Run the ball

Pittsburgh continues not to strike the balance on offense it professes, and some believe it has cost them some in their passing game as well.

The Steelers' ratio is almost 60-40 pass-run after they ran only 18 times in an 18-12 loss to Cincinnati last Sunday. As a result, their play-action passing has been hurt and their big pass plays have plummeted.

"It's just the way things have been going," wide receiver Santonio Holmes said. "If we maybe run the ball a little more in the last game those big plays open up for us."

Of the Steelers' seven pass plays of 40 yards or more, none have come in the past two games. They tried several against Cincinnati but the only positive yardage they got out of it was one pass interference penalty.

"Minnesota started it," wide receiver Hines Ward said of their Oct. 25 game. "They're a cover 2 team and really don't give up a lot of big plays." Others have followed with that kind of defense, Ward claimed.

Coach Mike Tomlin said the deep passes that Ben Roethlisberger underthrew against the Bengals were not the result of pressure up the middle or anything Cincinnati did to prevent them.

"No, I just think they were misconnects," Tomlin said. "That happens from time to time. I'm sure that Ben will bounce back, as will we."

Roethlisberger had his lowest passer rating of the season, 51.5, against the Bengals.

Kansas City has the NFL's 27th-ranked run defense and the Steelers believe they can get their 17th-ranked run offense finally untracked Sunday.

"That's what our big emphasis is this week, to get some run plays in there," guard Chris Kemoeatu said.

The Steelers ranked only 23rd running the ball last season, their second-lowest ranking since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. They had been doing better this season behind Rashard Mendenhall, but took a big step backward against Cincinnati, particularly in their commitment to the run.

"We definitely have to get better, but for whatever reason it just didn't happen," Ward said. "We're going to stay the course and not hit the panic button. There's still a lot of football left."

Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians has come under heavy criticism from fans as he birthed the Steelers through a new offensive philosophy, basically from a run-dominated team to one that passes more often behind Roethlisberger.

Pittsburgh has a long history of running the ball. Despite Arians directing an offense to a Super Bowl victory, he is perhaps the least popular coach in town. Yet Roethlisberger loves him and it's doubtful Tomlin will make any change there in the offseason.

The Steelers' offense has entered a new world and like it or not, it's one where they will pass more often than run.

SERIES HISTORY: 26th regular-season meeting. Steelers lead series 17-8. They are 9-4 in Kansas City, not counting their loss there in their only playoff game between the teams. Pittsburgh beat the Chiefs 45-7 in their most recent game at Heinz Field in 2006. This will be the ninth time in their past 10 meetings that these teams will play in Kansas City.


* Fans have been all over kicker Jeff Reed for missing tackles on two kickoff returns that went for touchdowns against the Steelers this season.

"Man, I am not going to go down to evaluating Jeff Reed as a tackler," coach Mike Tomlin said. "When it comes down to that, we have failed as a coverage unit. I don't lose any sleep on the quality of Jeff Reed's tackles -- or tackle attempts."

* The last time the Steelers played against a Clancy Pendergast-coached defense, they drove 88 yards to victory in Super Bowl XLIII. "I'm pretty sure he wants to go out and put on a better showing than what they did in the Super Bowl," Hines Ward said.

* PETA gave the thumbs up to the Steelers and Heinz Field this week. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals named Heinz one of the best vegetarian-friendly stadiums in the NFL. The Steelers came in third behind Oakland and San Francisco.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 -- The number of rushing touchdowns by the Kansas City Chiefs and the number the Steelers rush defense is ranked in the NFL.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I just look at those people like they don't know what they're talking about." -- K Jeff Reed, responding to criticism that he did not try hard enough to make a tackle Sunday on a kickoff return.


The Steelers released backup LB Arnold Harrison and signed LB Donovan Woods from their practice squad, in the interest of improving their kickoff coverage. They signed LB Curtis Gatewood of Vanderbilt to their practice squad.


* SS Troy Polamalu wore a large brace on his left knee and almost surely will not play Sunday against the Chiefs. He has a strained PCL.

* RB Willie Parker said he should be more involved in the offense Sunday. He has only two carries in the past three games.

* WR Hines Ward has only 71 yards receiving in the past three games after his 159-yard game Oct. 18 against Cleveland.

* TE Heath Miller is off to his best season with 47 receptions, but his average is at an all-time low of 8.4 yards. He has only 82 yards on 13 catches in the past three games.

* S Tyrone Carter will make his sixth start in 10 games, this one at SS for Troy Polamalu. He has played nearly eight full games because Polamalu was hurt early in two other games.

GAME PLAN: The Steelers hope to jump to an early lead and then grind away at Kansas City's 27th-ranked run defense. On defense, they will go after Matt Cassel, who has been sacked 29 times. The Steelers really do not want to give up cheap touchdowns because they believe that is the only way they can lose to the Chiefs. They've allowed touchdown returns of one sort or another in seven straight games.


* Chiefs LT Branden Albert vs. Steelers ROLB James Harrison. Albert, a first-round pick in 2008, is struggling. Harrison has nine sacks.

* Chiefs KR Jamaal Charles vs. Steelers kickoff team. Pittsburgh's coverage unit has allowed three TDs in the past four games.

* Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall vs. Chiefs run defense. Mendenhall, who has 564 yards in the past six games, goes up against the NFL's No. 27 rush defense.

INJURY IMPACT: With Troy Polamalu (knee) out, Tyrone Carter will make his fifth start at strong safety this season. Left DE Travis Kirschke was limited in practice Wednesday but likely will miss his third straight game. Nick Eason replaces him.

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