After starting slowly, the Pittsburgh Steelers have begun to gel despite still being riddled with what could have been debilitating injuries. Facing the Kansas City Chiefs, the Steelers are huge favorites (8.40pm ET Monday).
Coming off their biggest win of the season against the New York Giants, the Steelers are riding a three game winning streak that doesn’t look to come to an end.
The (5-3) Pittsburgh Steelers limped out of the gate to a 2-3 start that saw them drop very winnable games against the (3-5) Oakland Raiders and (3-6) Tennessee Titans. Not much seemed to be going right as the team lost starting running back Rashard Mendenhall and Pro-Bowl strong safety Troy Palomalu. Behind quarter back Ben Roethlisberger however, the team rallied and won three in a row against the Cincinnati Bengals, Washington Redskins and New York Giants.
There are a multitude of storylines following the Kansas City Chiefs this year. Not only are they 1-7 and tied for the worst record in the NFL, but they also have faced so much controversy at the quarter back position. As a result of inconsistency on both sides of the ball, the Chiefs have fallen and have just one win in eight games.
The Importance of the Second Half
The Steelers haven’t necessarily been a second half team this year, but in their past few games, have really played their best ball when it mattered. Against the Giants, Pittsburgh was required to mount a stunning 14 point fourth quarter comeback as they rallied to get their third consecutive win. Earlier in the season, it took a field goal as the clock struck zero for the Steelers to get another win, this time against the Philadelphia Eagles.
For the Steelers, it has been in wins that the defense has really stepped up especially late in games. Even with the absence of Palomalu and linebacker James Harrison, Pittsburgh has still been the NFL’s best defense when it comes to defending the pass. They allow just 174 passing yards a game and 262.6 total yards, both of which are best in the league. In the second half however, the team has been even better, allowing just 29 points in their five wins this season.
Meanwhile, the second half of games is yet another area where Kansas City has struggled and has done so mightily. In eight games played this season, Kansas City has failed to hold a second quarter lead in each contest.
The Steelers may still be banged up, but this certainly offers a match-up that heavily favors the home team.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Improving By the Game
This season, the Steelers have done something that most of the league’s over .500 teams haven’t. In fact, with a starting record of 1-2, the Steelers are the only team that started that way to now have a winning record and within striking distance of the division lead.
Most of this improvement has come on the defensive side of the ball, which has really found a way to adjust without some of their star players. As mentioned, they lead the NFL in passing and total yards but also are in the top ten in several other categories including ninth in points allowed (20.5 per game) and seventh in rushing yards allowed (88.6). The only category Pittsburgh has really fallen off compared to last season is in turnovers. They are ranked just 28th in this category with four interceptions and four fumble recoveries. Only the Indianapolis Colts has worse numbers in this category.
On offense, the Steelers have also improved and have done so vastly. These improvement have come courtesy of offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who just last season was fired from his head coaching position with the Chiefs.
Haley has helped this offense adjust most notably at the running back position. If the loss of Mendenhall wasn’t bad enough, Pittsburgh was dealt an additional blow when Mendenhall’s back-up found himself on the injury list as well. Replacing Mendenhall then became the responsibility of third string back Jonathon Dwyer.
Not many teams expected Dwyer to provide any sort of rushing threat and other teams didn’t even game plan for him. The assumption of the media and likely many NFL clubhouses was that the Steelers would abandon the run. Therefore the focus was on Roethlisberger and protecting the pass.
Not only has this not worked in the favor of opposing teams as the offense is ranked 10th in passing yards with 262.4 and thirteenth in total points with 23.9, but also because Dwyer has been just as good as Mendenhall was.
In his last two starts this season, the young replacement back has rushed for over 200 yards including 122 yard performance against the Bengals.
Jamaal Charles is Still a Threat for the Chiefs
More than Matt Cassel and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, if the Steelers have to worry about anyone and game plan for anything, it is the rushing attack of Jamaal Charles.
After missing the entirety of last season with an injury, the now five year veteran from the University of Texas has picked up exactly where he left off after his career year in 2011. On the season, he has rushed for 634 yards and has scored two touchdowns.
It is worth noting that in the Chiefs’ only victory this season, Charles put up career numbers, rushing for 233 yards and a touchdown as Kansas City defeated the New Orleans Saints in over time.
Kansas City Chiefs at Pittsburgh Steelers Picks Verdict
Pittsburgh is riding a winning streak while Kansas City has dropped their last five in a row. At the quarterback position, Roethlisberger for Pittsburgh has outperformed Cassel in KC and overall it has been the Steelers that have boasted a better offense. On defense, Pittsburgh has also dominated. Charles has led the Chiefs to average just under 150 rush yards a game which is third best in the league.
I fear even Charles won’t be enough. The Steelers are favored a lofty 12.5 points but with the way that they have been going, this should be an easy mark to get.
- Bet on the Steelers -12.5pts @ -110 with BetOnline Sportsbook. It is -13pts for the same odds with Bovada.
- NOTE to Non-Americans: Place this bet with Bet365.