NFL PLAYOFF PREVIEW 2021-22 WILDCARD: #2 Chiefs vs #7 Steelers
With the NFL Playoffs set in stone, Vendetta Sports Media offers you a preview of all playoff games this season. This matchup features the high-powered #2 seeded Kansas City Chiefs going up against a team that just barely snuck their way into the playoffs in the #7 seeded Pittsburgh Steelers. The Chiefs, led by former league MVP Patrick Mahomes, finished the year 12-5, winning the AFC West for the 6th year in a row. The Steelers fought to finish the year 9-7-1, good enough for second in the AFC North. On paper, this has the makings to be a blowout, but let’s take a look at a few things each team can do to come out on top and move on to the Divisional Round.
How The Chiefs Can Win
#1 Keep Patrick Mahomes Upright
This being up here as one of the keys to victory for the Chiefs isn’t necessarily a slight at their offensive line. This team went out and invested heavily in their offensive line, most notably Creed Humphrey, their second-round pick this year. He has far exceeded expectations and helped anchor an offensive line that has vastly improved from last season. What should worry Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy is this pass rush for the Steelers. TJ Watt tied the all-time NFL single-season sack record with 22.5, but this unit as a whole finished the year with 55 sacks, most in the NFL. We all know that Mahomes is a capable runner out of the pocket, but with how fast and tenacious this Steelers front 7 can be, this will be a very interesting matchup.
#2 Keep Up The Impressive Defense
Coming into this season, the Chiefs defense was a major weakness. Through 7 weeks of the NFL season, it appeared not much had changed, ranking toward the bottom of most major defensive categories. But the mid-season acquisition of Melvin Ingram completely changed the mindset and makeup of this unit, finishing the season 8th in total defense. The Steeler’s offense can be one-dimensional at times, so if the Chiefs can continue their good run on defense (outside of the Week 16 matchup against the Bengals), they should be in solid shape to move onto the NFL DIvisional Round.
#3 Don’t Look Ahead
As I mentioned before, on paper this has the potential to be an absolute blowout for the Kansas City Chiefs. When you look at these two offenses, there is a clear advantage towards Patrick Mahomes and the bounty of weapons he has on the Chiefs. With their defense firing on all cylinders, what could be their downfall? We have seen in the past teams who were expected to easily defeat their opponents in the playoffs potentially look past them towards their next matchup (see Titans-Ravens 2019 Playoffs). A major key to a playoff win for Kansas City is to remain focused on the task at hand, come out of the blocks hot and not let up. This Steelers team all season has found ways to hang in games they should have had no business being in.
How The Steelers Can Win
#1 Make Someone Else Step Up For Kansas City
Obviously, this Kansas City Chiefs team has some incredible weapons. Any offense that has Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce would strike fear into the hearts of most opposing Defensive Coordinators. But if you neutralize those guys, who else is there to make the big play? Mecole Hardman? Bryon Pringle? You can’t count on Clyde Edwards-Helaire right now only because he has been so inconsistent this year plus fighting the injury bug. If the Steelers can find a way to slow down even one of these guys, I think it will play a major part in them finding success. But if they can slow down BOTH Hill and Kelce? This offense becomes that much more predictable and easier to draw up defensive schemes.
#2 Pressure, Pressure, Pressure
Coming into this season, one of the biggest things this Steelers team was known for was their defense. This team a year ago finished 3rd in total defense and looked to keep that momentum. Things didn’t happen to fall their way overall, but one thing translated from a year ago: their pass rush. As mentioned above, this defensive unit for the Steelers finished the year with 55 sacks, which is not only most in the NFL this season, but this is their fifth year in a row leading the league in this statistic. Anchored by potential Defensive Player of the Year in TJ Watt and the always dangerous Cameron Hayward, if they can find a way to make life uncomfortable for Mahomes and their offense, it should limit what they can do. The Steelers have a ton of guys who love to get after the Quarterback, and it is hard to keep all of them in check.
#3 Can Ben Turn Back The Clock?
That’s so cliche, but so fitting here as well.
It has been public knowledge that this season is likely to be Ben Roethlisberger’s last season as the Quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers. This offense has struggled at times throughout this season, partly due in part to a declining Roethlisberger, but he has had moments this season where he looks like the Roethlisberger of old. If he can find a way to tap into the fountain of youth during this playoff run and really lean on his veteran leadership and experience to keep this team close late in the game, the end result could be quite surprising. He doesn’t have to go out and throw for 400+ yards and a bunch of touchdowns, but making those pivotal throws and hitting on third down is key to a Steelers win.
As a Steelers fan, it pains me that the Steelers matched up against the Kansas City Chiefs in the first round of the Playoffs. This 2021-2022 NFL Playoff Preview has the feeling of being a one-sided matchup, but if you look at the score in the fourth quarter and it is a one-score game, don’t be surprised if this game goes either way. Who will prevail? The electric offense of the Chiefs, or the tenacious defense of the Steelers? I can’t give my prediction without giving a biased one as well. While I am expecting a loss, I will have my Terrible Towel in hand and waving it like a mad man if the Steelers pull off an all-time upset. This team feels like the Steelers from 2005, so you never know.
Biased Prediction: 20-17 Steelers
Actual Prediction: 34-20 Chiefs