By Herbie Teope
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
KANSAS CITY, Mo. _ The Kansas City Chiefs’ hopes for a post-season berth go through a daunting matchup at the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Kansas City (8-6) hasn’t allowed a 300-yard passer and has allowed just two touchdowns rushing on the season.
But the Chiefs’ defence hasn’t faced an offence such as the Steelers (9-5), who are the NFL’s top-ranked group.
“They’re a very balanced offence,” Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith said. “They like to run and pass the ball. Great back, great receivers and a tremendous quarterback back there who can make all the throws, can take hits and make the throws. This is by far our biggest test of the year.”
The Steelers present the Chiefs a big challenge when it comes to defending quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown.
Roethlisberger, who is 3-1 against the Chiefs, ranks second in league in yards passing (4,415) and sixth in touchdowns (29).
The 11th-year pro has been on a roll in the past eight games with 2,822 yards passing (352.8 per game) with 21 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Roethlisberger’s top option is Brown, who leads the NFL in yards receiving (1,498) and receptions (115).
Brown’s 115 catches established a team record, and his 11 touchdowns rank third in the league.
Covering the dynamic fifth-year pro takes a team-wide effort.
“Not one guy can stop Antonio Brown,” Smith said. “It’s going to take all 11 (defenders). Pass rushers, great technique and we’re going to have to bring everything we got because those guys are playing at a very high level.”
Chiefs cornerback Jamell Fleming agreed, adding he understands what must be done in the team’s press-man scheme if he’s locked up against Brown.
“Just win my one-on-one matchup,” Fleming said. “That’s my mindset, and being aggressive with him. He’s not the biggest guy, so you want to be aggressive with him.”
Then there is Bell, an emerging star the Chiefs must account for out of the backfield.
While Kansas City held the Oakland Raiders to 79 yards rushing in Week 15, the Chiefs were hurt in Weeks 11 to 14 with a total of 738 yards rushing allowed.
Bell ranks second in the league in rushing with 1,278 yards and the former Michigan State star is a good receiver out of the backfield with 76 catches for 765 yards.
Bell’s 2,043 yards from scrimmage rank second in the NFL and set a single-season team record.
Bell has the admiration from a fellow Spartans alum on the Chiefs, who will be on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage attempting to keep Bell in check.
“He’s a Michigan State guy,” Chiefs defensive end Kevin Vickerson said. “I know how he’s built coming from a program like that. He’s a bell cow. He’s used to that pounding and gets better through the course of the game toward the end. We just got to stay pounding him.”
Pittsburgh ranks sixth in the league in scoring (27.8 points per game).
The Chiefs’ approach against the Steelers appears to be one of containment with an understanding of the difficulties to completely shut down elite players.
“A great offence is going to score eventually, but it’s how fast can they score,” Chiefs safety Kurt Coleman said. “If we can make them run the clock out and give our offence the ball, we got to be able to create a turnover. I think that’s going to be the name of the game: Who can control the line of scrimmage, who can limit the big plays, and then who can get the most turnovers?”
NOTES: Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (illness), defensive end Jaye Howard (illness) and tight end Anthony Fasano (knee) did not practice Wednesday. … Running back Jamaal Charles (knee, ankle) was limited. … Cornerback Phillip Gaines (concussion) and defensive end Allen Bailey (concussion), both of whom did not play in Week 15, returned to a full practice. … The NFL selected Chiefs running back/punt returner De’Anthony Thomas as the AFC special teams player of the week. … Thomas recorded eight punt returns for 156 yards, including an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown, in Week 15.