The Kansas City Chiefs take to the road this Saturday for their third preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers and hope to awaken their offense out of its preseason-long slumber. Other than the opening 80-yard touchdown drive against New Orleans two weeks ago, Coach Andy Reid’s preseason offense … well … sucks.
The opening touchdown drive against New Orleans took 5-1/2 minutes to complete when running back Jamaal Charles ran behind right tackle Eric Fisher for a one-yard touchdown run. But since that moment when Chiefs fans felt like printing up Super Bowl tickets, the Chiefs offense has played another 114 minutes of football without scoring a touchdown.
The only touchdown in last weeks’ loss to the 49ers at Arrowhead was Quinten Demps’ 104-yard kickoff return.
Here are three things Chiefs fans should be watching Saturday against Pittsburgh:
OFFENSIVE LINE: Other than an M.I.A. wide receiver corps that has appeared on milk cartons across the Kansas City area, this is the unit that has struggled the most on the team. Youth, inexperience (not necessarily the same thing), and a terrible habit of miscommunication has turned this unit into the NFL equivalent of the Autobahn to sackers of Chiefs quarterbacks.
The Saints and 49ers put incredible pressure on all Chiefs quarterbacks so far and unfortunately Saturday night, this group goes up against one of the best defensive schemes of the last 20 years with defensive coordinator (and Hall of Famer) Dick Lebeau’s zone blitz. Injuries and Father Time may have caught up to some of the Steelers best defenders, but the Chiefs have had trouble stopping third-string defenders from getting to the QB, so that may not be a problem for Pittsburgh on Saturday.
This one is the easiest for fans to figure out. Branden Albert, Jeff Allen, Rodney Hudson, Jon Asamoah, and Eric Fisher MUST protect better on passing downs and open up an occasional hole for a running back in the rushing offense.
Yeah … no biggie.
DEFENSE: The Steelers are having their own problems on offense this preseason under the guidance of current offensive coordinator – and former Chiefs head coach – Todd Haley. There have been a couple of times so far that Haley looked like he wanted to eat his own head on the sidelines because of the Steelers sloppy play. Worst of all, they lost their newest #1 running back, rookie Le’Veon Bell, to a foot injury last week. Bell will be gone for two months at least. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t looked like his Super Bowl self since he stopped hitting on underage co-eds in bars and got married, and Haley arrived in town. Might just be a coincidence, or maybe not? And, the Steelers best deep threat at wide receiver, Mike Wallace, took his talents to South Beach and the Miami Dolphins.
For Chiefs fans, this is where they need to see the KC defensive unit wreak a little havoc and cause some turnovers. (And before you send this English major e-mails about “wreak” vs “wreck”, the proper use of the word is “wreak”. I’m just saying ….) The defense has only forced two turnovers in two games and one of those came when third-stringers were playing. This Pittsburgh offense is as shaky as the Chiefs right now so it’s time for the KC defense to shine.
ANY WIDE RECEIVER NOT NAMED McCLUSTER MAKE A CATCH?: After watching former first-round bust Jon Baldwin drop an easy catch and then short-arm another reception a few plays later, Reid decided to send his butt out of town to the 49ers for their first round bust, receiver A.J. Jenkins. It was a rare instance of two teams realizing that their garbage could be the other one’s treasure and making the deal. Honestly, if Jenkins catches 30 receptions this year, I’ll be shocked. If Baldwin catches 30, I’ll slip into a coma.
Now that Baldwin isn’t taking valuable practice time with the first string away from free agent pick-up Donnie Avery, it will be interesting to see if he can connect with QB Alex Smith and give the Chiefs a medium-distance threat from WR corps. I’d say “deep threat”, but even the most optimistic Chiefs fan knows that will only happen four or five times THIS SEASON! Frankly, fans should be thrilled if Avery can catch 60 passes and maintain his career average of about 13 yards per catch.
And then there’s Dwayne Bowe. For the kind of money the Chiefs are paying him, you would think Reid and offensive coordinator Doug Pederson might work in a WR screen pass or two so that Bowe can touch the ball during a game. Yes, preseason is vanilla and not like the regular season blah, blah, blah. You can still be vanilla and get your #1 wide receiver a freaking ball now and again.
Prediction: Honestly, I’m at the point where I think it’s more and more important that the Chiefs win this game. They absolutely need some positive vibes that only a win can give. Losing teams tend to point out that old chestnut of, ‘Hey, we were winning the preseason game until the fourth quarter when the guys that won’t be on the team lost it!” How about the starters dominate for three quarters like they did in the first series for both units in the Saints game? Even with the return of Jamaal Charles, I don’t see the Chiefs offense scoring more than 17 points and they lose another close one, 20-16.
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