Steelers vs. Chiefs Preview & Prediction: Can Najee Harris and Ben Roethlisberger cause a major upset?

As we preview the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Kansas City Chiefs matchup, how can the Steelers win, and what is our prediction for this game?

For the second time in four weeks, we have a Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Kansas City Chiefs matchup to preview. After the first game was extremely one-sided, let’s examine what this one might have in store before making a prediction as to whether it will be the Steelers or Chiefs who progress to the Divisional Round.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Kansas City Chiefs Preview

The first game between these two teams this season ended with a 26-point victory for the Chiefs. For the contest to be even that close it took the Steelers scoring a touchdown with 2:54 remaining on the clock. The Chiefs led 23-0 at the half, and at one point led by as much as 36-3. It was about as one-sided of a game as we have seen this year.

The question now is whether we will see a repeat, or if the Steelers can put up more of a fight. Not that many things have changed but rarely do two games go the same way in the NFL. This is a matchup between two of the best coaches in the NFL, and Mike Tomlin is sure to have some surprises in store for Andy Reid and the Chiefs.

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We know what the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce can do. If those three play the way we know they can, then this should be a game of relative ease for the Chiefs. We have seen what Kansas City is, and we know how they won the game just a few weeks back.

Therefore, let’s examine the points where this game could be won by the Steelers, or lost by the Chiefs.

Can the Chiefs’ defense be exploited?

It has been a strange season for the Chiefs defense. In the first five weeks, they allowed an average of 32.6 points. Yet, they then went on an incredible run of games. They allowed more than 17 points just once between Weeks 6-14 and managed four single-digit performances. Across that time, they allowed an average of just 13.1 points per game. Things have then seemingly come full circle in the last four weeks.

Since Week 15, the Chiefs have allowed 24 or more points three times (four weeks). The only game that they did not allow more than 20 points was against the Steelers. Nevertheless, Pittsburgh has to take some encouragement from the Broncos scoring 24 points against the Chiefs despite their own struggles. Pittsburgh has to look at recent games and know they aren’t going to win a defensive tussle. The Chiefs have been held below 30 points just once in the last five.

Najee Harris is a crucial element to this Steelers vs. Chiefs preview

Najee Harris was cleared on Saturday, and the Steelers will be extremely thankful. Their best path to victory in this game is going to be to sustain drives, wear the Chiefs’ defense down, and hope their defense can make some timely stops. We saw last week how the Broncos controlled the ball on the ground and moved it with regularity. Had it not been for a late fumble by Melvin Gordon, the Broncos might have won that game.

The Steelers will go up against a defense that has ranked 31st against the run this year. The Chiefs have allowed an average of 4.8 yards per attempt on the ground and have at times been gouged by opposing rushing attacks. Unfortunately, the Steelers’ run game has been stifled this year, averaging just 3.9 yards per rush attempt. Harris and his offensive line are going to need to do a lot more in this matchup if they are to win.

Could injury differences prove critical as the Steelers and Chiefs meet in Arrowhead?

This game is not heavily impacted by injuries, but there is a small glimmer of hope for the Steelers. We already discussed Harris being cleared to play, and Pittsburgh will also get JuJu Smith-Schuster back. While he has not been the game-breaking receiver he threatened to be early in his career, Smith-Schuster can be a difference-maker.

Additionally, having him back can create mismatches for the offense. How does the Chiefs’ defense line up against the triple receiving threat of Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, and Diontae Johnson? It will be hard to keep all three talented receivers covered on every play, giving Ben Roethlisberger the chance to make plays in what could be his final NFL game.

In contrast, the Chiefs could be without their top two backs. Clyde Edwards-Helaire was already ruled out, and Darrel Williams is questionable. Kansas City’s run game has been a crucial part of their offense at times, and if the Steelers can find a way to sustain drives, the Chiefs will need their own run game.

If not, then the Steelers will potentially be able to wear down the Chiefs’ defense. If Pittsburgh can keep the game close into the fourth quarter,d then that early work could prevent the Chiefs from being able to get stops and get off the field in crucial situations.

Steelers vs. Chiefs betting line and game prediction

  • Spread: Chiefs -12.5 (Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)
  • Moneyline: Steelers +525, Chiefs -760
  • Total: 46

While we have just spent this article making the case of how the Steelers can win, it is an extreme longshot. Pittsburgh either needs the Chiefs to be incredibly sloppy or they need to play perfectly. We did see the Broncos nearly defeat the Chiefs last week, so it is not impossible. However, it took a couple of incredible plays from Drew Lock with his legs to make that happen. Roethlisberger is not going to do that.

The most likely outcome here is a comprehensive Chiefs victory. The spread is the biggest in Wild Card Weekend history, and that is always something to be cautious about. Covering nearly 2 touchdowns in the playoffs should not be considered likely. We certainly could see the Steelers with a late cover followed by a failed onside kick. However, the most likely outcome here does feel like the Chiefs win and to cover. The game between these two earlier in the season was so one-sided it is tough to see that changing.

Steelers vs. Chiefs Prediction: Chiefs 34, Steelers 18

Ben Rolfe is a Senior Managing Editor at Pro Football Network and is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can find him on Twitter @BenRolfePFN