To read my Trib column on yesterday’s Steelers victory, click HERE. But this is the last paragraph:
“Eventually, the Steelers have to win playoff games. If they don’t, the season is a total disaster. In fact, if the Steelers don’t play Kansas City in the AFC Championship Game, one (or both) of those teams will have disappointed mightily.”
That’s undeniably true from both sides of that coin.
The Steelers and Chiefs have distanced themselves from the AFC pack, especially with Baltimore stumbling so badly. If the Steelers beat the Ravens Thursday, Baltimore will be mathematically out of the race to win the AFC North. Wow.
The Steelers will defeat the Ravens. Lamar Jackson has been figured out. Make him throw. He can’t.
Kansas City QB Patrick Mahomes has not been figured out.
The video below shows Mahomes doing some terrifying things in Kansas City’s Sunday night win over Las Vegas. Mahomes has terrifying stats, too, most notably a league-high 3,035 yards passing to go with 27 touchdowns vs. just two interceptions.
It’s disgraceful that Ben Roethlisberger isn’t in the discussion for NFL MVP. But he’s light years behind Mahomes in every category besides savvy.
To beat Kansas City, the Steelers have to keep Mahomes off the field. The Steelers rank third among NFL teams in possession time at 32:10 per game, but that’s despite a scattershot running attack that might be needed to step up against the Chiefs. (But James Conner is eighth in the NFL with 645 rushing yards, which seems shockingly high.)
The best bet to limit Mahomes is to drop seven and rush four. Make Mahomes go through his reads. Test his football IQ, not his arm and athleticism.
But the Steelers won’t be willing to do that. Their defense is fast and aggressive, and Coach Mike Tomlin will refuse to compromise that.
Can the Steelers win a shootout against Kansas City? It may come to that. The Chiefs’ defense isn’t great. It ranks 15th in yardage allowed, seventh in points.
Thumbnail via Getty Images