It could come down to whether the Chiefs can stop running back Le'Veon Bell, to whether the Steelers can avoid the turnovers the Chiefs have extracted from opponents all season, and to what might happen when Kansas City's Tyreek Hill settles under a kickoff or a punt.
Such nuances loom as significant on Sunday afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium.
But the physical battle might ultimately prove decisive.
"When we play our best that's how we need to be thinking, how we need to be playing," Steelers free safety Mike Mitchell said. "(Prior to the Dolphins game last Sunday) I said that I didn't think we were very much concerned with just executing and wrapping up on our tackles. We wanted to tee off on them and really establish a physical game because we felt like (the Dolphins) got after us (in October).
"This one (against the Chiefs) is a little bit different. We kind of got after them (in October) so we are expecting them to be extremely hostile, just like we were (against Miami). It's definitely one of those games, you're going to have to bring it from a physical manner. That's who we want to be but that's what our opponent's definitely going to be trying to do.
The Steelers prepare for the Divisional matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs.
"I'm getting my mind, body and spirit ready to go to war."
Mitchell addressed a number of other subjects, including:
THE STEELERS' EMPHASIS ON PHYSICAL PLAY: "We preach that every day since OTAs, big guys running and little guys hitting. I'm a little guy and I like to hit. And when big guys are running around it produces a climate that we want, a lot of big hits, chances for turnovers. It's definitely something that I appreciate, that our big dudes do that."
WHERE THE STEELERS' PHYSICALITY SHOWED UP AGAINST MIAMI: "No. 14 (Jarvis Landry) was a physical wide receiver, we established that all week (in preparation). Second play of the game, I just completely blew him up because he was trying to come block me. That's not me doing anything extra, that's just how we try to play in our secondary. From every corner to nickel to safety that we have, we all try to play physical."
WHETHER THE STEELERS EMPHASIZE PHYSICAL PLAY MORE THAN OTHER TEAMS:** "It's something that's mentioned a lot here. We were No. 2 in the league in Carolina, that was a physical defense, but it was more (about) discipline. We play with a lot of discipline here but we definitely preach a lot more about kicking a man's (butt) that's in front of you. Other places I can say (are) probably do-you-job oriented more."
WHO'S BEING PRESSURED ON HILL'S JET SWEEPS OR FAKE-JET SWEEPS: "It would be our curl-flat defenders, getting them to widen just to run a dive inside or getting them to bite on the dive inside and giving it to a fast guy like No. 10 (Hill) trying to get around the edge. We'll have to do a good job of that like we did the first game (in October). 'Deebo' (linebacker William Gay) got (Hill) to widen and 'Law Dawg' (linebacker Ryan Shazier) put a real good hit on him (on a 2-yard loss). We'll have to play the same way."
TIGHT END TRAVIS KELCE'S POTENTIAL IMPACT: "He's a beast. I think he's probably the best receiving tight end in the NFL. There's a bunch of good tight ends in the league, 'Gronk' (New England's Rob Gronkowski), but I'm talking about a receiving tight end. I think probably (Kelce) and (Washington's) Jordan Reed are the best as far as receivers playing that position. We're going to have our hands full with him.
He's a big chunk-play guy for them. We're going to have to do a real good job. We've been smashing the run pretty decent, especially in the last game (against Miami). We're going to have to really minimize his chunks because we're definitely going to want to have seven, eight guys in the box to limit their good run game. When we're doing that it creates opportunity for them to get chunk plays. We have to be alert for that and try to minimize him in that way."
PLAYING AT ARROWHEAD: "Playing here (at Heinz Field), we have the best fans in the world so it makes it a lot easier to play at home. This game, they're going to have that advantage. I played four years in Oakland so having to go there four times, once a year, I know that environment. It's going to be crazy, especially in a playoff game. I haven't experienced that but I played in regular-season games when the games weren't that meaningful and their fans show up and their fans care. So I know that's going to be an advantage for them that we're going to have to address."