Help Needed To Beat Steelers … Game-Day Cup O’Chiefs

Quite possibly it is the most vibrant, vicious and delicious rivalry in all the NFL right now.

No, I’m not talking about the Chiefs and the Pittsburgh Steelers, who face off Sunday night at Arrowhead Stadium. Kickoff is 7:20 p.m. and NBC has the national telecast.

The Chiefs mean nothing to the Steelers. The best rivalry in the NFL today involves the Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. This is a twice-a-year, sometimes three times get-together that is full of football hatred, the kind that creates riveting performances.

This past week the Chiefs got a taste of what that rivalry is about during their preparation for Sunday night’s game. This year they added two starters from the Ravens, nose tackle Kelly Gregg and FB Le’Ron McClain. Those guys went through the yearly holy wars against the black and gold, outcomes that until this year favored the Steelers.

It’s safe to say Gregg and McClain; they don’t like the ‘Burghers.

“Can’t stand them,” McClain admitted on Friday, a few moments after Gregg had said “in the football sense, I hate those guys, just hate them.”

The current Chiefs roster has not seen much of the Steelers on a face-to-face basis, playing against them just once in the previous four seasons. In the NFL it’s familiarity that creates contempt and Todd Haley’s boys just are not familiar enough with Pittsburgh. That’s why the venom that Gregg and McClain can draw on at any given moment was a big addition to the preparation week.

Quite frankly, the 4-6 Chiefs on a three-game losing streak need all the help they can get against 7-3 Steelers team that is coming off its bye week as rested as they’ve been since August. On paper, this game looks like it could be as ugly as previous blowouts suffered by Haley’s team in losing by 34 to Buffalo, 45 to Detroit, 28 to Miami and 31 to New England.

“We understand the sense of urgency that we must have and we understand that our margin of error is very small at this point,” Haley said. “So all things lead to us going out and playing more consistent football for 60 minutes and figuring out a way to win a big game.”

Consistency has not been part of the fabric of the 2011 Chiefs. Even during their four-game winning streak they were not functioning like a well-oiled machine. The biggest culprit has been the offense, which currently ranks 26th among 32 teams in yards per game and 29th in points per game. In the last three games, they’ve scored 16 points and just one touchdown. That came against defenses that this week ranked No. 16 (Miami), No. 17 (Denver) and No. 32 (New England).

Now, here come the Steelers with one of the most consistently good defenses in the NFL from year-to-year. They are the No. 2 ranked defense in the league this week, allowing just 280 yards and 18 points per game. Legendary defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has all sorts of schemes he can use with a group that has played together for years. Led by SS Troy Polamalu and OLB James Harrison, this defense has allowed only one team to score 21 points or more. That opponent was Baltimore, with 35 and 23 points in two games.

“Pittsburgh over the years schematically they don’t change much, the jersey numbers is what changes,” said offensive coordinator Bill Muir. “They are about as consistent as any defense in the league and there’s no question that the man who drives that machine is Dick LeBeau”

Matching wits, so to speak, with LeBeau’s defense will be Tyler Palko, a Pittsburgh-kid who got his first NFL start last Monday night against New England.

“It was fun to get in there and put your hands underneath center and sling it around a little bit,” Palko said. “I hope to be more prepared. I would answer that question after the game on Sunday to be 100-percent honest with you. I feel good about the plan. I feel good about this offense. I think we’ve got a lot of good players on this team, and like I said, I’m fired up for this task with the Steelers coming into town and it should be fun.”

In front of Palko will be a pass protection unit that has given up 12 sacks in the last three games and will have rookie Rodney Hudson starting at left guard for the injured Ryan Lilja. The running game really hasn’t been pacing at a level that would take some of the pressure off Palko and the passing game.

Passing, running, protecting the ball, all facets of the offense have been inconsistent for the Chiefs. The search for an anti-dote has been dominating the coaching staff’s work for the last month.

“Can we move the ball? Yeah, we can move it pretty well, we did the other night,” said Muir. “We only scored three doggone points. We run the ball all the way down to the five-yard line, and we come away with three points when we should have had seven. We’ve shown the ability to be able to compete, regardless of who we’ve played.

“As I say to the offense, we have met the enemy and it is us. At this point we have to quit self-destructing.”

3 Responses to “Help Needed To Beat Steelers … Game-Day Cup O’Chiefs”

  • November 27, 2011  - Tim says:

    Yeah Mr Muir, you’re right. However, you don’t help the situation with your playcalling.

  • November 27, 2011  - ED J says:

    I actually think playcalling for Muir has been good this season. Its really kind hard to tell when Richardson is getting whipped every play and QB is running for his life or Wiegman getting bull dozed up the middle further collasping the pocket. I think we really want find out about Muir ability to call play until o-line performs better. Also when Pope and O’Connel stop holding, getting false start penalties, or just lining up wrong. I hope we add depth at tight end next yr neither those two guys should be back next season.

  • November 27, 2011  - el cid says:

    I would like to disagree but cannot. I would suggest that if the coaches realized the right side or center could not do the job and there was no hope of relief from roster or practice squads or off the street (by the by whatever happend to Gaithers?)…..they might have looked at the Chiefs history book and see of Stram’s rolling pocket could be used. You normally play to your strengths, I realize that is not the case a Haley team, example run a 3-4 defense without players who can.

    As for Pope and OConnel, in Pope case that is what blocking TEs do, OConnel, cut him, he has not been any good since Pioli drafted him. Heck, run Becht out there, Pioli/Haley liked him also.

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