Pittsburgh Steelers Friday 10 Spot: Week 10 Edition

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Pittsburgh Steelers Friday 10 Spot: Week 10 Edition
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Hey guys, so here's the deal: This is a new piece I'll be putting together every week containing 10 things you want and need to know for the Steelers' upcoming matchup. It could be anything from key matchups to injury reports or just some quirky stories I found interesting. 

Hope you all enjoy the read. 

1. Some Numbers that May Matter Against the Chiefs

Monday night will be the Steelers' only game on MNF this season and, boy, could America have asked for a better matchup than this. Pittsburgh comes into this game as winners of their previous three games, including a fourth-quarter comeback on the road against the defending Super Bowl champs. 

Kansas City hasn't been so lucky. They're now a meager 1-7 and have lost five straight since beating the Saints way back in Week 3. 

The Steelers have benefited from their newly-established run game. Both Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman have fought their way for no less than 140 yards in each of the last three contests. It's no coincidence that the Steelers have run so well in three straight wins.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Matt Cassel and the Chiefs are last in the league with a -21 turnover differential.

For the Steelers' defense, they should be able to take advantage of the Chiefs in the turnover battle. Kansas City is dead-last in the league when it comes to giving up the ball, but head coach Mike Tomlin didn't seem too optimistic.

In his Monday press conference, Tomlin said:

Quite honestly, it's because they have turned the ball over and have significantly lost the turnover battle. They are minus-21 on the season, which puts them last in the NFL...I'd like to think that's something comforting for us, but to be quite honest with you, its not like we've been a juggernaut in terms of getting turnovers.

Tomlin is right. His Steelers haven't been very good at taking the ball away from their opponents, forcing just four interceptions and three fumbles in eight games this year.

The Steelers will have to take advantage of the Chiefs' miscues on Monday Night. If not, we could be sniffing an upset. 

 

2. Two Storied AFC Franchises Meet Yet Again

Two of the AFC's most-storied franchises will meet head-to-head on Monday Night Football, and although they may be on different paths the last few years, they were two of the best teams the AFC had to offer following the merger. 

In the early days of the merged NFL, Kansas City was a force to be reckoned with, even by what was considered the overwhelmingly superior NFC. The Chiefs played in two of the first four Super Bowls, winning Super Bowl IV against the Minnesota Vikings, 23-7.

It was the Chiefs' only Super Bowl win.

The Steelers and Chiefs have played each other 28 times since 1970 with some pretty lopsided results. Pittsburgh is 18-10 all-time against the Chiefs, but it's been much more competitive lately.

Since the teams met in 1992, the Steelers are just 6-5 against the Chiefs, playing some pretty close games over that span.

Peter Aiken/Getty Images
Last time the Steelers and Chiefs met was in 2011. Pittsburgh won 13-9.

The two teams last met last season on November 27th on NBC's Sunday Night Football. Chiefs' back-up quarterback Tyler Palko pulled the start against the heavily-favored Steelers and turned it into a nail-biting contest.

Pittsburgh went into halftime with a slim 13-6 lead following a late touchdown reception by Weysle Saunders from Ben Roethlisberger. But the second half was all about the Chiefs' defense. Kansas City shut out the Steelers in the second half but only managed another field goal, making the final 13-9 with a Pittsburgh victory.

The Chiefs last beat the Steelers in 2009, when a two-win Kansas City team knocked off a six-win Steeler team at Arrowhead Stadium, 27-24. It just goes to show you that no win is a sure bet.

 

3. Steelers Injury Report for Week 10

 Pittsburgh has been a team plagued with injuries all season long. Major players both offensively and defensively have missed significant time with some bumps and bruises. Here's a list of a few players who have shown up on the injury report for Week 10's matchup with Kansas City. 

Jason Bridge-US PRESSWIRE
Safety Troy Polamalu will miss another game Monday with a lingering calf injury.

