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Cheat Sheet: Steelers at Chiefs

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Injury Update

The Steelers continue their preparation for Sunday night's Wild Card Round game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.

The team practiced outside at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex and at a time of year when being healthy is more important than ever, for the most part, the Steelers are a healthy team.

Check out the most updated Injury Report: Click here >>>

Series History

This series started in 1970 with Kansas City winning the first two games, but they then lost seven in a row to the Steelers. In the first 18 times these teams have played, Pittsburgh only lost five times. Overall, Pittsburgh leads this series 23-13. They have split the two playoff matchups, one in 1994 and most recently, in 2017. The Chiefs won the most recent matchup 36-10 in Week 16 in Kansas City as well as the matchup before that in 2018 when Patrick Mahomes threw six touchdowns.

Game action photos from the Steelers' Week 16 game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium

The Regular Season

  • The Chiefs finished the season with a 12-5 record, winning seven of nine at home. They were 9-1 in their final 10 games. Kansas City outscored their opponents by 116 points in 2021, which is the league's fifth best point differential. As for the Steelers, they went 8-4-1 in their final 13 games, but five of their seven losses came on the road, including a 36-10 loss in Week 16 in Kansas City. Despite winning two more games than they lost, Pittsburgh was outscored this year by 55 points. The Raiders (-65) are the only other playoff team with a negative point differential.
  • In that Week 16 matchup, Kansas City led 14-0 after the first quarter, 23-0 at the half and 36-3 up until there was 2:54 left in the game.
  • Defensively, the Chiefs gave up just as many yards per play, 5.9, as they produced. Only the Ravens were worse defensively per play. Pittsburgh's defense surrendered 5.5 yards per play, which was tied for 19th.
  • The Chiefs offense allows just 1.6 sacks per game. Only Tampa Bay was better in 2021. Pittsburgh allowed 2.2 sacks per game, which was about in the middle of the league. But the Steelers 3.2 sacks per game was the best of any defense and the only one over three per game. Kansas City's defense produced just 1.8 sacks per game which was only better than the Eagles and Falcons. In terms of sack differential, only the Buccaneers, Vikings, and Rams were better than Pittsburgh. The Chiefs ranked 13th in sack differential.
  • The Chiefs won the AFC West and Pittsburgh finished second in the AFC North. These divisions played one another this year. Still, only the NFC West (40 wins) produced more victories than these two divisions in 2021. The teams from the AFC West won 38 games and the AFC North won 35.5 games if we include the Steelers tie as a half of a win.
  • In Kansas City's first seven games, the Chiefs turnover differential was -10. Since then, they have been +14. They gave the ball away 17 times (11 by Mahomes) in those first seven games, but only eight times since. The Chiefs lost nine of their 14 fumbles in those first seven games. During those first seven games, the Chiefs defense forced seven turnovers. Since, they have created 22 turnovers. Kansas City was 3-4 during those first seven games and have lost just one game since. For the season, the Chiefs have taken the ball away seven more times than Pittsburgh but have turned it over five more times. When these teams met in Week 16, there were five fumbles in that game and Pittsburgh recovered zero of them. Since 2000, teams that recovered zero of five fumbles are 11-25.
