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11-22-2009, 02:23 AM
Game 10 Matchup: Steelers vs. Chiefs
Sunday, November 22, 2009
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Game plan

When the Chiefs have the ball: QB Matt Cassel has had to run an offense that lost its top running back and wide receiver. Not surprisingly, the Chiefs have had little offensive production, managing more than 20 points just once in the past eight games. Cassel ranks last in the AFC with a 5.7 yards per attempt average and has been sacked an AFC-high 29 times. It will not help that WR Dwayne Bowe (33 catches, 466 yards), has been suspended for four games for violating the league's substance abuse policy. That means that two of the Chiefs' top three receivers, Chris Chambers and Lance Long, are players who weren't on the 53-man roster four weeks ago. Jamaal Charles has replaced Larry Johnson as the featured back and had 103 yards on 18 carries last week against the Raiders. The Steelers will be without two starters --- S Troy Polamalu (knee) and DE Travis Kirschke (calf).

When the Steelers have the ball: The Chiefs struggle against the run and the pass, ranking 27th and 24th, respectively in the league. Despite the presence of two former No. 1 picks at defensive end -- Glenn Dorsey (fifth overall in 2008) and rookie Tyson Jackson (third in 2009) -- they have allowed an average of 152.3 yards rushing in the past six games. Rashard Mendenhall carried only 13 times for 36 yards in last week's loss vs. the Bengals, his lowest total since becoming a starter. Even though they have the second-fewest sacks in the NFL (12), the Chiefs will try to apply pressure to Ben Roethlisberger, similar to what the Bengals did last week when they sacked him four times and forced him into countless other bad throws. Their lack of pressure is one of the reasons their secondary has been susceptible to big plays. S Mike Brown had two interceptions and four passes defensed last week' against the Raiders, but that was against JaMarcus Russell and Bruce Gradkowski.

Keep your eye on
OLB Tamba Hali: The Chiefs have switched to a 3-4 defese under new coordinator Clancy Pendergast, and one of the main benefactors has been Hali, a former Penn State star who has been shifted from defensive end. Hali is the prototype 3-4 outside linebacker because he has the size (6-foot-3, 270), speed and explosiveness suited for the position. He leads the team with 31/2 sacks, seven pressures and two forced fumbles. As a rookie in 2006, he had 10 tackles and two forced fumbles in his only appearance against the Steelers.

The Steelers had their five-game winning streak ended by the Bengals last week, but they have won their past two road games. The Steelers are 9-4 in Kansas City and own a 17-8 all-time mark against the Chiefs. This is the first time Roethlisberger will play in Arrowhead Stadium. The only other AFC venue in which he has not played is Buffalo. The Chiefs are coming off a 16-10 victory in Oakland, but they are 0-4 at home. They have averaged just 13.3 points in those four home games.

To win, the Chiefs must ...
1. Give Jamaal the ball. Charles needs to get yards against a defense that is No. 1 in the league against the run.

2. Chop, chop ... start faster. They have scored only 12 points in the first quarter while the Steelers have allowed an NFL-low 15 points.

3. Not lay down the welcome Matt. Cassel has been sacked an AFC-high 29 times and knows what it's like to be harried by the Steelers.

To win, the Steelers must ...

1. Go deep, Roethlisberger needs to rediscover the big pass play, especially against a team that has allowed 12 passes of 40 yards or longer.

2. Kick the habit. The Steelers have allowed three kickoff returns for TDs in the past four games That is good news for Charles (23.4 yards per return).

3. Max protect. The Chiefs have only 12 sacks, but it will be up to LT Max Starks to keep Hali, their top rush threat, away from Roethlisberger.

Gerry Dulac can be reached at gdulac@post-gazette.com.

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