The Steelers were expected to be Super Bowl contenders this year, but we got another reminder last week that nothing is guaranteed in football. The Jacksonville Jaguars came to town and battered Ben Roethlisberger, hitting him five times, sacking him twice and then putting in a ruthless display of ball-hawking as the picked the veteran off five times. It was a performance that left Big Ben wondering if he still had it anymore.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, had a pretty easy time of things against the Texans on Sunday night, walking out 42-34 winners. Early injuries to Houston’s two best defenders, JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus, left them powerless to resist Alex Smith, who racked up 324 yards in the air, feeding big plays to Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill as Kareem Hunt once again went over 100 yards on the ground.
Revenge on the mind
Last season the Chiefs looked very strong, but were quickly bounced from the playoffs by Pittsburgh despite keeping the Steelers out of the end zone. The 18-16 scoreline stung and sent the Chiefs home, where they began devising just how to avoid such a loss again. Now they have their chance to exact a small modicum of revenge.
Travis Kelce was in the concussion protocol this week but was a full participant in practice on Thursday, however a late addition to the injury report was Tyreek Hill with a hamstring problem. The presence of these two is vital to the Chiefs explosive offense, as despite his stats, Smith is still focusing on shorter passes and relying on the talents of Kelce and Hill, as well as the scheme, to get huge chunks of yards after the catch. If Hill is limited on Sunday then the field-stretching talent he brings will be gone, and that is a huge problem for the Chiefs, even with Hunt still available in the backfield.
The Steelers trio of Ben, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown were fearsome last season, but in 2017 everything is falling apart. Brown is still brilliant on the field, but appears to be causing waves in the locker room, while Bell’s holdout over preseason seems to have seriously negatively affected his chemistry with the team and his own form, and Big Ben is looking more and more like he should have gone with retirement in the offseason. This Steelers team has a lot of other nice pieces on it, from the offensive line to TJ Watt and a stacked defensive line, but their real menace and threat comes from the Killer B’s, and if they can’t get them firing soon then the playoffs may slip through their fingers.
OLB TJ Watt vs LT Eric Fisher
Speaking of Watt, with his big brother gone for the season, TJ has a chance to step out of JJ’s shadow. His first game of the season featured several wins against Joe Thomas, who if you haven’t been paying attention has been the best left tackle in the NFL for the last decade. Watt has three sacks, a pick, five tackles for loss, and three QB hits so far in four games. His motor doesn’t stop and perhaps most impressive for a rookie is that his feel for the run game and his own contain play is very good. Fisher struggled at first, but over the years he has matured into a reasonable left tackle, however he does struggle with supreme athletes and elite technicians, Watt can be both. If he brings all his talents to bear on Fisher I don’t think the tackle can stop him consistently influencing Alex Smith and bottling up Hunt.
Fantasy Tip: Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
With Marcus Peters roaming over Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant struggling to get going, JuJu Smith-Schuster is a really intriguing option if you are struggling with bye weeks in a deeper league or need a cheap DFS option the Smith-Schuster could be your guy.
Betting Tip: Chiefs (-4.5)
the Steelers are in disarray and the Chiefs simply don’t lose at home. Could the Steelers keep it within a field goal? Maybe, but this Chiefs side has been electric in the fourth quarter this season and piled on the points against tired defenses. I can see them doing that again this week.
Prediction: Kansas City Chiefs 32 – 20 Pittsburgh Steelers
The Chiefs might not have Eric Berry, but their defense is still a monster that can slow any offense, nevermind one as struggling as much as Pittsburgh’s is. While they don’t have as fierce a pass rush as Jacksonville, Dee Ford, Justin Houston, and Chris Jones are very, very good at getting after the quarterback and they are very consistent as a run defense too. This has all the hallmarks of a comfortable win for the Chiefs.
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