  • In an average 2021 Kansas City game, the Chiefs produce 3.3 more first downs than their opponents. Their 24.6 first downs produced per game is the best in the NFL. Pittsburgh's offense generated 19 first downs per game, which ranked 24th.
  • Excluding overtime, the Chiefs are seventh in the league in time of possession. The Steelers are now 23rd. But Kansas City has ramped it up in this department over their last three games when they've held the ball for between 31:49 and 33:04 in each of those three games. For the season, Pittsburgh possesses the football for 29:18 of a 60-minute game. But in four of their last five games, the Steelers have held the ball for over 30 minutes of play.
  • In terms of yards per route run amongst the wide receivers in this game, Diontae Johnson averages 1.89 yards every time he goes out on a route. Chase Claypool is at 1.71. Ray Ray McCloud is at .82. For the Chiefs, Tyreek Hill is at 2.11, Mecole Hardman is at 1.61, and Bryon Pringle is at 1.42. Only eight wide outs with at least 50 catches this year are better than Hill in this important metric.
  • In terms of percentages, the Steelers throw the ball more than every team in the NFL but two. Kansas City throws it more than every team but four.
  • 18 different Chiefs players scored a touchdown in 2021. Pittsburgh only had nine different players find the end zone.
  • Kansas City's average offensive drive consumes 3:13 of clock. Only the Packers use more clock per drive. The Steelers are at 26th, using 2:40 every time they get the football.
  • Over their first seven games, when four of Kansas City's five losses occurred, the Chiefs gave up 203 total points, which is 29 points per game. But since then, they've allowed 161 points. That is an average of 16.1 per game. During the first seven games of the year, Kansas City was putting up 26.9 points per game. In the final 10 games, the Chiefs have averaged 29.2 points per game.
  • When you combine completions and rushing attempts-a great indicator of an offense's ability to control a game in several ways-the Chiefs 26.4 completions plus 25.4 rushing attempts per game is the fifth most in the NFL. The Steelers offense comes in at 16th with 25 completions and 24.2 rushing attempts. Dallas leads the league with a total of 53.9 while the Jets are last with 43.4. Tampa Bay is the only team in the league that completes more passes per game than the Chiefs.
  • Kansas City is converting on 52.2% of their third down opportunities. Their defense is only allowing a third down conversion rate of 40.2%.
  • The Chiefs average 66.7 offensive plays run per game, which is the fifth most in the league. The Steelers run the ninth most plays in the league, averaging 65.5 per contest. Pittsburgh's opponents snap the ball 65.6 times per game, which is the sixth most.
  • Andy Reid's career playoff record is 17-15. He has been to the postseason 17 times. Just three teams have gone to three straight Super Bowls. Reid is hoping his Chiefs become the fourth. Mike Tomlin's postseason record is 8-8. Tomlin has led his team to the playoffs on 10 different occasions.
  • Only the Packers and Cowboys have gone to the playoffs on more occasions than Pittsburgh. This is the Steelers 33rd postseason appearance.
  • Two of the Steelers nine wins came vs. playoff teams. Kansas City has six wins against teams that are still alive.
  • The only two teams that got more snaps from rookies than the Steelers in 2021 are the Jets and Lions. Detroit led the NFL in this regard, getting 5,280 from first year players. Pittsburgh asked their rookies to contribute for 4,412 plays. Kansas City wasn't far behind. They are ninth on this list with 3,365 rookie snaps. Three teams, the Rams, Seahawks, and Buccaneers, asked their rookie class to play under 1,000 snaps with Tampa Bay getting the least from their rookies with just 735 total rookie snaps played.

