The Chiefs were in need of a shakeup and although their hands were forced, change is exactly what Chiefs Nation got this week when Kansas City claimed former Denver Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton. The addition of Orton was made necessary when starter Matt Cassel had season-ending hand surgery last week. Chiefs head coach Todd Haley and his training staff held out hope for a Cassel return but when it became clear that was out of the question, they pulled the trigger on Orton.
Haley stated multiple times this week that second-string quarterback Tyler Palko would be the starter against the Pittsburgh Steelers for Sunday nights contest but remained noncommittal on Orton's availability. Orton practiced for the first time as a Chief Friday but was listed behind rookie Ricky Stanzi on the unofficial depth chart. Haley did hint, however, that Orton will be suited up and could take Stanzi's spot on the depth chart if Haley is satisfied with Orton's progress. The Chiefs would like Palko to start and finish this game but if the journeyman backup struggles, we may not have to wait for the trip to Chicago next week to see the Chiefs' new quarterback.
It was announced this earlier this week that starting left guard Ryan Lilja will be unavailable due to a head injury sustained during an interception return against the Patriots. Filling in for the veteran Lilja will be Rodney Hudson, the Chiefs' second-round draft selection.
When drafted, the assumption was Hudson would be groomed as the eventual replacement to veteran center Casey Wiegmann. This may end up being the ultimate landing spot for Hudson but in 2011 his value will be on the left side. With Lilja having a sporadic season, a developing Hudson might give Lilja more time to recover than he would even like.
For the first time last week we finally got to see sixth-round draft selection Jerrell Powe. The review was mixed. Although he displayed the strength and power that made him one of the best nose tackle prospects in last April's draft, he also showed why the Chiefs' staff has been reluctant to use him.
The signs pre-Turkey Day pointed up for defensive end Glenn Dorsey playing Sunday night but the Chiefs downgraded Dorsey from full participant Wednesday to limited on Thursday. Dorsey will likely be a game time decision Sunday but expect him to see limited action against the Steelers. With the Chiefs likely suiting up three quarterbacks this week, and a healthy Jon McGraw back to the lineup, it may be tough to find a spot for Powe if Dorsey is a go.
As we have already seen multiple times this season, the Chiefs are again catching a team when they are struggling to get healthy. This week, the Chiefs will host the Steelers who have several key injuries.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a fractured thumb but all indications are that the Pro Bowler will suit up and start Sunday. The Steelers also have some notable defensive players who are nursing injuries. Safety Troy Polamalu has been battling sore ribs and linebacker James Harrison has a bad back but both are believed to be playing Sunday. Linebacker LaMarr Woodley, however, is likely to miss Sunday's game due to a bad hamstring despite being listed as a partial participant in Friday's practice report. Although Pittsburgh is a bit wounded, the Chiefs will need to bring their A game to knock off the heavily favored Steelers.
Offensive Game Plan?
When Charlie Weis left at the end of the 2010 season, the consensus was that adjustments would be made but that Haley, Pioli, and staff would make whatever patches necessary to again field a competitive offense in 2011. Unfortunately, with just six games left in the season, the Chiefs are still struggling to find an identity, or consistency, on the offensive side of the ball. In fairness, the Chiefs have had to make adjustments after losing star Jamaal Charles to season-ending injury in Week 2. But even with similar paralyzing injuries, the defensive side of the ball has made the necessary adjustments.
With the injury to Cassel, the coaching job gets a little harder this week. Even missing Charles, the Chiefs still have the ninth-best rushing offense in the NFL and would be wise to put some faith in running back Jackie Battle, who has proven capable. Once the run is established, the Killer B's will run wild regardless of who is behind center for the Chiefs. But considering the Chiefs lacked faith in their starter Cassel to sling the ball down the field, I can't see the coaching staff turning Palko free, either.
Five To Watch: Chiefs vs. Steelers
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