KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Pittsburgh Steelers rookie running back Najee Harris is having a standout season with 1,200 rushing yards, seven touchdowns and he’s also shown to be lethal in the passing game.
The Steelers will need his efforts more than ever on Sunday.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been having a below-average year on his potential farewell tour.
Quick throws have been the name of the game for Pittsburgh with receivers Diontae Johnson (107 catches, 1,167 yards, 8 TDs) and Chase Claypool (59 catches, 860 yards, 2 TDs) being the benefactors of the passing game.
But keeping Roethlisberger standing upright is the challenge.
In the Week 16 Steelers-Chiefs matchup, the Chiefs got two sacks and two quarterback hits on Big Ben. The Steelers are also ranked among the worst teams in the league in pass blocking.
That’s why the Steelers must rely on their run game. And with the Chiefs’ recent struggle with tackling, they’ll need to get that in check.
“Certainly, we want to be playing better than we did the last two games. I think we all agree with that, and hopefully know that what we’re faced with is no margin for error now,” defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said.
“We talked about that on Tuesday. That was the first thing we talked about. So you prepare from now until the time you kick it off to eliminate as many mistakes as possible. Hopefully, we’ll do that.”
While the Pittsburgh offensive line is also ranked as one of the worst run-blocking lines in the league, the Chiefs are one of the worst at stopping the run as well.
In the last game, Harris rushed for 93 yards on 19 carries though most of it came in garbage time. In the playoffs, the Steelers have been known in the past to grind it out on the ground.
That’s what Spagnuolo is getting the Chiefs’ defense ready for.
“We know this is a good football team, we know this is a good offense, we know this is a great quarterback with weapons, they can run the football. We’re not taking anything for granted,” Spagnuolo said.
“And hopefully we’ll play that way because we certainly need the top of our game defensively to help our organization move on to the next week.”