When Pittsburgh has the Ball

  • 76% of the Steelers snaps come out of 11 Personnel (1 RB/1 TE). That is 16% more than league average and only the Rams utilize 11 Personnel at a higher percentage of the time. 16% of Pittsburgh's offensive snaps come from 12 Personnel (1 RB/2 TE), which is 5% less than league average. Pittsburgh doesn't use a personnel grouping other than 11 or 12 more than 2% of their offensive snaps.
  • Ben Roethlisberger has started 22 playoff games in his career, the fifth-most all-time. He has racked up 5,757 passing yards and 37 touchdowns (34 passing and three rushing) during his postseason career. He has been sacked 51 times in those 22 postseason contests and has thrown 28 interceptions. When he starts his 23rd playoff game, Roethlisberger will tie Joe Montana for fourth-most all-time by a starting quarterback.
  • Last week in Baltimore, Roethlisberger attempted 14 passes 10 yards or deeper downfield. He completed only five of them for 85 yards and this is the area of the field in which Roethlisberger threw his lone Week 18 interception.
  • The Steelers intended air yards per passing attempt is just 6.7 yards downfield. Only the Lions are lower. They are the only two teams under 7.2. The ball came out of Roethlisberger's hands in 2.26 seconds on average this year. That was the quickest in the NFL.
  • Over the last four games, Pittsburgh averages just 169 passing yards per game. For the entire season, the Steelers average 222.2, which is 15th in the NFL.
  • Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool each ran 44 pass routes last week. Ray-Ray McCloud ran a route on 32 plays. At tight end, Pat Freiermuth went out on a route 35 times compared to 17 from Zach Gentry.
  • Over the past three weeks, Claypool has run a route on 75% of the pass plays, 88%, and then 96% last week to finish up the regular season. But over the past four weeks, Claypool has just a total of 107 receiving yards.
  • Johnson has been held to 51 or fewer yards in each of his last four games after being held below that mark just once in his first 11 games of the year.
  • McCloud has gotten eight or more targets in each of the past three games and has been targeted 30 times over the past four games.
  • Freiermuth's seven receiving touchdowns were second most amongst all rookies this season. Kansas City allows 7.8 yards per target to opposing tight ends. That ranks 23rd in the league.
  • 62% of Roethlisberger's passes in 2021 were short of the line to gain. No quarterback threw short of the sticks more regularly.
  • Najee Harris finished the regular season with 381 touches without fumbling once. That is a record for all rookies and the second most touches in history without fumbling the football. Harris' 1,667 scrimmage yards were also the most of any rookie in 2021. Not only did Harris play the most snaps of any running back in the NFL in 2021, but he played 170 more than any other back. Opposing running backs average 4.64 yards per carry against the Chiefs, which ranks 30th.
  • Kansas City's defense was on the field for 54 snaps in Week 18. Amongst their defensive linemen, Melvin Ingram and Frank Clark played the most snaps, seeing the field for 39 plays. Chris Jones played 37 and Jarran Reed played 32. No other member of the Chiefs defensive front played more than 21 snaps against Denver.
  • Jones and Clark both appeared in 14 games in 2021. Jones recorded nine sacks this year and Clark had 4.5. The Chiefs don't have another defender with more than three sacks during the regular season. Clark's nine sacks are third amongst NFL interior defenders, as are his 18 quarterback hits. Kansas City has three games this year in which they didn't record a sack. Jones was inactive for all three. Roethlisberger was sacked on 5.9% of his dropbacks in 2021, his highest percentage since 2013.
  • The Chiefs allow 5.9 yards per play. Only the Ravens allow a bigger chunk of yardage per snap. However, Kansas City only gave up 21.4 points per game, which is the eighth best in the league.
  • During the Chiefs eight game winning streak, they allowed just 12.9 points per game. But over the final two games of the season, Kansas City allowed 7.6 yards per play, 839 total yards, and 29 points per game. Overall, the Chiefs gave up 30 or more points in five of their first eight games, but just once since.
  • Kansas City's defense was on the field for 1,119 snaps during the regular season. But no one from that side of the ball played more than Tyrann Mathieu's 996 plays. In fact, only five Chiefs defenders played 700 snaps or more in 2021. 18 defenders played 436 snaps or more for Kansas City this season.
  • Kansas City's opponents run the ball just 39.5% of the time against the Chiefs. Only six defenses face a lesser percentage of running plays.
  • In the red zone, Roethlisberger has only been sacked four times and 17 of his touchdowns have come when the ball was snapped inside the 20-yard line. Roethlisberger hasn't thrown a red zone interception this year. The Steelers also have scored a touchdown on 75% of their goal-to-go situations.
  • No quarterback dropped back (193) more times or threw more passes (181) on third downs this year than Roethlisberger. He only threw four interceptions on third downs and his third down completion rate (64.6%) ranked sixth.