Troy Polamalu - Out

Troy has missed a lot of time this season with a calf injury, and it looks like he'll be sidelined again. However, reports have stated that Polamalu could return for the team's November 18th showdown with (key dramatic music) the Baltimore Ravens.

Antonio Brown - Doubtful

 Brown left Sunday's game against the New York Giants after his ankle was stepped on early in the first half. The injury is significant enough to keep Brown sidelined this week, but he should be ready to go against the Ravens.

Rashard Mendenhall - Questionable

 Mendenhall is listed as questionable on the injury report, but coach Mike Tomlin thinks it'll be another week without the team's "starter."

Joe Sargent/Getty Images
RB Jonathan Dwyer appears to be ready to go after missing last Sunday's game in New York.

Jonathan Dwyer - Probable

 Following two-straight 100-yard performances, Dwyer missed the team's game against the Giants with a quad injury. Steelers fans will be happy to know Dwyer should be good to go this Monday night against Kansas City.

Chris Rainey - Questionable

 Rainey left the contest against the Giants late in the game with a rib injury. All signs pointed to Rainey missing this week's game, but reports show he was a full participant in Thursday's practice. He'll most likely be a game-time decision.

Marcus Gilbert - Out

 Tackle Marcus Gilbert will again be held out of Monday night's game. Mike Adams will take his place on the right side of the offensive line.

 

4. A New Look Defense Coming in 2013?

 At the beginning of the season, all looked lost for the Pittsburgh Steelers' defense. Two seasons in a row now the team has been referred to as "old, slow and done." That can't be sitting well with the Steelers' brass.

Compound that with the fact the Pittsburgh is very close to the cap and could use the money to bring back guys like Mike Wallace, and you've got a situation where we could be looking at some new faces on next year's defense.

And you can start that list off with one of the most popular Pittsburgh sports figures of all time, safety Troy Polamalu.

Troy has undoubtedly had a great career, but there's no question his play has fallen off some, especially since the Steelers lost the Super Bowl to the Green Bay Packers. Polamalu signed a four-year, $36.5 million contract before last season.

The Steelers will most likely be asking him to take a pay cut or potentially move on.

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
With more than $13 million remaining on his contract, the Steelers may not be able to keep James Harrison after 2012.

James Harrison is another interesting figure. He's embodied the Steeler way of playing defense, but 2012 hasn't been kind to him.

Harrison has had just one sack this season and really struggled in his pass rush, especially turning the corner against athletic tackles. Harrison will still have around $13 million remaining on his contract after this season, and the Steelers can't really afford to keep him at that money.

The final piece to the puzzle will be long-time nose tackle Casey Hampton. There was a lot of talk last offseason, questioning if the Steelers would bring the former first-round pick back. They did.

Since then, he's been outplayed by backup Steve McLendon and really doesn't have it anymore. Hampton makes about $3 million this season with an expiring contract at the end of the year. You have to think he'll be let go.

All three of these guys have been major players for the Steelers and their two recent Super Bowl championship runs.

They could all be gone by next year.

 

5. An Early Glance at the 2013 NFL Draft

 The way the season is shaping up now, it looks as though the Steelers will most likely be selecting their first round pick between number 25 and the end of the first round. With that in mind, let's take a look at a few guys the Steelers could target with their selection.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Manti Te'o has the Fighting Irish undefeated and is a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy.

Manti Te'o / ILB / Notre Dame

 There's a good chance Te'o is off the board by the time the Steelers pick. His 2012 season at Notre Dame is becoming the stuff of legend, and people are putting him in the Heisman running.

Te'o is a beast inside and is an aggressive, down-hill run stuffer who would fit very well in the Steelers' 3-4 scheme.

Pittsburgh passed on Dont'a Hightower this year to solidify their offensive line and are still looking for an answer to put next to Lawrence Timmons. Larry Foote's career is coming to a close, and they'll need someone to fill his shoes.

