KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (1-7)
at PITTSBURGH STEELERS (5-3)
Kickoff: Monday, 8:30 p.m. EDT
Line: Pittsburgh -12, Total: 42
The surging Steelers seek a fourth straight victory on Monday night when they host a Chiefs team that has dropped five in a row.
At this point, the Chiefs are just looking to not get embarrassed. They turned it over four more times in their 31-13 loss at San Diego last Thursday night, giving them 29 giveaways on the season. QB Matt Cassel, who will start in place of injured Brady Quinn (concussion), has committed 18 turnovers in his seven games. The Steelers have dominated their last three opponents offensively, two of them among the league’s most high-powered teams (Washington and New York Giants). They’ve allowed 207 total YPG during their three-game winning streak. Offensively, they’ve been excellent on third downs all season, converting a league-leading 51.3%.
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The Chiefs have not held a single lead during regulation this year, as their lone win came in overtime. They haven't surpassed 20 points in any of their past five games, scoring just 65 points (13.0 PPG) over this stretch. They have also failed to gain 300 yards in any of their past three contests. Cassel has a dreadful 68.9 passer rating this year, throwing for 6 TD and 11 INT. But he did have a strong game against the Steelers the only time he's faced them wearing a Chiefs uniform, completing 15-of-30 passes for 248 yards, 2 TD and 0 INT in 2009. But for Kansas City to have any shot at winning this, RB Jamaal Charles will need a huge workload. In Week 5 against another AFC North team, Baltimore, he carried the ball 31 times for 140 yards. But in three games since, he has just 29 attempts combined for 83 yards (2.9 YPC). Head coach Romeo Crennel shed his defensive coordinator role earlier this week, leaving Gary Gibbs in charge of the league's third-worst scoring defense (30.0 PPG). The Chiefs are actually above average in passing defense (222 YPG, ranked 11th), but have surrendered 126 rushing YPG (23rd in NFL). In addition to Crennel leaving his DC post, Kansas City also parted ways with CB Stanford Routt, waiving him just eight games after signing him to a 3-year, $18M deal. He will be replaced by Javier Arenas, who has been upgraded to probable despite a head injury. The news isn't so good for DE Glenn Dorsey (calf), who is doubtful for Monday night.
The Steelers are riding high after erasing a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit in last week's 24-20 win over the Giants. Pittsburgh remained the NFL's top defense (263 total YPG) by allowing minus-9 yards in fourth quarter, a time when New York QB Eli Manning usually takes over. Great second-half defense is nothing new for the Steelers, who have given up just 5.0 PPG after halftime during their three-game win surge. On the offensive side of the ball, the Steelers have been winning with a surprising running game that has averaged 155 YPG in the past three games, more than doubling the 75 rushing YPG from their first five contests. Isaac Redman rumbled for 147 yards on 26 carries (5.7 YPC) last week with both Jonathan Dwyer (quad) and Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles) out. Pittsburgh expects all three backs to play on Monday, and head coach Mike Tomlin says that he'll simply use whichever rusher is most effective. Although QB Ben Roethlisberger won't have the services of starting WR Antonio Brown (ankle), he should still find success through the air. He has thrown for 2,203 yards (7.4 YPA), 16 TD and 4 INT so far this season. Although he was held to 193 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT in last year's 13-9 win in K.C., he has been unstoppable at Heinz Field. In his past 16 home games, Roethlisberger has tossed 31 TD and just 6 INT (104.6 passer rating).