When Kansas City has the Ball

  • Kansas City is right around league average with their offensive personnel groupings. They are 6% higher than average with 11 Personnel (1 RB/1 TE), but other than that they aren't close to the extreme with the usage of any specific grouping.
  • Patrick Mahomes' opponents ran two high safety coverages 54% of the time. That was the highest percentage in the league against any one specific quarterback.
  • Over the last eight weeks, Kansas City has generated points on 52.9% of their possessions, the highest percentage in the league over that time. In those eight games, only one offense has turned the ball over less than the Chiefs.
  • The Steelers produced 55 sacks in year. That is the most in the NFL and the fifth straight year Pittsburgh had led the league in sacks. Not only did TJ Watt tie the single-season sack total of 22.5, but he also led the NFL in tackles for loss (21) as well as quarterback hits (40). Watt's six batted passes were tied for third, three behind Cameron Heyward, and Watt's five forced fumbles were fifth. Watt only appeared in 15 games in 2021, including against the Chiefs in the last meeting-but Watt only played 38 snaps in that game. Heyward's 10 sacks were only behind Aaron Donald for the most from an interior defensive lineman this year. Donald is also the only interior lineman that played more snaps than Heyward.
  • Mahomes has only been blitzed on 13.8% of his dropbacks in 2021. That is the lowest blitz rate in the NFL in 15 seasons.
  • Over his past five games, Mahomes is producing 8.1 yards per pass attempt. During that time, he has only thrown one interception against a dozen touchdown passes.
  • Minkah Fitzpatrick has three defensive touchdowns since the start of the 2019 season. That is the most in the NFL during that time.
  • In his eight career postseason starts, Patrick Mahomes averages 290.5 passing yards per game. He has 21 touchdowns against four interceptions. This will be Mahomes first career game played in the Wild Card round however. In his two career games against Pittsburgh, the Chiefs have scored a combined 78 points.
  • Going into these teams' meeting in Week 16, 50% of all the targets had gone to either Tyreek Hill or Travis Kelce. After 17 games, Hill and Kelce received 159 and 134 targets respectively out of a possible 637. Their collective target percentage is now down to 46% in just a few weeks. Hill and Kelce each have nine receiving touchdowns. All of the other Chiefs pass catchers have 19 combined.
  • Hill has not been 100% for several weeks. Last week against Denver, Mecole Hardman played 65 snaps, Byron Pringle was on the field for 55 plays, Demarcus Robinson played 41 plays, Josh Gordon played 21, and Hill was used for just 14 plays. Hill played 42% of the snaps and only ran 20 routes against the Steelers in Week 16. Hill averaged 11.2 yards per reception in 2021. That was the lowest of his career. In each of the past four seasons, Hill has averaged 14.7 or more.
  • Since the Chiefs bye in Week 12, Pringle has gotten a 14.1% target share. That is third on the Chiefs during that time. And over the past three games, Pringle has been Kansas City's most targeted player. For the season, Pringle and Hardman are tied with the most targets 20 yards downfield or deeper. Since the bye, only Kelce has been targeted more than Pringle within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage.
  • Kelce's 1.84 yards per route run ranks sixth in the league amongst all tight ends that have caught at least 50 passes this year. His receptions this year created 63 first downs. Kelce is the first tight end in the history of the NFL to reach 1,000 receiving yards in six straight seasons as well as the first to catch 80 or more balls in six straight years. Last week Blake Bell and Noah Gray played 21 and 18 snaps respectively while Kelce was on the field for 60 of a possible 78 plays.
  • Chiefs receivers have produced 2,728 yards after the catch, the most in the league. Their 6.1 after the catch per completion ranks only behind the 49ers and Bengals. However, Kansas City's 7.4 intended air yards per pass attempt in only higher than seven teams.
  • Against Denver in Week 18, Mahomes completed just 5 of 15 passes 10 yards downfield or more. He only averaged 6.0 air yards per target and 76% of his passing yards came after the catch. 99 of Hardman's 103 receiving yards came after the catch last week.
  • Last week with Clyde Edwards-Helaire sidelined, the trio of Darrel Williams, Derrick Gore, and Jerick McKinnon all played between 20 and 31 snaps. When Edwards-Helaire has been healthy this year, he is averaging 57% of the snaps and 58% of the rushing attempts.
  • Pittsburgh's red zone defense is the fifth best in the NFL this year. The Chiefs red zone offense currently ranks 14th. On third downs, Kansas City has been truly remarkable. They are first in the league, converting 52.2% of their opportunities. The Buccaneers are second at 47.1%. Pittsburgh's defense ranks seventh best in the league at 37.1%.
  • Five Chiefs offensive players were on the field for over 1,100 snaps this season. It was Mahomes and four offensive linemen: Trey Smith, Creed Humphrey, Joe Thuney, and Orlando Brown Jr. Andrew Wylie and Lucas Niang were the next highest snap count offensive linemen at 527 and 524 respectively. Backup tight ends Blake Bell and Noah Grey played 321 and 289 snaps this year respectively. Even though he has missed snaps of late, Hill saw the field much more than any other Chiefs wide receiver. However, Demarcus Robinson, Mecole Hardman, and Byron Pringle all received between 696 and 586 snaps in 2021.