Eric Reid / S / LSU

As I said in the previous segment, Troy Polamalu's career seems to be waning at the moment, and his backups don't seem to be fitting the bill. Ryan Clark has had a Pro Bowl season, but the problem is with the other position.

Reid, like T'eo, could be off the board by the time Pittsburgh picks, but if he's there, they'd have to take a look at him. Reid has some skills that compare very well to Polamalu's, including his ability to play in the box.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
On a championship-caliber defense, Dee Milliner is Alabama's top cornerback.

Dee Milliner / CB / Alabama

The Steelers have been in the market for a solid cornerback for years now; Milliner should be able to fit that bill.

He's already very acquainted with the Steelers' scheme, as Alabama runs a similar 3-4 defense. He'd be an instant upgrade and immediately help out the team.

 

6. The Question Everybody's Asking: Who Is the Steelers' Running Back?

The answer to that question right now is a resounding, "Who knows?"

Both Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman have run wild in over the last three games, resulting in three +100-yard performances. There's also been some conflicting reports on just who is the Steelers' starter when all the backs are healthy.

Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Redman, Mendenhall and Dwyer will all battle for RB supremacy this season.

Some reports have come out this week claiming that when Rashard Mendenhall becomes healthy again, he'll get his job back. Others have differed on this opinion.

With Mendenhall out this week, reports claim that it'll be Isaac Redman, not Jonathan Dwyer, who gets the nod against Kansas City.

Whatever way you want to look at it, the running back situation in Pittsburgh is a murky one at best. Regardless of who's starting the game, all three guys are going to tote the rock. This week, expect Redman and Dwyer to split the workload against the Chiefs and expect the team to go with the hot hand from here on out.

 

7. How Can the Steelers Replace Antonio Brown

He may only miss one week, but Antonio Brown has been a pivotal point of the Steelers' offense over the last two seasons. Whether it be running an end-around, catching a quick screen or moving the chains across the middle, Brown does a lot of work for the Steelers. 

He's going to be a very hard piece of the puzzle to replace.

From what we saw last week against the Giants, it looks like Jerricho Cotchery will be taking over his route-running duties—but there's a whole lot more to the offense that needs to be covered.

Joe Sargent/Getty Images
Brown has touched the ball 46 times for 525 yards this yards this season.

If I was a gambling man, I'd bet the farm that Emmanuel Sanders will be hauling in plenty of wide-receiver screens against the Chiefs. He'd also be an option for the team on their receiver end-arounds, but he wouldn't be the most-likely option. 

Although it's Mike Wallace who has all the speed, Chris Rainey, if healthy enough, would be a guy who could factor in on some end-arounds. Rainey has shown just how explosive he can be, both running and catching the ball, and deserves a chance—but, like I said, only if healthy.

Brown has accounted 42 receptions and four carries for 525 total yards. That's a lot of offense for the Steelers to make up.

 

8. A Week-10 Glimpse at the AFC North

The Steelers currently sit second in the division, just one game behind the Baltimore Ravens. But it's the Steelers who look to be playing the best football of anyone in the AFC North right now. With that said, let's take a quick glance around the division.

Baltimore Ravens (6-2) - First Place

Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
Baltimore owns the division's best record, but for how long?

The Ravens will enter Sunday's contest against the Oakland Raiders with the division lead, but they might have more questions than answers regarding the defense.

Baltimore took a big hit earlier in the season when they lost cornerback Lardarius Webb and linebacker Ray Lewis for the season. Injuries have also plagued defensive stars Haloti Ngata and Ed Reed.

The Ravens will have to keep an eye on the Raiders, who own a win over the Steelers and played the Falcons in Atlanta as tough as anyone this year. I'd expect the Ravens to win, but it'll be closer than a lot of people think.

Cincinnati Bengals (3-5) - Third Place

The Bengals came into this season as the team to finally dethrone the Ravens and Steelers as the AFC North's elite. But it's been a rough go for Cincy in 2012.

