPXI-TV)
- Announcers: Al Michaels (play-by-play) Cris Collinsworth (analyst) | Michele Tafoya (sideline)
Local radio: Pittsburgh- 102.5 WDVE-FM & 970 WBGG-AM
- Announcers: Bill Hillgrove (play-by-play) Craig Wolfley (analyst) | Max Starks (sideline) Missi Matthews (sideline)
National Radio: Westwood Radio
- Announcers: Kevin Harlan (play-by-play) Trent Green (analyst) | Olivia Harlan-Dekker (sideline)
Internet broadcast: Steelers Nation Radio (SNR) on Steelers.com
Weather at kickoff: 33 with a 5% chance of snow. Winds out of the North at 9 MPH.
Scouting the Pittsburgh Steelers
Overall record: 9-7-1 (2nd in AFC North)
Last game: Steelers 16 Ravens 13 OT
Head Coach: Mike Tomlin (14th Season with Steelers)
- Overall regular-season record: 154-85-2
- Playoff record: 8-8 (Qualified for playoffs 10 times)
- 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers Team Roster
- Steelers Team/Individual Statistics
- Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 Schedule
- Points per game: 20.2
- Total yards per game: 315.4
- Passing yards per game: 222.2
- Rushing yards per game: 93.1
Offensive Scouting Report
- Strengths: Najee Harris as a dual threat. Ben Roethlisberger’s leadership and will to win.
- Weaknesses: Matt Canada’s inept offensive play calling. First half scoring. Attacking downfield via pass.
Starting Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger | Back-up: Mason Rudolph
- Ben Roethlisberger has thrown for 3,740 yards with 22 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He has been sacked 38 times. The future Hall of Fame quarterback hasn’t fared well being chained down in Matt Canada’s bland offense. Has a league leading seven comeback victories this season.
Starting Running Back: Najee Harris | Back-up: Benny Snell, Jr., Kalen Ballage, and Anthony McFarland, Jr.
- Rookie Najee Harris is showing why the Steelers drafted him in the first round, and has rushed for 1,200 yards and seven touchdowns this year. Harris is 2nd on the team with 74 catches for 467 yards and three touchdowns. Benny Snell has rushed for 98 yards.
Wide Receivers: Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, James Washington, Juju Smith-Schuster, and Ray-Ray McCloud.
- Diontae Johnson leads the team with 107 catches for 1,161 yards and eight touchdowns. Chase Claypool is the Steelers deep threat, and has 59 receptions for 860 yards and two touchdowns. James Washington has caught 24 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns. Ray-Ray McCloud has 39 receptions for 277 yards. Juju Smith-Schuster may return to play and could make an impact… Smith-Schuster had 15 catches for 129 yards before suffering a shoulder injury.
Tight Ends: Pat Friermuth, Zach Gentry, and Kevin Rader.
- Pat Friermuth has 60 receptions for 497 yards and seven touchdowns. Zach Gentry has logged 19 catches for 167 yards.
Placekicker: Chris Boswell
- Extra Points: 27-29
- Field Goals: 36-40
- 1-19 yards: 0-0
- 20-29 yards: 9-9
- 30-39 yards: 8-9
- 40-49 yards: 11-13
- 50+ yards: 8-9
Steelers Defense (Base 3-4)
- Points per game allowed: 23.4
- Total offense yards per game allowed: 361.1
- Passing yards allowed: 215.1
- Rushing yards allowed: 146.1
- Sacks: 55
- Interceptions: 13
Defensive Scouting Report
- Strengths: Great pass rush lead by T.J. Watt who tied the single season sack record held by Michael Strahan with 22.5…
- Weaknesses: Run defense has been bad with the losses of Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu on the defensive line.
DE: Cam Heyward | DT: Henry Mondeaux | DE: Chris Wormley.
- Cam Heyward has ten sacks, a fumble recovery, and 89 tackles.
OLB: T.J. Watt | ILB: Devin Bush | ILB: Joe Schobert | OLB: Alex Highsmith.
- Defensive Player of the Year candidate T.J. Watt leads the NFL with 22.5 sacks and 64 tackles. Watt tied the single season record held by Michael Strahan who had 22.5. Devin Bush has been a disappointment all year with poor spacing and over-running plays, and has 70 tackles and two sacks. Joe Schobert is 2nd the team with 112 tackles. Alex Highsmith has 74 tackles and six sacks.
CB: Joe Haden | SS: Terrell Edmunds | FS: Minkah Fitzpatrick | CB: Cameron Sutton/Ahkello Witherspoon
- Joe Haden and Cameron Sutton will be at the corners with Minkah Fitzpatrick at free safety and Terrell Edmunds at strong safety. CB James Pierre will see plenty of field time in the nickle. Fitzpatrick is 1st on the team with 124 tackles and has two interceptions. Edmunds has two of Pittsburgh’s 13 interceptions. Ahkello Witherspoon has three interceptions.
