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Jamaal Charles rips through the Steelers' defense
The Chiefs' running backs breezed through Pittsburgh's defense on Monday, racking up 142 yards, seven first downs and a touchdown. Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis repeatedly gashed the Steelers’ defense on first and second downs, setting up manageable third down conversions for Kansas City. Why the Chiefs repeatedly turned to their shaky passing attack in those situations is anybody's guess, but Romeo Crennel and company probably kept the Steelers in the game by doing so.
The problem on Monday started up front. Kansas City consistently pushed Pittsburgh’s defensive line off the ball, allowing Charles and Hillis to get to the second level throughout the game. The Chiefs running game is not terrible, but the Steelers made them look great.
According to Pro-Football-Reference.com, the Steelers’ weakness against the run is a consistent problem that crops up at the worst times. Overall, the defense is among the best in the league. When opponents throw the ball, Pittsburgh is as tough as they get, ranking in the top three in nearly all statistical categories. However, the Steelers are much weaker against the run, ranking sixth in yards allowed, ninth in yards allowed per carry and 13th in first downs conceded on the ground.
This is a worrying issue with Baltimore coming to town. With the exception of last year's opening day blowout by the Ravens, these rivalry games are usually nip and tuck. Sunday's game will be close, and the the team that converts the most red zone opportunities into touchdowns is likely to come out the winner.
Though their running game is average in most respects, the Ravens are great at punching the ball in on the ground, having scored the fifth most rushing touchdowns in the league.