No other team has provided such a rollercoaster of hope and despair this season like the Chiefs. The defending AFC West champions delivered a soul-crushing 0-3 start, followed by a four-game winning streak that included a shutout against rival Oakland.
Now Kansas City's fans are back to calling for a new head coach and projecting their 2012 draft slot.
But the Chiefs haven't given up on this season yet. Only two games out of first place, Kansas City still stands a distant shot to turn things around. They picked up Kyle Orton on waivers to replace Matt Cassel, who became the fourth Chiefs' starter to hit the injured reserve list.
Orton won't start on Sunday, but picking up the tab on his contract shows that the Chiefs still believe they can make the postseason this year.
To do that, though, they'll have to figure out how to upset some of the best teams in the league; that list of teams starts Sunday with Pittsburgh.
If the Chiefs are going to pull a rabbit out of their hat for this game, they'll need to start with these three things. If they can execute on these points, Kansas City will at least stand a decent chance of coming out on top.
If not, well, there are plenty of good prospects in the 2012 draft.
One thing the Steelers do better than most any other team is hold on to the ball. They rank second in time of possession, averaging just shy of 33 minutes per game.
Translation: Pittsburgh's defenders, older though they may be, stay relatively fresh throughout the game because they're not playing through clock-eating drives that exhaust players and limit comeback chances.
The Chiefs provide their defenders no such luxury. Their time of possession sits at 28:33; that's four more minutes of game time the Chiefs spend trying to prevent their opponents from scoring.
If Kansas City wants a shot at taking down the Steelers, they must start by controlling the ball and wearing out Pittsburgh's defenders. Otherwise, the Chiefs will likely witness a late-game meltdown much like Monday night's game against New England.
This isn't just a matter of working with a short field, either. Courtesy of Ben Roethlisberger's ability to make clutch plays, the Steelers often find ways to convert on 3rd-and-long as well.
Last week against Cincinnati, Pittsburgh's first two drives faced 3rd-and-10 in Bengal territory. Roethlisberger completed passes both times, scoring from 16 yards out the first time and getting to the 2-yard line the second. Rashard Mendenhall punched the ball in from there, securing a 14-0 lead.
The Steelers use every down to move the ball downfield, and don't lay up with six-to-eight yard patterns when they need 10 for the first down like the Chiefs tend to do. Kansas City can't assume they've won the series until Pittsburgh's punt team comes onto the field.
Kansas City hasn't given up the most sacks in the league, and their run game doesn't come close to being the worst, either.
But the Chiefs can't seem to get anything running on offense, and their offensive line deserves a large share of the blame.
Regardless of whether Matt Cassel or Tyler Palko take the snaps behind center, the offensive line just does not hold their blocks, and isn't measuring up even against average defenders.
The last two weeks provide the biggest examples for just how badly it's gone for the Chiefs. Against 3-4 defensive fronts, the Chiefs require all five of their offensive linemen to occupy an opponent's front three. The worst part of this is on the right side, where Jon Asamoah and Barry Richardson must work together to hold off the defensive end.
That leaves the tight end and a receiver or running back to hold off the blitzing outside linebacker, often the best pass rusher on the team. This week, it'll be James Harrison, and the odds of Leonard Pope and Jonathan Baldwin holding him off all game sound only slightly better than successfully navigating an asteroid field.
The Chiefs, and especially Richardson, must elevate their play if they hope to accomplish anything on offense. This is the biggest piece of the puzzle for Kansas City; The Chiefs can't expect to have any shot at a victory if their line doesn't find a way to create space for the running and passing games.
Without a solid line, Kansas City can expect another 30-point deficit by the fourth quarter.