KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -- There are few things that will bring a wince to the face of Chiefs fans in the same manner that a game against the Steelers will.
Since the turn of the millennium, Kansas City is 3-8 against their AFC rival, however the record alone doesn’t really do the series justice.
This record contains the story of two playoff loses, several career-defining performances (some for good reasons, some not) and a countless number of blood pressure medications being taken by fans of both teams late in the fourth quarter of another low-scoring affair.
Kansas City has already proven itself as an offensive threat this season, going into Los Angeles as an underdog (+2.5) and making a powerful statement that resulted in a big road win.
The team now turns its focus to Pittsburgh, where it opens as an even bigger underdog (+4.5) and will play in what can only be described as a test of mettle in an offense-heavy AFC.
Here are three bold predictions for Sunday’s game against the Steelers:
WITHOUT LE’VEON BELL, STEELERS OFFENSE STILL DOMINATES
As of Saturday afternoon, Bell has not reported to Steelers headquarters and will once again be viewing the game from a recliner instead of the Pittsburgh backfield.
On a surface level, this appears to be big for the Chiefs’ defense. Bell is an elite force at running back and the Steelers’ offense struggled to earn a 21-21 tie with the Browns last week.
The problem for Kansas City is that the Steelers’ replacement for Bell, James Conner, put up monstrous numbers with ease in Cleveland, and will likely do the same in week two.
With a great run game comes a better passing game. Conner’s performance in Cleveland opened up play-action calls and pulled safeties under deep routes that allowed Pittsburgh to cut through coverages for big gains.
This, in part, allowed Ben Roethlisberger to post 335 yards through the air and a touchdown, though poor decision-making late in the game would also leave him with three interceptions.
While Roethlisberger’s numbers against Cleveland may not be eye-popping, they came as part of an offense currently ranked fourth-best in the league, per NFL.com. And while the Browns remain winless in nearly two calendar years, their defense is still superior to the Chiefs’ according to the same rankings.
Boasting a last place defense is something that should come as no surprise to Chiefs fans. Kansas City allowed 418 yards and three touchdowns through the air to the Chargers in week one, and its depth in the cornerback and secondary positions has been under fire since training camp.
Unlike the Chargers, I wouldn’t bet on All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown to cut Kansas City a break by dropping three touchdown passes this week.
The Chiefs’ defense will watch as its weaknesses are exposed and the Steelers’ offense goes for 400-plus yards this weekend.
THIS GAME WILL HIT THE UNDER
There’s an adage that says, “Good teams win, great teams cover.”
For the Chiefs and Steelers, it’s something closer to, “Good offenses score, great offenses mysteriously hit the under.”
Through the past seven matchups of these two teams, which have boasted some of the best offenses in recent memory, there have only been two instances of a team scoring more than 21 points. Two.
Only one of those matchups has gone over 40 combined points.
The Over/Under for this week’s game is set at 49.5 points.
For those without context, this may not sound too absurd. After all, it’s the NFL and defenses are typically pretty good, but the Chiefs have a 62-50 record during this stretch. The Steelers are even better at 73-39.
These matchups have featured some good teams, great even. They just can’t seem to find the endzone when they play one another.
Those last seven matchups have even featured a combined 35 Pro-Bowl players on the offensive side of the ball.
It’s hard to say what’s keeping these two high-powered offenses from cranking out points against one another. Bad luck? A curse? Angered football gods?
Whatever it is, it’s not changing this week. Take the under.
TYREEK HILL PUTS UP ANOTHER 100-YARD PERFORMANCE
This may not seem like a hot take at first glance. Hill has clearly displayed himself as a player who can consistently breakout for big gains downfield, especially with Mahomes under center.
The difference this week that makes this a bold pick? The Chiefs haven’t hit 100 yards receiving against Pittsburgh since 2009 when Chris Chambers and Matt Cassel somehow managed to do it in the middle of one of Kansas City’s worst seasons ever.
Luckily for Hill and company, the Steelers will be without two of their best defenders.
Joe Haden and Artie Burns have both missed significant practice time this week, meaning it will likely be up to the second-string cornerbacks to contain one of the most explosive receiver groupings in the NFL.
Haden is often quiet on the stat sheet, however he offers an ability to disrupt passes in zone coverage that would be vital to Pittsburgh’s defense against Mahomes.
Burns is a great open field defender with incendiary speed who can easily shut down receivers in the YAC column of the stat sheet. Hill is averaging 10.1 yards after catch for each of his targets in the 2018 season, near the top of the NFL leaderboards.
The Steelers still have a healthy Morgan Burnett in the secondary, a strong safety who only missed three tackles all of last season and was very consistent with the Packers.
Still, Pittsburgh does not offer the playmaking ability of the Chargers’ pass defense that was so easily put away by Kansas City in week one.
This, in addition to the absence of Chief-crusher James Harrison, means Hill is set up to have another breakout Sunday.
Kickoff is scheduled for noon CT in Pittsburgh. The game will be broadcast locally on KCTV5.