Sunday, November 11, 2012

All Eyes On Steelers To Make Statement Against Chiefs

Todd Haley and the Pittsburgh Steelers will feel like Tupac Shakur, all eyes on me, when they take on the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football this week. -

The Steelers offensive coordinator is preparing his current team, which hasn't lost at home on Monday night since 1991, to go against his former team, which hasn't won much of anything this season.

The hapless Chiefs (1-7) haven't had a lead in regulation all season. Their only win saw them finally beating the New Orleans Saints in overtime. In fact, the Chiefs are the first team in more than 50 years not to hold a lead during a game through eight games. Even the 2008 winless Detroit Lions at least did that much.

In his weekly press conference, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is known for making the next weeks' opponent sound like Super Bowl champs. But, trust me, Tomlin was not describing the same Chiefs team I, or anyone else, have seen play this season. -

Tomlin said that the Chiefs are 1-7 because of turnovers, and there is truth in that. The Chiefs have turned the ball over 29 times already this season, resulting in 104 points scored. Still, this assessment isn't exactly the rain water Tomlin wants you to believe it is.

The Chiefs rank 30th in the NFL in defensive points allowed, surrendering 30 per game. This is by no means only because of turnovers. They're 23rd in the league in run defense, giving up 126 yards per game at over six yards per carry (YPC).

This is good news for a Steelers team that has rediscovered its running game of late with Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman. Rashard Mendenhall got the ball rolling when he averaged over 5.2 YPC against the Eagles. But it's been Dwyer and Redman who've caused memories of Black-Italian Army riding a Bus to the promised land to resurface. -

It hasn't just been a resurgent run game, but a punishing one. Against the Redskins, Dwyer carried 17 times for 107 yards, with 68 coming after first contact. Plus, 114 of his 122 yards came after contact in the win over the Bengals. That’s 71% of his yards coming after contact (YAC).

Redman also had a 100-yard rushing game, against the Giants, as well as a 100-yard receiving game in last two starts. Add Redman's YAC to the equation and that's over 77.5% of the Steelers rushing yards over past three weeks coming after contact. -

So, Haley isn't any longer concerned with unproductive running backs as he was early in season, but rather figuring out who will be good against that week's opponent.

The two of them may just be best together for now in a two-back rotation. Many teams around the league have done it effectively for years now. It's something the Steelers running backs don't seem to mind, either.

"I think it's good to rotate. Everybody gets a feel for it and everybody gets a role." -

Dwyer also had specific praise for his fullback. He said that Will Johnson is playing "lights out" football right now. Will it continue? - ~

Still, it's the dynamic duo of Haley and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger who've kept the team above water overall. Big Ben's play has been stellar all season which has been due to Haley's diverse play calling. -

Plus, this is Monday Night Football, and Big Ben has loved the big stage. As an undefeated starter on Monday night at Heinz Field, he's 182-292 for 2,017 yards, 14 touchdowns and 13 completions of more than 25 yards (splash plays). -

So, despite the stage, the Chiefs ineptitude and considering the hated rival Baltimore Ravens follow, is Big Ben concerned about this being a letdown or his teammates looking ahead?

"I hate that whole 'letdown game' thing because everyone knows that any week in this league, any team...can be bad and anybody can win."

That, then, requires he, Tomlin and Haley to have the team prepared regardless. According to Brett Keisel and LaMarr Woodley, they are. Woodley posted on Twitter earlier in the week that the team is preparing for the Chiefs as if they were an 8-0 team. He repeated it to reporters in the locker room on Friday:

Keisel also said this week that the team was reminded of the Steelers 2009 upset loss to a bad (2-7) Chiefs team in a morning meeting. He said they know the entire nation will be watching only them and they're "excited to play in front of our home fans." -

Mike Tomlin, known for his 'Tomlin-speak' catch phrases, called the Chiefs' Dwayne Bowe one of best "combat/catch" guys in league. He will test the cornerback put on him, most likely Ike Taylor.

Lance Williams of Steel Curtain Radio brought up some good stats regarding Bowe and the other two players whom the Steelers must watch. He said that of the 553 total plays by the Chiefs offense, Jamaal Charles, Dexter McCluster or Bowe were either targeted or ran it 293 times, or 53% of the time. So, containing them is key. -

Another key for the Steelers is maintaining a high level of physicality and continuing their propensity for splash/explosive plays. We've already pointed out that KC will turn the ball over, so be prepared for the gifts they're sure to the Steelers way. Then capitalize and create splash plays of their own.

As for the physicality, the Chiefs are expecting it.

"When you play the Steelers," said Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel, "you've got to be ready for a really tough, physical football game."

So, then, don't disappoint him. The defense has been more physical lately and recently has even been reminiscent of seasons past. -

There's no real reason to go into great detail about the Chiefs offense because the containing of Charles, McCluster and Bowe is all that needs to be said. They're a deflated team. Hit them in the mouth early and they'll wilt. That's they're m.o. lately. Step on their throat and make a statement. -

The bottom line is that the Chiefs aren't giving anyone much completion lately and shouldn't Monday night, either. The nations eyes will be on them and their former coach's new team pummel them into submission. A 30-10 score is completely possible.

Kansas City, here we come:


TIDBITS: Final Injury Report for Chiefs game: Troy Polamalu (calf), Antonio Brown (high-ankle sprain, out for a few weeks), Marcus Gilbert and Stevenson Sylvester are out; Mendenhall is doubtful; Chris Carter is questionable; Chris Rainey, Dwyer and Suisham are probable.

Chris Rainey told Steelers beat reporter Mike Bires that he is playing Monday vs. Chiefs as long as he can run.

The Chiefs report that both DE Glenn Dorsey (calf) and QB Brady Quinn (head) are out for MNF. -


Emmanuel Sanders will mostly play his normal slot position in 3-wide receiver sets when Jerricho Cotchery is on field. Sanders takes Antonio Brown's spot in 2-wide receiver sets.


Mike Tomlin hinted this week that Troy Polamalu might play against the Ravens. But Polamalu still hasn't practiced since Oct. 5th. The defense has been playing very well lately and is in a groove. Is it time for youth to be served? Should Polamalu get his starting job back? -


New practice squad addition and Penn St. grad Derek Moye grew up a Steelers fan living outside of Pittsburgh in Rochester. -


Steelers rookie Alameda Ta'amu apologizes for his arrest after court appearance


David DeCastro is working out and does run-throughs as far as practice is concerned. He should return to practice in December, but won't play unless there's an emergency.


Steelers have 2nd easiest second-half schedule in NFL.


Ryan Clark leads all NFL safeties with 30 tackles on run plays.