A look at what the Steelers will be up against on Sunday afternoon at the Kansas City Chiefs:
HILL ST. BLUES:** One of the dramatic changes in the makeup of the Chiefs since their October visit to Heinz Field has been the increased role assumed by kickoff returner/punt returner/wide receiver/running back Tyreek Hill.
He was just finding his way as a rookie fifth-round pick when the teams first met and only played 18 snaps on offense (24 percent) in the Chiefs' 43-14 loss to the Steelers on Oct. 2.
Hill, 5-foot-10, 185 pounds and the author of a 4.29 40-yard dash, played 38 offensive snaps (62 percent) in the Chiefs' regular-season ending, 37-27 win at San Diego on Jan 1.
Hill scored his second touchdown of the season against the Steelers (a 9-yard reception; he also had a 78-yard punt-return touchdown nullified by a penalty). He finished the regular season having crossed the goal line 12 times (on six catches, three rushes, two punt returns and one kickoff return).
In the second half of the season he's emerged as much more than a returner and gadget-play complement to the offense. The Chiefs will line him up wide, in the slot and in the backfield. They'll throw it to him deep (not a staple of the KC offense but one that's been relied upon more frequently in recent weeks). And they'll run him on Jet Sweeps designed to either open up inside runs or stress the outside linebackers, the strong safety and/or the cornerbacks in a Cover 2 scheme when Hill gets the ball.
Whenever and wherever he gets it, a defense that doesn't get to him and get him on the ground quickly risks having the scoreboard change.
KELCE'S KATCHES:** Tight end Travis Kelce is now what he was then, a threat that can line up just about anywhere in the formation and one that more often than not makes big plays by amassing yards after the catch. He's not the only Chiefs' target that often does more with is legs than his hands in the passing game, but he might be the best of the bunch in that regard (653 of his 1,125 receiving yards on the season were gained after the catch).
Kelce's 58 catches and 849 yards since Week Eight trail only Green Bay's Jordy Nelson (70-936) in that span.
DIFFERENT BUT SIMILAR: Three players that started on defense on Oct. 2 against the Steelers are on the Reserve/Injured list this time around (defensive ends Jaye Howard and Allen Bailey and inside linebacker Derrick Johnson). But the Chiefs still rely on turnovers and they're still an accomplished group in terms of taking the ball away.
Kansas City's league-leading 33 takeaways include an NFL-best eight in the red zone. Cornerback Marcus Peters (six interceptions) has ball skills, as does safety Eric Berry (four INTs), as does backup strong safety Daniel Sorensen, who plays a sub-package linebacker-safety hybrid position (three picks).
The Chiefs only have 28 sacks but their edge rushers (linebackers Justin Houston, Dee Ford and Tamba Hali) are good enough to impact passing downs.
And when they get their hands on the ball, Chiefs defenders are capable of taking it to the house. The Chiefs' five scores on defensive returns includes a "pick-two" by Berry, an interception on an Atlanta two-point conversion attempt that was returned into the other end zone and turned a 28-27 deficit with 4:37 left into a 29-28 lead that ultimately held up.
MANAGING VICTORY:** Quarterback Alex Smith isn't the flashiest but he's among the most efficient at his position. His mobility extends beyond escaping trouble in the pocket (Smith can run the read-option and he has a team-leading five rushing touchdowns) and he doesn't often turn the ball over (eight interceptions this season after throwing seven in 2015, a season that included an NFL-best streak of 312 consecutive passes without having one picked off).
The Chiefs averaged 24.3 points per game this season even though they didn't have a 100-yards receiving game from a wide receiver (Kelce had six and running back Spencer Ware had one). Kansas City was an unimpressive 30th in red zone offense (touchdowns on 45.5 percent of their penetrations) but the Chiefs' defense held opponents to a 49.1 success rate (fifth best in the NFL).
SPECIAL DELIVERY: The Chiefs rarely throw the ball into the end zone, which probably has something to do with Kansas City having attempted 26 field goals of between 20 and 39 yards (Steelers' kickers attempted 13). But kicker Cairo Santos converted 31 times on 35 tries, including 2-for-2 from 50-plus yards out.
Punter Dustin Colquitt had nine touchbacks and pinned opponents inside the 20-yard line 38 times. Kansas City didn't allow a punt return longer than 16 yards.
NUMBERS GAME: The Chiefs were No. 20 in total offense and No. 24 in total defense, but they were also No. 4 in scoring margin (plus 78 points) and No. 1 in takeaway/giveaway (plus 16, tied with the Raiders).
It all added up to 12-4 and an AFC West Division championship.
HE SAID IT: "Whatever game the Chiefs are involved in, he will be the fastest guy on the field." _ CBS play-by-play announcer Greg Gumbel on Hill during the Kansas City-San Diego game.