Steelers vs. Chiefs: 7 Scenarios in Which KC Pulls off the Upset
I'm tempted to say something like, "Scenario 1: The Steelers rest their starters," because in all honesty that might be the miracle Kansas City needs.
The Chiefs lost their quarterback Matt Cassel two weeks ago and are now stuck with backup Tyler Palko (until they potentially sign Kyle Orton). Regardless of who has been under center for them this year they have struggled in the big picture.
Plagued with injuries and inconsistent play, they have gone from down to up and now are back down again.
Pittsburgh, on the other hand, are back at 7-3 and sitting atop the AFC North. They have the league's third best passing defense and sixth best rushing defense. Their quarterback is playing great football this year, they have stellar receivers and a consistent running game.
Kansas City needs a win at home Sunday to save their season, and they will definitely have their hands full. It is the NFL, and anything can happen. Here are seven scenarios in which Kansas City wins Sunday.
Jackie Battle Steps Up His Game and Puts the Team on His Back
In addition, they have seen the emergence of Jackie Battle, who now leads the team in carries and yards.
Battle is a 6'2", 238-pound running back that averages 4.6 yards per carry. Kansas City has played from behind this season so they haven't been able to truly pound the ball and when they do run it, the carries are split among the three backs.
I personally prefer Battle. His height and weight give him further durability, something Jones and McCluster have struggled with throughout the season, and if Battle can get steady reps throughout the week and on Sunday, I think he can wear out the Steelers while allowing his defense to rest.
One way KC can win Sunday is if Jackie Battle has a breakout performance, putting the team on his back.
Scenario 2: Ben Roethlisberger Is Bothered by His Injured Thumb
Ben Roethlisberger is one of the league's toughest quarterbacks, if not the toughest. He consistently takes a beating and often stays in the game after hits that would take the majority of the league's quarterbacks into the locker room.
In the second half against Cincinnati two weeks ago, Roethlisberger bruised the thumb on his throwing hand but stayed in the game and led his team to a crucial road win. The Steelers got lucky with their schedule and had a bye this past week to rest their quarterback's thumb.
Big Ben practiced Tuesday and is expected to start Sunday at Kansas City. One of the 10 ways the Chiefs can win is if Ben is bothered by the lingering pain and discomfort in his thumb and it limits his ability.
This season, if he's healthy, he's good.
Scenario 3: Dwayne Bowe Has a Breakout Game
Nothing comes easy for an offense when matched up against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Several times this season teams facing Pittsburgh have given Kansas City a blueprint for how to slowly and efficiently pick apart an at-times overrated Pittsburgh secondary.
Two weeks ago, Steeler stalwart Troy Polamalu was exposed against Cincinnati on a deep route run by A.J. Green. Green made a spectacular catch, eventually injuring himself on the play, and Polamalu was seen in the end zone next to Green standing idly.
Dwayne Bowe, the veteran he is, is no A.J. Green, but if he studies enough film from this season (specifically the Joe Flacco winning drive from three weeks ago) he can use his quickness and strong hands and find holes in the secondary.
Bowe can be a game changer, which is just what young quarterback Tyler Palko needs. If he puts in the work this week he can be the difference at home Sunday.
Scenario 4: The Fans in Arrowhead Play a Crucial Role
Something fairly significant Kansas City has going for them Sunday—arguably more significant than playing at home—is that they are playing in the Sunday night game on NBC.
By the time the Chiefs and Steelers take the field to play their pivotal game, the Oakland Raiders, Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers will all be done playing and their final scores will be known in the Chiefs clubhouse and among fans in the stands.
Depending on the outcome of the afternoon games—Chicago plays in Oakland and Denver travels to San Diego—Kansas City could find itself back within a game and a half of first place in their division.
If the fans in Arrowhead live up to their rep and disrupt the Steelers, Kansas City can pull off the upset.
Scenario 5: Rashard Mendenhall Continues to Underachieve
Normally a well-balanced offense, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been fairly pass-heavy this season. Luckily for them, it hasn't come back to haunt them yet. Big Ben has been one of the league's best quarterbacks thus far and they're sitting atop the AFC North.
They may have changed their play style also because of their number one back Rashard Mendenhall's underachievement this season. Mendenhall only has one game in which he's rushed for more than 75 yards.
Considering Mendenhall is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in which he scored 20 rushing touchdowns, his numbers thus far are a serious drop-off.
If the Kansas City Chiefs go into Sunday and focus primarily on stopping the passing game and they don't get burned by Mendenhall, they will be in great shape.
Scenario 6: Tyler Palko Takes Care of the Football
As bad as the Chiefs looked in their Monday night game in New England, I think there is a lot of good they should take away from that loss.
Palko completed 25 of his 38 passes (65.7 percent) but unfortunately threw three interceptions. Palko was pressured from a lot of different angles and, given the circumstances, I think the Chiefs need to feel good about the ability Palko showed.
Palko hit seven different receivers, specifically his star wideout Dwayne Bowe (seven times for 87 yards). If Palko studies film appropriately throughout the week and works with his receiving corps they will build on the little momentum they had Monday night and have a real shot at competing Sunday.
Scenario 7: Tamba Hali and Brandon Flowers Make at Least One Big Play Each
Linebacker Tamba Hali and cornerback Brandon Flowers have been the shining stars of the Chiefs defense all season long. Both have made their fair share of big plays when their team needed them and they will need to do so again Sunday.
Hali has seven sacks to accompany his 42 tackles thus far and he has been a consistent pass rush threat that the Chiefs could rely on. Flowers is having just as good a season at corner, with 42 tackles and four interceptions that have been returned for 95 yards and one touchdown.
If Hali and Flowers each make at least one big play Sunday night at home they can escape with a win.