Key Match-ups: Steelers-Chiefs

Neal Coolong examines the key match-ups in today's game between the World Champion Pittsburgh Steelers and the Kansas City Chiefs.

OLB James Harrison vs. LT Branden Albert

It wasn't long ago the Steelers (or at least Jim Wexell) coveted the highly athletic Albert, a guard and tackle at the University of Virginia. Kansas City traded DE Jared Allen to the Vikings, and acquired their first round pick, and with it, Albert. It's not unfair at this point to say Albert has been a disappointment. He is a part of a Chiefs offensive line that has been abysmal so far this season, but Albert's ceiling is very high, and his athleticism could give Pittsburgh's pass rush trouble.

Kansas City has struggled in run blocking and pass protection, and it's a solid bet Harrison's ears will be pinned back to rush QB Matt Cassel, whom last year he sacked twice in New England, forcing two fumbles. Albert will likely get help, and it wouldn't be a shock to see the Chiefs run screens and draws behind Albert to try to negate Harrison's disruptive pass rush.

RB/KR Jamaal Charles vs. James Farrior and Donovan Woods

Charles presents a challenge for the Steelers in three phases; rushing, receiving and kick returns. While the battle between the Chiefs and Larry Johnson ended last week, Charles' promotion to full time starter paid immediate dividends. He cranked out a 44-yard touchdown run against Oakland in Week 10 – Kansas City's first rushing TD of the year. It was his first game this season with more than nine touches, and he responded with 117 total yards. He has elite speed, and Kansas City is going to have to utilize him in space in the flats if they wish to have any chance in this game.

Farrior is playing at a Pro Bowl level against the run and the pass. A step slower than ILB Lawrence Timmons, he would likely become more of Cassel's target in the passing game, should he read outside blitzes from the Steelers. Woods was promoted from the practice squad for the sake of special teams – an area in which Pittsburgh is struggling mightily. Woods will have to be the catalyst, much like he was in certain spots last season. Charles hasn't been overly impressive in the return game this year (23.4 yards per kick return), but that hasn't seemed to help Pittsburgh much this year.

CB Ike Taylor vs. WR Chris Chambers

Teams have been gunning for Taylor this season, and while he's mostly hung in tough, his opponents have caught 42 passes against him (5th most in the NFL) and quarterbacks are completing over 62 percent of passes to the receiver Taylor is covering, and they're averaging 12.8 yards per completion. These stats don't necessarily reflect the Steelers' overall defensive body of work, of which Taylor is a big part of the NFL's second-ranked overall defense.

Chambers is breathing a little life into the flatlined Kansas City offense. In the two games he's been there since being released by San Diego, Chambers has 130 yards and two touchdowns. With the recent suspension of WR Dwayne Bowe, Chambers has to step up even more to help propel the beleaguered Chiefs passing game.

RT Willie Colon vs. LE Tyson Jackson

Colon is regarded as one of the better right tackles in the league, and is having an excellent year in terms of pass protection. Against Kansas City, it's a good bet Pittsburgh will want to run behind Colon, who appears to have a large advantage over the rookie Jackson.

Kansas City is allowing 141 yards per game on the ground, and Jackson, the third overall pick out of LSU, looks like the first-year player he is. Colon, and LG Chris Kemoeatu pulling, will look to key off Jackson to boost RBs Rashard Mendenhall and Willie Parker (who looks to see action every third series) to big games.

The Coolong Scorecard
Steelers Unit Chiefs
x Quarterback  
x Running backs  
x Offensive line  
x Wide receivers  
x Tight ends  
x Defensive line  
x Linebackers  
x Defensive backs  
  Special teams x

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