Special Teams

  • On kickoff returns, the Chiefs are outproducing their opponents by 4.6 yards on average per return. But on punt returns, Kansas City is giving up a whopping 7.1 more yards per return than the Chiefs are producing.
  • Harrison Butker missed one game this year. Chris Boswell was active for all 17. Between the two of them, they missed just seven field goal attempts this year on 68 combined attempts. Just one of those misses came within 40 yards. Boswell missed two kicks between 40 and 49 yards. Butker only missed one, but he only attempted five kicks from that distance. From 50 yards out or further, this pairing had made 15 of 18 attempts.

The Advanced Scout Podcast

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Matt's Most Memorable Moment: January 15, 2017: Divisional Playoff Round: Steelers 18, Chiefs 16, Arrowhead Stadium

Originally scheduled for a 1:00 Eastern start, this game was pushed back to a night game because of the weather. Albert Wilson caught a five-yard touchdown from Alex Smith midway through the first quarter but that was the only touchdown scored in this game. It was Chris Boswell's day, as the Steelers kicker went six for six on his field goal attempts despite blustery weather conditions. While he didn't get into the end zone, Le'Veon Bell was the driving force for Pittsburgh's offense with 30 rushing attempts for 170 yards. Bell joined Terrell Davis as the only players in NFL history to rush for at least 160 yards in back-to-back playoff games. Antonio Brown chipped in with over 100 yards receiving as well. The Steelers handled Miami before this game but went on to lose to New England 36-17 in the AFC Championship Game. New England defeated the Falcons in the Super Bowl that year.

Facts from NFL Research

  • 5 of the 6 Wild Card games are rematches from the regular season.
  • Ben Roethlisberger will make his 8th career start in the Wild Card Round, tying Hall of Famer Brett Favre for the most all-time.
  • With a win over the Chiefs, Ben Roethlisberger would move into a tie for 3rd-most QB wins in the playoffs all-time and would tie HOF Terry Bradshaw for most in Steelers history.
  • If T.J Watt were to win Defensive Player of the Year, he would have the 8th DPOY season in Steelers history, the most by any team, which would be twice as many as any other team.
  • Najee Harris is the first rookie in NFL history with over 300 carries and 70 receptions.

Key Matchups

  • Chiefs TE Travis Kelce vs. Steelers SS Terrell Edmunds-Edmunds spent an awful lot of time last week lining up against Mark Andrews, one of the very few tight ends in the league that can compare to Kelce. While Andrews caught eight passes for 85 yards, he was targeted on 16 of Tyler Huntley's 31 attempts. Edmunds also got his second interception of the year in that game. As was the case last week, Edmunds won't be alone on Kelce every snap, but nonetheless, this matchup will be critical in determining which team advances to the second round of the playoffs, especially if Tyreek Hill is compromised with his heel injury.
  • Steelers Interior OL vs. Chiefs DT Chris Jones-Jones, Kansas City's best defensive player, can wreck offensive game plans. Jones' presence presents a lot of problems. The Steelers have a very young offensive line, have used five different left guards, and have replaced Kendrick Green with JC Hassenauer as the starting center. While Pittsburgh's interior offensive line is progressing and rapidly cutting down on the mental and unforced errors, the league's top defensive tackles have presented problems for this group all season long as you would expect.