Game Day Matchups

Neal Coolong breaks down the top matchups in tonight's Steelers-Chiefs game.

RB Rashard Mendenhall vs. LB Derrick Johnson

Kansas City is struggling to stop the run, and the insertion of the athletic Doug Legursky at left guard suggests the Steelers plan to get Mendenhall out on the edge, where he does his damage. It's not a coincidence the Steelers' biggest running plays this year have been to the right, behind the pulling left guard. After a few weeks of a mainly passing attack, expect the Steelers to establish the run, and Mendenhall to have a big game.

Johnson is the main threat preventing that big game. Quietly having a Pro Bowl-caliber season, Johnson is a three-down linebacker who supports the run as well as any player in the game. He's also adept at coverage, but his main task Sunday night will be to fill gaps, and contain Mendenhall when he goes outside.

LG Doug Legursky vs. DE Glenn Dorsey

The Steelers haven't had many games in which both Chris Kemoeatu and Legursky have been healthy, but the running game has been markedly better when Legursky has been at left guard. The Steelers rush for 6.2 yards a carry in Week 5 against Tennessee and 4.4 yards a carry in Week 6 against Jacksonville, with Legursky starting at left guard in both games. He's missed the last four games, and the Steelers haven't rushed for more than 102 yards in a game in that time.

Dorsey missed the Chiefs' Week 11 game at New England with a knee injury and is listed as questionable for this game. He's part of a unit allowing 136 yards a game on the ground (27th in the NFL), and Dorsey (built more as a UT in a 4-3 defense) has been pushed around at the line of scrimmage at times this year. He's still one of the better run defenders in their front seven, and can cause problems with his quickness.

LOLB Jason Worilds vs. RT Barry Richardson

Worilds will replace LaMarr Woodley for the third straight week, but the Steelers shouldn't drop off in terms of success in their pass rush. Richardson struggles in pass protection, and Worilds can be expected to bring a fair amount of pressure (Richardson protects left-handed QB Tyler Palko's blind side). Look for the Chiefs to target the inexperienced Worilds in the run game.

That's more in line with Richardson's skill set; what he lacks in pass protection he makes up in run blocking. Worilds has been swallowed up in run support at times this season, against Cincinnati in Week 10 in particular. He is having a tough time shedding taller tackles, but he's done well rushing the passer.

TE Heath Miller and LT Max Starks vs. ROLB Tamba Hali

Hali got a big contract extension this offseason for a reason. He's one of the few bright spots on an injury-ravaged Chiefs roster, and they use him as if they don't have many other options. Hali and the Chiefs took a few pages out of the Steelers' game plan against New England in Week 11, bringing Hali off the edge and on stunt blitzes over the center. He's athletic and disciplined, putting him at or near the top of the short list of best outside linebackers in the game.

Miller will likely be asked to help with Hali for much of this game. He's one of the best blocking tight ends in football and the Steelers have an advantage in the passing game even without him running routes. Delayed rushes, stunts inside, Hali does a lot of what Ravens OLB/DE Terrell Suggs does. LT Starks handled Suggs well when the Steelers last played Baltimore in Week 9 because he expected Suggs to vary the timing of his rush. He'll need more heady play like that to help contain Hali.


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