Steelers Special Teams
Punter: Pressley Harvin III
Kickoff Returners: Ray-Ray McCloud and Anthony McFarland, Jr.
Punt Returner: Ray-Ray McCloud
Scouting report: McCloud is averaging 22.2 yard per kickoff return and 9.4 yards per punt return.
Scouting the Kansas City Chiefs
Overall record: 12-5 (1st in AFC West)
Last game: Kansas City 28 Broncos 24
Head Coach: Andy Reid (9th season with Kansas City)
- Overall regular-season record: 233-135-1 | 103-42 with Chiefs
- Points per game: 28.2
- Total Offense per game: 405.4
- Passing yards per game: 290.4
- Rushing yards per game: 115
Offensive Scouting Report
- Strengths: The passing game under Pat Mahomes, with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce as his top options.
- Weaknesses: Run game is sublime at times.
Starting Quarterback: Patrick Mahomes | Back-up: Chad Henne
- Patrick Mahomes has rebounded after a slow start, but his turnovers have risen dramatically this year. Mahomes has thrown for 4,839 yards, with 37 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He has been sacked 28 times, and has rushed for 381 yards with a pair of scores.
Starting Running Back: Clyde Edwards-Helaire* | Back-up: Darrel Williams, Derrick Gore, and Jerick McKinnon.
- Clyde Edwards-Helaire was the starter, but is out injured this week. Edwards-Helaire had a quiet season with 517 yards on the ground and four touchdowns. He has 19 receptions for 129 yards and two TD’s. Darrel Williams will start if he plays, as he is listed as questionable. has 558 yards rushing and six scores. Williams is dangerous out of the backfield with 47 catches for 452 yards and another two scores. If neither Edwards-Helaire and Williams miss the game, Derrick Gore will start. Gore had 256 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
Receivers: Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle, Demarcus Robinson, and Josh Gordon.
- Tyreek Hill leads the team with 111 catches for 1,239 yards and nine touchdowns, but has been hampered the past few games with a heel injury. Mecole Hardman has 59 receptions for 693 yards and two TD’s. Byron Pringle has caught 42 passes for 5682 yards and five touchdowns. Demarcus Robinson has 25 catches for 264 yards and three TD’s.
Tight Ends: Travis Kelce and Blake Bell.
- Travis Kelce is one of the best tight ends in the game with 92 catches for 1,125 yards and nine touchdowns. Blake Bell has contributed nine catches for 87 yards.
Placekicker: Harrison Butker
- Extra Points: 47-49
- Field Goals: 25-28
- 1-19 yards: 0-0
- 20-29 yards: 3-3
- 30-39 yards: 11-11
- 40-49 yards: 4-5
- 50+ yards: 7-9
Chiefs Defense (Base 4-3)
- Points per game allowed: 21.4
- Total offense yards per game allowed: 368.9
- Passing yards allowed: 251.4
- Rushing yards allowed: 117.6
- Sacks: 31
- Interceptions: 15
Defensive Scouting Report
- Strengths: Bend but don’t break defense… gives up some yards, but tightens up in the red-zone.
- Weaknesses: Poor pass rush. Can be beat deep.
Defensive Line: Chris Jones leads the team with nine sacks.
Linebackers: Nick Bolton leads the team with 112 tackles.
Secondary: Safety Tyrann Mathieu has 76 tackles, one sack, and three interceptions. CB L’Jarius Sneed has 76 tackles, one sack, and two picks.
Chiefs Special Teams
Kickoff Returners: Byron Pringle
Punt Returner: Mecole Hardman
Scouting report: Byron Pringle is averaging 24.8 yards per kickoff return. Mecole Hardman is averaging 12.1 yards per kick return.
Steelers vs Chiefs History
Series History: Began in 1970
Overall Record: 23-13
- Home: 11-5
- Away: 12-8
- Postseason: 1-1
Streak: Chiefs won the last two games.
Last regular-season meeting: Chiefs Win, 36-10 (Dec. 26, 2021)
Last postseason meeting: Steelers Win, 18-16 (Jan. 15, 2017)
Injury Report (1/14/22)
- Out: N/A
- Doubtful: N/A
- Questionable: N/A
- Reserve/COVID-19 List: CB James Pierre, LB Buddy Johnson
Kansas City Chiefs
- Out: RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Shoulder)
- Doubtful: N/A
- Questionable: RB Darrel Williams (Toe)
- Reserve/COVID-19 List: N/A
From Midland, "The Basketball Capital of Pennsylvania", located 35 miles NW of Pittsburgh along the Ohio River. This former steel town was home to storied athletes such as Dave Alston, Norm Van Lier, Simmie Hill, and the legendary 1965 Midland High School Basketball Team.
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