Can Whitewash Of K.C. WRs Continue?

Chiefs' receivers in the dead zone when it comes to the red zone. Steelers aim to keep it that way.

PITTSBURGH -- The Kansas City Chiefs have used seven true wide receivers this season and they've combined to catch 110 passes for 1,370 yards.

Antonio Brown of the Steelers has caught 115 passes for 1,278 yards.

OK, so the Chiefs have also used rookie running back De'Anthony Thomas as a wide receiver at times, and with him those numbers go up by 14 catches and 81 yards to leave A.B. just a tad behind.

But one number doesn't change, with or without Thomas, and that's touchdowns. The Chiefs are the only team in NFL history to be without a touchdown catch from their wide receivers through 14 games.

Not Dwayne Bowe. Not Donnie Avery. And not newly signed Jason Avant. No one.

"Yeah, we ain't trying to change that," said Steelers cornerback Brice McCain.

McCain is one of the guys the Chiefs just might target to get that elusive touchdown. He's only 5-9 and plays opposite the Steelers' No. 1 defensive playmaker, William Gay.

Gay scored his third touchdown of the season off an interception return last week, but McCain also has one, and he's been playing so well that no one seems to notice him anymore.

Cornerbacks like it like that.

"Yep, and thank you," said the player the Steelers signed cheaply to a one-year contract last April Fool's Day.

But McCain has been anything but a fool for the Steelers this season. Just ask him.

"No, life is good, man. I'm very blessed, very humbled by the situation I'm in right now, and it can only get better," he said.

McCain was a sixth-round pick in 2009 out of Utah, where he lined up at cornerback along with the Chiefs' current shutdown corner, Sean Smith.

Smith was the sleek 6-4 corner with 4.5 speed who was drafted in the second round by the Miami Dolphins. So, opposing teams probably picked on McCain's side instead, right?

"No, they didn't," McCain said. "They didn't go at nobody. Go watch the film."

The film shows a Utah defense that included former Steelers linebacker Stevenson Sylvester, and current NFLers Koa Misi and Paul Kruger.

"We had a lot of people, man," McCain said.

And the record reflects that: The 2008 Utes went undefeated and finished second in the nation. Their season was bookended by wins over Michigan in the opener and Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

And Utah's old bookend corners are now on their second professional teams. The Steelers hope to expose Smith as too tall to cover Brown, and the Chiefs, well, they'd like to score a touchdown against anyone.

McCain will likely start opposite Gay, and move inside to cover the slot receiver in the nickel when Antwon Blake enters the game as a third corner. If McCain plays well and finishes the season strongly, it's likely the Steelers will try to re-sign him before he hits free agency in March.

"Oh, I hope so," he said. "I love it here. I love this place. I'd love to stay."

First things first, though, and that's shutting down Chiefs QB Alex Smith -- another former Utah player.

Have the Steelers' DBs talked about stopping Smith and keeping that goose egg in K.C.'s TD column?

"Not really, but we know. We know," McCain said. "The thing is, they just don't go to their wide receivers in the red zone. They've got good running backs. It's the matchups. They'd rather take the running backs who can play wideout -- good, athletic running backs -- and put them on linebackers. It's how they are. If they're not running the ball they're throwing it to the running backs and tight ends, because they've got tight ends who can beat safeties. It's the matchups."

And that will surely be decided by a Ute.

NOTES -- Sitting out of Thursday's practice for the Steelers were SS Troy Polamalu (knee), TE Matt Spaeth (elbow) and WR Markus Wheaton (illness). CB Ike Taylor (forearm, shoulder) was limited. Polamalu and Spaeth have missed both practices this week.


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