Steelers at Chiefs: 4 bold predictions for NFL playoff game

Matt Johnson

The Kansas City Chiefs begin their road to their third consecutive Super Bowl appearance with a Sunday Night Football matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers on NFL Wild Card Weekend.

Kansas City is looking to accomplish something that Reid has done once before, play in four consecutive conference championship games. Standing in Reid and Patrick Mahomes’ way in the Steelers at Chiefs matchup is Ben Roethlisberger trying to fight off Father Time a little longer for one last playoff run.

Steelers at Chiefs odds, game information and line

DateTime (EST)TV
Sunday, January 168:15 PMNBC
  • Steelers at Chiefs point spread: Chiefs -13.0
  • Over/under: 46.5 points
  • Money line: Chiefs (-700), Steelers (+500)

Down below we offer four bold predictions for this AFC Wild Card matchup between the Steelers and Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday night.

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Pittsburgh Steelers’ T.J. Watt comes alive with MVP-caliber performance

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

T.J. Watt didn’t finish with the official NFL single-season sack record, but he should be recognized as the leader. Michael Strahan hit the mark in 2001 in 16 games and needed Brett Favre to give him the record. Meanwhile, Watt accomplished the feat in 15 games without being gifted a free one.

Watt is capable of taking over a game, it’s why some are giving him NFL MVP consideration. We’ve also seen just how consistently he can be a force off the edge, with 15 games of two-plus sacks since the 2018 season. Capable of blowing past some of the best NFL right tackles, things should be even easier on Sunday night.

Kansas City is starting Andrew Wylie against the Steelers. If the name doesn’t sound familiar, the 6-foot-6 tackle allowed nine quarterback pressures in the Super Bowl loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Now, imagine what the best edge rusher in the NFL will do. Mahomes average time to throw (2.82 seconds) will need to be sped up, but he also prefers to buy time for a deep shot to open up. All of this is a recipe for Watt to finish Sunday with 2.5-plus sacks.

Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes struggles early

NFL: New York Giants at Kansas City Chiefs
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Mahomes is the most talented quarterback in NFL history, it’s that simple. But we’ve also seen in 2021 that the gunslinger can’t always play at the NFL MVP level, especially with the adjustments defenses made this season. Opponents are playing two safeties back, taking away Kansas City’s vertical passing game and forcing Mahomes to take the underneath throws. It’s a conservative style of offense that simply doesn’t fit his style.

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Mahomes finished the regular season as Pro Football Focus’s 18th-graded quarterback, a steep drop from his usual elite form. He also struggled under pressure this season, ranking 16th in passer rating (69.8) with a 9-5 TD-INT ratio and the fifth-worst completion rate (42.3% under duress).

On Sunday, Mahomes faced a defense that finished the sixth-most quarterback hits (106) and posted the seventh-best pressure rate (26.3%) in the regular season. He won’t have a healthy Tyreek Hill, making it even more challenging to attack Pittsburgh’s secondary deep and we already highlighted above the mismatch between Watt and Wyle. Don’t be surprised if Mahomes struggles out of the gate and doesn’t finish with the stats fans are used to seeing from him.

Ben Roethlisberger ends Hall of Fame career in brutal fashion

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Roethlisberger didn’t expect to be here. When he announced his final game at Heinz Field and then received a huge ovation following the victory, he likely assumed the Steelers wouldn’t make the playoffs. Here they are now preparing to face a franchise with two consecutive Super Bowl appearances.

There’s a strong possibility this game will be an ugly note to Roethlisberger’s career. Pittsburgh will emphasize its rushing attack, slamming Najee Harris into the heart of Kansas City’s defense. But this Steelers at Chiefs clash will also require Big Ben to throw it 30-plus times and that’s bad news for this offense.

Kansas City’s pass rush featuring Chris Jones (65 pressures, 10 sacks), Frank Clark (46 pressures) and Melvin Ingram will likely devastate Pittsburgh’s offensive line. Under constant duress with a weak arm, Roethlisberger is going to give the football away. In the end, it wouldn’t be surprising if he gives it away twice and finishes under 160 passing yards.

Steelers at Chiefs prediction: Chiefs 27, Steelers 13

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Kansas City Chiefs
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The last Steelers at Chiefs matchup ended in a 26-point blowout with a late Diontae Johnson touchdown making the final score even closer. Kansas City will also have Travis Kelce back for this game, creating a mismatch that Mahomes can exploit. But Pittsburgh’s defense is playing better as of late and the Chiefs’ offense isn’t the dominant unit it used to be.

But this is still a game Reid’s team should win fairly convincingly. The Steelers just don’t have the level of quarterback play or pass protection needed to deliver scoring drives consistently. While their defense will keep it close early, Big Ben turnovers and a few jaw-dropping throws from Mahomes in the second half will end it.