Trying to figure out what Steelers’ Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley is thinking each week is enough to make one quite mad. Just when you think you see what the goal is he does an about-face and goes in the opposite direction. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t. After last week, Haley needs to push all the right buttons as his former team, the Kansas City Chiefs come to town.
The Chiefs currently rank 11th in the NFL in total defense. They are 11th against the pass and 24th against the run. Overall, they give up 14 points per game. While this is not the same Chiefs’ defense the Steelers’ have seen in recent years, it still poses significant problems. Justin Houston is out with an injury and he’s been their leading sacker. Tamba Hali is a year older and seems to be a step slower right now as well. As a team, the Chiefs have just three sacks which of course is far more than the Steelers have but whose counting?
One of the major problems the Steelers have had in the last two weeks is interior penetration especially when passing. That issue won’t get much easier this week with Dontari Poe anchoring the Chiefs’ D-line. Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and B.J. Finney, who looks like the starter in place of Ramon Foster this week, must limit penetration and dictate on the line of scrimmage.
The Chiefs’ secondary is good and is led by Eric Berry at safety and second year cornerback Marcus Peters who already has four interceptions through the first three games. I watched Peters exclusively yesterday. In his game against the NY Jets Sunday, he lined up mostly against Eric Decker who wound up with just one catch on the day.
If Peters guards Antonio Brown, I think he will be in for a long day for one specific reason. I didn’t see any physicality from Peters. He plays mostly off and relies on his tremendous closing speed to intercept and break up passes. One of the only ways of limiting Brown has been to use physical play at the line of scrimmage and unless that’s the plan, Brown should be able to get off the line cleanly.
I also expect to see Haley utilize Le’Veon Bell as he returns from suspension. Besides attacking the Chiefs with the run, look for Haley to get Bell isolated on Chiefs’ linebackers coming out of the backfield. I think we’ll also see Bell split out at the slot with DeAngelo Williams in the backfield. That combination should create space in the middle of the Chiefs’ defense for running over throwing.
I also expect to Jesse James get back in the flow as well. He was an afterthought last week after being fairly prominent in the Steelers’ first two games. The presence of Bell should help him find room to get open and be the life line Ben Roethlisberger often needs.
As I mentioned in the opening, this version of the KC defense isn’t as solid as previous years but they are more than capable of making life miserable for the Steelers’ offense if Todd Haley can’t dial up the right personnel and plays. Player execution is also important as well of course.