Cincinnati seems to play well against the teams who they should beat, but has difficulty against teams with winning records. Quarterback Andy Dalton has also struggled mightily this year, raising questions about the dreaded sophomore slump.

The Bengals need to find an offensive weapon other than A.J. Green to make things happen. Cincinnati gets a home game against the Giants this week, and it's going to be a hard-fought game for the Bengals.

Cleveland Browns (2-7) - Fourth Place

I'll say it again, I've been pretty impressed with the Cleveland Browns this season. Their record doesn't warrant much praise, but Trent Richardson has been a real difference-maker for this club.

Brandon Weeden doesn't have much time to catch up to the NFL game, and he'll need to step it up quickly. The Browns travel to Dallas to take on a struggling Cowboys team before their bye week.

 

9. The Midseason Rookie Report

Coming out of the 2012 NFL Draft, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who didn't like what the Pittsburgh Steelers did on draft day. They covered a lot of needs and added some really nice depth to their roster.

But the injury bug sank its teeth into the Steelers' rookies, limiting most of them to little playing time.

First Round - David DeCastro / N/A

I can't really give DeCastro a grade for his performance this season because he doesn't have a performance this season. DeCastro suffered a knee injury early in the preseason and was put on the IR exempt list, making him eligible to return this season. 

DeCastro should see some time later this year, but Pittsburgh shouldn't rush him back. Their offensive line has played extremely well over the past few games, and DeCastro could do better getting full rest. 

Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
Adams has been good this season, but needs to develop as a pass protector.

2nd Round - Mike Adams / B-

Adams came to the Steelers with a whole lot of talk surrounding him. There's no doubt he's riddled with talent, but that doesn't always translate to on-field success. 

The Steelers may have finally found the proper home for Adams on the right side of the offensive line. Adams isn't quite quick enough to be the pass-blocker the Steelers need at left tackle. He's done pretty well on the right side.

4th Round - Alameda Ta'amu / F

I was a huge Ta'amu supporter when the Steelers moved up to take him in the fourth round this year—but a lot of that sentiment has gone away now.

Not only has Ta'amu found it impossible to make his way onto the field, but his drunken rampage left people questioning whether he'd be on the team or not.

Ultimately, the Steelers decided to give their fourth-rounder another chance, but he's got a lot of work to do if he wants to see the field now.

Rich Schultz/Getty Images
The Steelers hope rookie RB Chris Rainey will be healthy enough to go Monday night vs. the Chiefs.

5th Round - Chris Rainey / A

Teams don't often expect much out of their fifth-round picks in their first year, but the Steelers are getting a ton out of Chris Rainey.

Rainey has been huge for the team in the return game and has filled a needed role for the offense as a third-down back. Pittsburgh fans should be glad they have this guy on their side.

 

10. Monday Night at Home: That Spells Steelers Success

The Steelers have been a great team at home for a long time, but they're even better when it comes to prime-time football.

According to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, it's not often the Steelers lose at home on Monday night.

Per Bouchette, the Steelers have never lost a Monday night home game under Mike Tomlin, nor have they won at Heinz Field where they are a perfect 6-0. Pittsburgh has also never lost a Monday Night Football game at home under Bill Cowher.

To find the last time the Steelers lost a Monday night game at home, you'd have to go all the way back to October 14, 1991. Under then-head coach, Chuck Noll, the Steelers fell at Three Rivers Stadium to the New York Giants 23-20.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Last time the Steelers lost a home Monday night game, this man was playing quarterback.

In that game, Neil O'Donnell replaced Bubby Brister at quarterback and led a near fourth-quarter comeback. Merril Hoge led the way with eight carries for 73 yards on the ground, and receiver Louis Lipps hauled in five passes including a touchdown.

With that said, it has been over 21 years since the Steelers lost a Monday Night Football game at home. Factor that in with the fact that the Steelers are taking on a diminished Kansas City Chiefs team, and you've got all the makings for the Steelers to pick up their fourth straight win...but stranger things have happened on Monday nights.    

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