The last time the Chiefs and Steelers met, Pittsburgh blew out Alex Smith’s squad 43-14 at home. It was an ugly loss for the Chiefs but one that they rebounded from in a huge way, rising all the way to the No. 2 seed in the AFC. This game won’t be nearly as lopsided, and in fact, it’ll be the Chiefs making the most of their second chance against the Steelers.
Kansas City will roll to a win at home, where they are 6-2 this season. Arrowhead Stadium will give the Chiefs a huge advantage, but it’s not the only reason they’ll win this game. Here are three reasons the Chiefs will beat the red-hot Steelers on Sunday night and set up a likely meeting with the Patriots in the AFC title game.
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Tyreek Hill is a difference-maker
Hill is the X-factor in this game. He can score from anywhere on the field, as he’s shown this season. Hill, a rookie, scored 12 touchdowns – rushing, receiving, returning punts and kicks. He can do it all, and his speed paired with his versatility forces defenders to always keep one eye on him whenever he’s in the game. If the Chiefs can get him involved early, as they should, he’ll be able to establish himself as a part of the game plan – a player Andy Reid will consistently get the ball to.
He’s bound to score at least one touchdown in this game, whether it’s on a read-option handoff or returning a punt. Hill is a guy who can change the balance of a game in the blink of an eye with his 4.25 speed, and there’s simply no player who can match up with him – especially not on the Steelers. Even the incredibly athletic Ryan Shazier will have trouble with Hill in the open field.
Alex Smith is better than he gets credit for
Alex Smith, despite being pegged as a game manager his entire career, has been one of the best playoff quarterbacks in recent years. In five postseason games, he has 1,309 yards, 11 touchdown passes and just one interception for a passer rating of 99.1. He may not throw the ball down the field the way Ben Roethlisberger and the top quarterbacks do, but he’s far better than most people give him credit for. He just lacks that signature win, which will come on Sunday against the Steelers.
He’ll get the ball into the hands of his best weapons, from Travis Kelce to Jeremy Maclin. With the way the Chiefs are built, he doesn’t need to complete five passes 15 yards down the field like he did against the Raiders earlier this season. He doesn’t need to take deep shots to establish the run. He simply needs to keep cornerbacks honest and give linebackers something to think about – rather than selling out against the run all game long. This season, he completed a career-high (in at least 11 games) 67.1 percent of his passes and averaged 7.2 yards per attempt.
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The Chiefs’ defense forces turnovers
The Chiefs may not have had the top-ranked defense in the NFL this season, but they did have one of the most disruptive. No team forced more turnovers than Kansas City, and there’s a reason for that. The Chiefs wreak havoc on opposing offenses with their ball-hawking defensive backs and dynamic edge rushers in Dee Ford, Justin Houston, and even Tamba Hali.
At cornerback, Marcus Peters can match up with the best receivers in the league – yes, that includes Antonio Brown. Against the Chiefs the first time, Brown had just four catches for 64 yards and two touchdowns. Peters is a rare cornerback who can play the ball almost as well as receivers, which allows him to create turnovers at the most opportune times. And Eric Berry’s numbers speak for themselves. He can take away tight ends in man coverage or roam the middle of the field as a center fielder.