Countdown to kickoff: Steelers at Chiefs

Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (1-5)
Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015
Arrowhead Stadium
1 p.m.


Here is a look at the statistical leaders for the both the Steelers and Chiefs heading into the Week 7 contest.

SERIES HISTORY:** Steelers lead, 20-9 (Chiefs lead, 1-0, postseason).

LAST MEETING: Steelers 20, Chiefs 12, Dec. 21, 2014, Heinz Field: The Steelers clinched a trip to the playoffs thanks in part to a defense that registered six sacks and collected a critical turnover. The Chiefs trailed in the third quarter, 10-6, but they were threatening until DE Stephon Tuitt forced a fumble by RB Jamaal Charles and LB Vince Williams recovered at the Pittsburgh 25-yard line. The Steelers then drove 75 yards and capped the march with a 3-yard TD pass from QB Ben Roethlisberger to WR Antonio Brown for a 17-6 lead with 34 seconds left in the third. The Chiefs outgained the Steelers, 327-282, but never crossed the goal line.

LAST WEEK: The Steelers lost QB Mike Vick (hamstring) but rallied in the second half behind QB Landry Jones and beat the Cardinals, 25-13 at Heinz. The Chiefs lost for the fifth straight week, 16-10, at Minnesota.

WHEN THE CHIEFS HAVE THE BALL: They'll continue searching for the answer they've been seeking since losing Charles for the season (ACL) on Oct. 11 against Chicago. RB Charcandrick West carried nine times for 33 yards (3.7 per) and RB Nile Davis five times for 13 yards (2.6) against Minnesota. West also lost a fumble in Minnesota territory with KC trailing, 16-10, late in the fourth quarter. Davis has fumbled seven times in 38 career games.

Pass protection has also been an issue. QB Alex Smith, who still has good mobility in and out of the pocket, has been sacked 23 times. The left side of the offensive line (LT Donald Stephenson, LG Ben Grubbs) has been particularly leaky. Stephenson also inadvertently forced West's fumble in the Vikings game (it's been that kind of year in Kansas City).

WR Jeremy Maclin (39 catches, 531 yards, one TD) is explosive but he suffered a concussion in the Minnesota game. TE Travis Kelce is also a play-maker (29-416-2), especially after the catch. And given the trouble the Steelers experienced dealing with New England TE Rob Gronkowski and San Diego TE Antonio Gates, Kelce might be the No. 1 threat regardless of whatever else the Chiefs have available. Kansas City has been in the red zone 19 times and has almost as many field goals (seven) as touchdowns (eight). That 42.1-percent rate scoring TDs in the red zone ranks 27th in the NFL.


WHEN THE STEELERS HAVE THE BALL:** They'll need to protect it the way they've been protecting it no matter who ends up playing QB. Pittsburgh's three turnovers ties New England for the fewest in the league, and the Patriots have only played five games (and one of the Steelers' three turnovers was an inconsequential "Hail Mary" at the end of the first half at San Diego). They'll also have an opportunity, potentially, based on their 75.0 percent red zone offense (No. 1 in the NFL) going up against a Chiefs defense that allows red zone TDs 71.4 percent of the time (No. 30, up from No. 32 after holding Minnesota to one TD on three trips).

Kansas City was stout enough against the run to hold Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson to 60 yards on 26 carries. Peterson got free once for 23 yards and gained 37 on his other 25 attempts. A key was penetration up front, even without NT Dontari Poe (ankle). KC didn't load up to stop AP, but the DBs rallied furiously to the ball. The Chiefs also blitzed the run often against Minnesota.

The pass rush is the headline-grabbing aspect of the Chiefs' defense. OLB Justin Houston (22 sacks last year, four this season) comes from the left and OLB Tamba Hali (six sacks last season, one in 2015) comes from the right. Houston will also line up next to Hali on the right side on occasion in passing situations. The pair has 133 career sacks between them (Hali 80.5, Houston 52.5). CB Marcus Peters, the Chiefs' No. 1 pick, has three of KC's four interceptions (including a pick-six against Denver) but he was also thrown on consistently by Minnesota. Peters often gave ground rather than re-direct receivers in the Vikings game, even when in press coverage. But he also wasn't shy about coming off of his coverage to jump another route.

SPECIAL-TEAMS HEADLINERS: Steelers K Chris Boswell celebrated his Heinz Field debut by connecting from 47, 48, 51 and 28 yards and is 5-for-5 on field goals in his first two games. Chiefs K Cairo Santos was 7-for-7 on field goals on Oct. 4 vs. Cincinnati and is 12-for-15 on the season (2-for-4 from 50-plus). WR De'Anthony Thomas brings combustibility if not consistency to the KC return game (8.2 per on punts, 20.3 on kickoffs). Davis has a 54-yard kickoff return and a 25.1 average.

THE X-FACTOR: Steelers fans aren't likely to take over Arrowhead the way they did the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis and Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego (that typically doesn't happen in Kansas City). That means the Steelers figure to be challenged by a true hostile environment on the road. The last time they were in one of those was on Sept. 10 at New England, and the Steelers were more unglued than they were undaunted that night. How will they respond this time?

THEY SAID IT: "Whoever's in there is in there and we're going to roll as an offensive line. I could honestly care less. I have enough to worry about blocking the three-technique in front of me. Whoever's going to be there is going to be there and they're going to do their job." - Steelers G David DeCastro on prepping for a game with uncertainty at the quarterback position

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