Playoff Atmosphere At Heinz Field

Winner of Steelers' MVP Award could go to whichever 'triplet' comes through to beat the Kansas City Chiefs.

Antonio Brown leads the NFL in receiving yards.

Ben Roethlisberger is second in passing yards.

Le'Veon Bell is second in rushing yards.

Who's the MVP of these 9-5 Pittsburgh Steelers?

"The one that gets us the win this week," said offensive coordinator Todd Haley. "I will go with that one."

Haley called today's 1 p.m. game against the 8-6 Kansas City Chiefs "the biggest game of the season" because the Steelers can clinch their first playoff berth since 2011 with a win. And it will take an MVP-type effort from one of the three "triplets" to grind out a win against the 8-6 Kansas City Chiefs and their eighth-ranked defense.

Considering that the Chiefs allow 4.9 yards per carry and are 28th in run defense, logic would follow that the key Steelers player is Bell. But, of course, it's always about the quarterback.

The last team to have three different players finish in the top five in the NFL in receiving, rushing and passing yardage was the 2001 St. Louis Rams, and quarterback Kurt Warner was voted league MVP that season.

So it's on Roethlisberger.

"The last couple of games have been playoff games for us," Roethlisberger said. "We’ve had to take that approach and that mindset because of how important every game was where we were record-wise, seed-wise whatever you want to call it. We’ve kind of had that mentality for the last couple of weeks that it’s time to get hot and play our best football. So we’re just going to continue to try to do that."

The Steelers have won six of their last eight games and their last two to put themselves in position to not only clinch a playoff berth, but win the AFC North Division title outright. The Cincinnati Bengals hold a half-game lead over the Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, and the Bengals visit Heinz Field next Sunday after hosting the Denver Broncos on Monday night.

But ...

"It’s all about this game -- obviously -- first," Roethlisberger said. "It’s nice to have it at home and to play in the front of our fans. The last time that we were here we lost and that’s a bad taste in our mouth. So we want to be better at home for our fans and for all of us."

Roethlisberger is on pace for the best season of his 11-year career. He's already broken his own record for passing yardage in a season and is on pace to break his team records for completions, completion percentage, and touchdown passes. And at 103.4, Roethlisberger's also within range of breaking his team passer-rating record of 104.1.

But the Chiefs and their vicious pass rush loom. The last time Roethlisberger was hit by Justin Houston -- the NFL's co-leader with 17 sacks -- Roethlisberger had to worry about a loosened rib puncturing his aorta. So records are the last thing on his mind.

As for Brown, he needs two more receiving yards to break his own team record set last year. Brown's on pace for 1,712 yards, which would be the sixth-best in NFL history behind Calvin Johnson's 1,964 in 2012. Brown also leads the NFL in receptions with 115 and is on pace to finish with 131, which would be the second-most in NFL history behind Marvin Harrison's 143 in 2002.

No Steelers player has ever led the NFL in receptions, and the last to lead the NFL in receiving yardage was Roy Jefferson with 1,074 in 1968.

A Steelers player hasn't won a rushing title in 68 years and that's unlikely to change this season since Bell, at 1,278 yards, is 409 behind NFL leader DeMarco Murray.

The last and only Steelers player to lead the NFL in passing yardage was Jim Finks with 2,270 in 1955. Roethlisberger has a chance to break that drought if he throws for 78 more yards than Andrew Luck over these final two games.

But hauling in these statistical baubles won't be easy with the Chiefs up next.

"They have a very good defense, probably the best we’ve seen this year," said Haley. "We need to have everybody on point and doing their job, and executing at a high level against a defense like this that can do a lot of different things to hurt you. They have two of the best pass rushers in the game in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. They have a very good secondary. They have some big, run-stopping dudes inside in Dontari Poe and Allen Bailey. We have our work cut out for us. We probably have to play our best game."

The matchup on the other side of the ball might be just as even.

The Steelers defense is 19th in the league overall and 25th against the pass, and will probably be without strong safety Troy Polamalu and cornerback Ike Taylor.

The Chiefs have the 22nd-ranked offense but do bring the seventh-ranked running game that' led by a pair of sprinters,in Jamaal Charles (5.2 per carry) and Knile Davis (3.6). They've combined to gain 1,388 yards on the ground, 373 through the air, and have scored 21 touchdowns.

Kansas City tight ends Travis Kelce and Anthony Fasano are quarterback Alex Smith's secondary weapons with 80 combined catches for nine touchdowns, while the WR corps led by Dwayne Bowe has failed to score a touchdown through 14 games, a first in NFL history.

James Harrison returns today for the Steelers off a two-game absence and hopes to take advantage of a K.C. offense line that's allowed 39 sacks, or one more than its vaunted pass-rushing unit has produced.

From all angles, it figures to be a close struggle with much at stake for both teams.

It's almost as if the playoffs were beginning today at Heinz Field.

"You have to take that mindset," said Roethlisberger.

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