Chiefs Season Preview: Week #6 Steelers

The last time Chiefs head coach Herman Edwards visited Heinz Field, he watched helplessly as kicker Doug Brien failed to convert on two game-winning field goal attempts. That was two years ago when Edwards was the coach of the New York Jets.

This season he makes his return to Pittsburgh to play against a Steelers team that is coming off their fifth Super Bowl win in franchise history.

The Chiefs should expect a tough, physical game from the Steelers. They have protected their home field over the last several years with a 29-10-1 record at Heinz Field since 2001. The Chiefs aren't exactly a team that has a history of success playing in the northeast.

If the Chiefs are to get a win against the defending champions, they may need kicker Lawrence Tynes to come through with a late field goal. If that is the case, you better believe Edwards will have some horrifying flashbacks of Doug Brien missing those two kicks.


When former offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey left to take the Buffalo Bills' head coaching job in 2004, many people felt the Steelers' offense would slip. After all, Bill Cowher is a defensive-minded coach and prefers a more conservative approach. Mularkey was the guy that loosened Cowher up, and the Steelers would have a difficult time replacing him, right?

Enter new offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, the man who oversaw one of the more impressive offensive seasons in the Cowher era in 2005. Whisenhunt was a brilliant play-caller and did a phenomenal job in taking advantage of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's skills.

He put Roethlisberger in position to make plays and gave him the necessary freedom to make his own decisions and to "learn on the fly."

Even though Roethlisberger had a tendency to get flustered after making a few bad plays, he was able to regain his composure with a short passing game and a steady running game.

Throw in the occasional gadget play and a sure-handed group of receivers, and it's easy to see why the Steelers were so successful on offense.

The key to Pittsburgh's offense has always been the first two downs. When the Steelers are able to gain positive yardage and leave themselves with third-and-short situations, they've been successful. That's why it will be critical for the Chiefs' defense to play strong against the run on first and second down. The Steelers have several options in those third-and-short situations, one of them being tight end Heath Miller, a second-year player who caught six touchdown passes last season. He quickly earned the trust of Roethlisberger and figures to become a bigger part of the offense this season.

Only one receiver found the endzone more, and that was Hines Ward. You can't talk about Pittsburgh's offense without mentioning Ward, who is one of the most underrated players in the league despite putting up consistent numbers throughout his career.

The Steelers lost versatile receiver Antwaan Randle-El to the Redskins in the off-season, and will look to first-round draft pick Santonio Holmes to fill his shoes. Holmes is a speedster and will run a lot of deep routes in Whisenhunt's offense. His ability to stretch the field should open things up for running back Willie Parker, now the full-time starter after Jerome Bettis' retirement.

Parker is as energetic a running back as you'll see in the league, and the Chiefs will have to make sure they do a better job of tackling him than they did against Tiki Barber last year. The Chiefs ability to limit his outside runs will be critical, because that's where Parker does most of his damage.


Last season, the Chiefs struggled against blitz-heavy teams like San Diego, Denver, and Washington. The Steelers' defense under coordinator Dick LeBeau fits that same mold, and you better believe that quarterback Trent Green will be expecting pressure from every direction.

LeBeau loves to create that pressure with the linebackers in his 3-4 base defense, and the Steelers certainly don't have any shortage of talent at the position.

The best of the bunch is right outside linebacker Joey Porter, who led the team with 10.5 sacks last season. Two of his teammates, linebackers Larry Foote and Clark Haggans, combined for 12 sacks of their own.

LeBeau wouldn't be able to employ so many blitz schemes if not for a disciplined secondary that is capable of playing multiple zone coverages. Most of the credit (OK, all of it) has to go to All-Pro strong safety Troy Polamalu.

The fiery, head-hunting safety is a brilliant in-the-box player, but also possesses unbelievable coverage skills. He's got quick reaction time and there's just no fooling him. He's a ball hawk and always seems to come up with the big play when his team needs it. Simply put, he's the Albert Pujols of defense – easily becoming the most recognizable defensive player in the league. Clearly, he's a player that you can't lose sight of. Yes, he's that good.

If there's one area where Pittsburgh's defense struggles, it's their tendency to overpursue. That's always the Achilles' heel of a team that tries to blitz and pressure on almost every down. The Chiefs can beat some of Pittsburgh's bring-the-house blitzes by calling some misdirection running plays and by running some screens to the outside.

The ability to establish the running game early would also be a huge benefit, as it would make the play-action passing game that much more effective.


This game will probably be the toughest test the Chiefs face all season. Beating Pittsburgh on the road would easily be their best road win since 2000 (the last time they beat the Broncos in Denver).

If the Chiefs are to have any chance at all, they'll have to control the clock and keep turnovers to a minimum. The Steelers aren't the type of team that will beat themselves. They like to play field position and will rely on their defense to come up with some turnovers (they forced 30 in 2005).

The Chiefs should, at the very least, realize just how far along they've come since new head coach Herman Edwards took over. This is a game that the Chiefs wouldn't have a chance at winning last year under former coach Dick Vermeil.

The Chiefs must improve their play on the road in 2006 if they hope to have any chance at competing for a Super Bowl. A win at one of the league's toughest venues would give them instant credibility. Top Stories