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Mike Tomlin’s crew looks to stay hot at Heinz Field tonight.
Two AFC teams headed in different directions will meet on Monday Night Football, when the Pittsburgh Steelers host the Kansas City Chiefs at 8:30 pm EST on ESPN. The Steelers have won three in a row since starting the season 2-3, and they have won all three games at home in the Steel City this year. On the other hand, the Chiefs stand at 1-7 and amazingly still have not held a lead in regulation this season.
When the Pittsburgh Steelers have the ball:
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is having one of the better seasons of his career, throwing for 2,203 yards and 16 touchdowns against only four interceptions. He will be missing one of his key weapons (Antonio Brown is out ankle injury) tonight, but receiver Mike Wallace and tight end Heath Miller have both been very productive this year. And despite a multitude of injuries, the Steelers running attack has come to life during the current winning streak. Jonathan Dwyer topped the 100-yard rushing mark against the Bengals and Redskins, while Isaac Redman had 147 yards on the ground last week versus the Giants.
The Chiefs have struggled on defense mightily, and they are going through some major changes halfway through the season. Head coach Romeo Crennel has removed the title of defensive coordinator from himself, promoting linebackers coach Gary Gibbs to take over a unit that is allowing an alarming 30 points per game. Kansas City also released cornerback Stanford Routt this week, despite signing him to a three-year, $18 million deal this offseason. Gibbs’ group must play much-improved football to limit the suddenly-balanced Steelers offense.
When the Kansas City Chiefs have the ball:
The Chiefs have run the ball very well this season (149.9 yards per game), but the passing game has been lacking with both Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn at the helm. The biggest problem for the Kansas City attack has simply been turnovers, as the Chiefs have given the ball away a staggering 29 times. Coming into the weekend, that total was 10 more than any other team in the NFL. Cassel has thrown 11 interceptions and fumbled eight times on the year, and he must protect the ball tonight against a Steelers unit that has started to find its groove.
The Pittsburgh defense had some issues earlier this year with injuries and preserving leads in the fourth quarter, but Dick LeBeau’s group has played nasty football over the last three games. The Steelers recent surge has them back to the NFL's No. 1-ranked defense (262.6 yards per game) and playing more like last year’s unit that topped the league. The area where Pittsburgh needs to improve down the stretch is takeaways, as Steelers defenders have only caused eight turnovers in eight games.
With the constant problems of the Chiefs and the current momentum of the Steelers, it is difficult to project a close game in this one. The critical issue for Pittsburgh will be not letting down and playing to the competition. The Steelers have not lost a home Monday Night Football contest since 1991, and we see that trend continuing tonight at Heinz Field.
Steelers 27 Chiefs 13
---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)