Pittsburgh Steelers vs Kansas City Chiefs Matchup Preview (12/26/21): Betting Odds, Depth Charts, Live Stream (Watch Online)

Pittsburgh Steelers vs Kansas City Chiefs Matchup Preview (12/26/21)

The sprint to wild card weekend has officially begun in the NFL and few teams are dashing to the finish line faster than the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Kansas City Chiefs. Both teams enter the weekend coming off marquee AFC wins — the Steelers against the Titans and the Chiefs against the Chargers. With a win, the Chiefs look to tighten their grasp on the number 1 seed in the AFC, while the Steelers look to make a push for the AFC North title after week 15 losses by Cleveland and Baltimore have blown the division door wide open. Undoubtedly this game carries some emotional weight for the Steelers as Big Ben Roethlisberger prepares to make one of his final regular season starts as a Steeler. How well this team performs over the next three weeks will ultimately decide whether or not the revered Pittsburgh quarterback will get one more chance to lace up the cleats come January. It’s not going to be an easy task, though, as the Chiefs aim to win their eighth straight game at Arrowhead stadium on Sunday — a place they haven’t lost in over 2 months.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs Kansas City Chiefs Betting Odds

Betting Trends

Steelers are 5-3 ATS this season as underdogs
Steelers are 45-24-3 ATS all time as an underdog under Mike Tomlin
Steelers are 4-5 ATS in their last 9 games
Chiefs are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games
Chiefs are 3-5 ATS at home this season, 3-0 in their last 3
Andy Reid teams are 21-11 straight up and 16-16 ATS when they have extra rest

The Pick

Mike Tomlin as a near double digit underdog on the road has been a cash cow for bettors since the Bush administration. The Steelers defensive backfield, led by cornerbacks Joe Haden and Cameron Sutton, have proven they’re good enough to slow down the Chiefs offense enough to keep it close especially with TJ Watt playing the way he is up front. I do think the Chiefs dual rushing attack with Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Darrel Williams will give them an edge over a Steelers offense that has become increasingly dependent on big plays from Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool. Factoring in the emergence of Kansas City’s scoring defense over the last 6 weeks, I think it’s a lot to ask of Big Ben to go throw for throw with Patrick Mahomes down the stretch especially considering he may be missing his favorite red zone target in Pat Freiermuth. Overall, I like the Chiefs to win and the Steelers to cover in a close game.

My Prediction: Chiefs win 26-23, Steelers cover (+9.5), over hits (46.5)

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TV Schedule

Date: Sunday, December, 26
Time: 4:25 PM ET
Location: Arrowhead Stadium — Kansas City, MO
TV Coverage: CBS

Pittsburgh Steelers vs Kansas City Chiefs Live Stream

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Injuries

Pittsburgh Steelers: DE Stephon Tuitt (Knee) O, WR Juju Smith-Schuster (Shoulder) O, DE Tyson Alualu (Fractured Ankle) O, TE Eric Ebron (Knee) O, NT Chris Wormley (Groin) Q, TE Pat Freiermuth (Concussion) Q, OL Kevin Dotson (Ankle) O
Kansas City Chiefs: NT Chris Jones (COVID-19) O, DB L’Jarius Snead (Personal) Q, RB Jerick McKinnon (Hamstring) O, WR Josh Gordon (COVID-19) O, WR Jamire Jordan (Undisclosed) Q

Pittsburgh Steelers Analysis

How’s this for a stat — the Pittsburgh Steelers are the only team in the NFL with a winning record to rank in the bottom 12 of the league in both offensive and defensive yards per game (YPG). For a team whose brand has historically been defined by dynamic running backs and ruthless defensive lines, they have the second worst rushing offense in the NFL and the second worst rushing defense, averaging just 84.6 yards a game while allowing over 143. It should be noted that the defensive yards per game stats factor in games where TJ Watt was injured and, after last week’s performance against the Titans, it’s inarguable that this defense is a completely different animal with him in the lineup. How his individual presence manifests itself into team success against the run, however, still remains a big question for this team as the Steelers prepare to go up against some of the league’s most dynamic rushing attacks in Cleveland and Baltimore to close out the season.

In the passing game, the Steelers are averaging 232.9 yards a game which is good enough for 13th in the league despite missing Juju Smith-Schuster due to a shoulder injury. Diontae Johnson has become Big Ben’s primary target this year with over 1,000 receiving yards on the season. Tight end Pat Freiermuth is questionable to play with a concussion and his absence could be a difference maker in the red zone where he’s accumulated seven touchdowns this season — more than any other Steeler receiver.

Situationally, the Steelers have the 13th best third down defense, 12th best red zone defense, and the second best fourth quarter offense. Their above average marks in each of these categories could explain why they’ve been able to win so many games they’ve been outgained in this season.

Pittsburgh Steelers Depth Chart

QB: Ben Roethlisberger
RB1: Najee Harris
RB2: Benny Snell Jr
RB3: Kalen Ballage
WR1: James Washington
WR2: Chase Claypool
WR3: Diontae Johnson
TE1: Pat Freiermuth

Kansas City Chiefs Analysis

After starting the season 3-4 and occupying the last place position in the AFC West for the first third of the season, the Chiefs have rallied to win seven straight with 4 of their last 5 wins coming by 10 points or more. They have the third best yards per game passing offense in the NFL and the sixth best scoring offense. Only Justin Herbert and Tom Brady have more yards through the air this season than Patrick Mahomes and no quarterback is averaging more yards per game on the road than Mahomes. Tyreek Hill has remained Mahomes’ number one target this season with the second most receptions and fourth most receiving yards in the NFL. Travis Kelce, similarly, is having another hall of fame year with 1,066 yards receiving on the season.

Their defense, which was the laughing stock of the league for the first half of the season, has come alive in recent weeks — allowing just 13.6 points a game over their last 6 games. They’ll be missing their star nose tackle, Chris Jones, this weekend due to COVID-19 which is a huge break for the Steelers who have struggled on the offensive line at times this season. The Chiefs have struggled most defending the pass this season where they rank fifth to last in the NFL in yards per game.

The Chiefs have the 20th best red zone defense, 17th best red zone offense, and 10th best fourth quarter offense. Between averaging nearly an interception a game and ranking 15th in the league in yards per point, the Chiefs don’t do themselves too many favors in getting easy scores, though the tide is beginning to turn on this over the last four games as they’ve gotten numerous defensive scores.

Kansas City Chiefs Depth Chart

QB: Patrick Mahomes
RB1: Clyde Edwards-Helaire
RB2: Darrel Williams
WR1: Mecole Hardman
WR2: Tyreek Hill
TE1: Travis Kelce

Pittsburgh Steelers vs Kansas City Chiefs Fantasy Picks

In a game that’s going to see a lot of passing attempts from both teams, I like Steelers WR James Washington to have a breakout performance. The Chiefs have struggled to defend teams with multiple weapons on the perimeter all season, and, without Pat Freiermuth at Tight End, I like Washington to get even more targets than usual. The WR is currently listed at $3,700 on DraftKings and $5,200 on FanDuel.

As a central Ohio native and lifelong Cleveland sports fan, Patrick Monnin has lived the emotional rollercoaster every sports fan knows all too well. Whether it be the Browns or the Buckeyes, he loves watching football and going on nice long runs in the afternoon. In the local Chicago area, where he now lives, he can often be found making the case for LeBron James as the greatest basketball player ever.

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