Chiefs begin pursuit of another Super Bowl against Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hands a towel to a spectator as he leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, in Baltimore.  The Steelers won 16-13.  (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hands a towel to a spectator as he leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, in Baltimore. The Steelers won 16-13. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

PA

PITTSBURGH (9-7-1) at KANSAS CITY (12-5)

Sunday, 8:15 p.m. EST, NBC

BETTING LINE: Chiefs by 12 1/2, according to FanDuel SportsBook.

AGAINST THE SPREAD: Steelers 8-9; Counts 8-9.

SERIES RECORD: Steelers lead 23-10; 1-1 in the playoffs.

LAST MEETING: The Chiefs defeated the Steelers 36-10 on Dec. 26, 2021 in Kansas City.

LAST WEEK: The Steelers beat the Ravens 16-13 in overtime; The Chiefs beat the Broncos 28-24.

STEELERS ATTACK: GENERAL (23), RUSH (29), PASS (15), SCORING (21).

STEELERS DEFENSE: GENERAL (24), RUSH (32), PASS (9), SCORING (20).

HEAD OFFENSE: OVERALL (3), RUSH (16), PASS (4), SCORING (4).

CHIEF OF DEFENSE: GENERAL (27), RUSH (21), PASS (27), SCORING (8).

REVENUE DIFFERENTIAL: Steelers plus-2; Heads-plus 4.

STEELERS PLAYER TO WATCH: LB TJ Watt. The league’s top rusher tied Hall of Famer Michael Strahan’s season sack record with 22 1/2 sacks, doing so despite missing two games entirely and parts of two others due to wounds. He was beaten and didn’t play a part in the loss to the Chiefs last month, registering a tackle while being limited to 55% snaps.

PLAYER CHIEFS TO WATCH: Whatever running backs are available. Clyde Edwards-Helaire will miss the game with a shoulder injury, and Darrel Williams is expected to play despite a sore toe. Whoever gets the bulk of the runs will face the worst defense in the league, giving up more than 146 yards per game.

KEY MATCHUP: Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes against Pittsburgh’s pass defense, which has been solid against just about everyone but him. The Steelers ranked ninth in the league, giving up just 215.1 yards per game through the air, but Mahomes topped them for 258 yards and three touchdowns when Kansas City routed the Steelers in December.

INJURIES: Steelers LT Dan Moore Jr. (ankle), LB Rob Spillane (knee) and RB Najee Harris (elbow) practiced this week and are expected to play. WR James Washington started the week in COVID-19 protocols. … RB chiefs Clyde Edwards-Helaire (shoulder) and Darrel Williams (toe) also trained this week despite Edwards-Helaire being ruled out.

SERIES NOTES: The Steelers have dominated the series, although Kansas City have won the last two meetings, including their December game. The Steelers beat the Chiefs 18-16 in the Divisional Round in 2017, while Kansas City beat the Steelers 27-24 in overtime in the wildcard round in 1994.

STATS AND ITEMS: The Steelers have lost three straight playoff games since winning Kansas City in the 2017 Divisional Round. QB Ben Roethlisberger, DL Cam Heyward and K Chris Boswell are the only players remaining from the losing squad against New England the following week in the AFC Championship. … The Chiefs begin the playoffs trying to make their third straight Super Bowl and fourth straight AFC title game. … Roethlisberger will make his 23rd start in the playoffs, tied with Joe Montana for fourth among QBs in NFL history. … Roethlisberger is 13-9 in the playoffs, though his playoff QB rating (86.4) is lower than in the regular season (93.5). … Roethlisberger is 7-3 against the Chiefs, with 18 TD assists and six interceptions. … Pittsburgh RB Najee Harris set a franchise rookie record with 1,200 rushing yards. He had just 28 yards on 11 carries last week against Baltimore after injuring his left elbow in the first quarter. … Pittsburgh’s defense finished last against the run for the first time since the NFL-AFL merger. The Chiefs rushed for 127 yards in the first meeting. … The Steelers finished atop the NFL in sacks for a fifth straight season (55). … The Steelers’ minus-55 point differential is the second-worst in franchise history for a team that made the playoffs. They were minus-61 in 1989 as a wild card at 9-7. This team won on the road in Houston in the first round before falling to Denver. … Pittsburgh led the NFL with 169 points in the fourth quarter, a franchise record. … This is Pittsburgh’s 63rd playoff game, second in the NFL behind Dallas (64). The Steelers are 36-26 in the playoffs, including 6-6 in the wildcard or first round. That includes an overtime loss to Montana and the Chiefs in 1994. … Kansas City has won nine of its last 10 regular season games after a 1-3 start. … The Chiefs are trying to win their fifth straight playoff game at home, extending the franchise record. … Kansas City has allowed 10 or fewer runs in its last five home games. Six games would tie the NFL’s second-longest mark since 1950. … Chiefs coach Andy Reid can pass Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs for the fourth playoff win with his 18th. … Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes is 2-0 against Pittsburgh with nine TD assists and no interceptions. … TE Chiefs Travis Kelce need 17 catches to reach 100 in postseason games. He also needs 8 yards to reach 1000 and one more TD for his 10th. … Chiefs DE Frank Clark has 11 playoff sacks. He needs one to tie Reggie White for fourth most since sacks became an official stat in 1982. … RB chiefs Darrel Williams had a career-high 1,010 scrimmage yards this season. … WR Tyreek Hill finished third in the NFL with a Chiefs record 111 strikes. He had 1,239 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. … Chiefs FS Tyrann Mathieu had at least three interceptions for the third straight season.

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