Pittsburgh Steelers @ Kansas City Chiefs predictions: Big Ben to chime for the final time

Can the Kansas City Chiefs end both the playoff hopes of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the career of Ben Roethlisberger? Planet Sport brings you the lowdown on this Wild Card clash.

Week 18 was as dramatic as it gets for the Steeler Nation, who were probably hiding their faces in their terrible towels as Pittsburgh's playoff hopes ended up resting on the boot of Las Vegas Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson.

Carlson duly drained his field goal to avoid the tie against the LA Chargers which would have eliminated the Steelers, ensured he would never have to buy a drink in Pittsburgh again, and Mike Tomlin's men are playoff-bound for the second consecutive year.

Their reward is a trip to the Kansas City Chiefs and while few give the visitors a chance against Patrick Mahomes and company, if there's one thing this season has taught us it's that anything can happen in the NFL!

The Steelers: Raising their offensive game is crucial

Pittsburgh finished the season with an uninspiring 9-7-1 record and despite sweeping both Cleveland and Baltimore, two losses to a resurgent Cincinnati consigned them to second place in the AFC North.

However, Mike Tomlin's men are in good recent form with three wins from their last four games, including victory against the AFC's top seed Tennessee, but unfortunately the fourth match in that series was a 36-10 blowout loss to the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.

And playing against Patrick Mahomes is a stark reminder to Pittsburgh fans that their own QB Ben Roethlisberger may be a Steelers legend but he is also a shadow of his former self.

Big Ben is middle of the road in every major quarterback statistic this season, except how many times he has been sacked, with a total of 38 being the sixth-most in the league.

The Steelers are ranked 15th in passing yards and 29th in rushing yards and that doesn't look like it will be anywhere near enough to see them past the prolific Chiefs.

The Chiefs: Patrick looking for a hat-trick of AFC titles

Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs

After a blowout loss to Tennessee in Week 7 left them languishing in third place in the AFC West with a 3-4 record, the Kansas City Chiefs looked like they would struggle to secure a wild card berth, let alone a third consecutive AFC Championship.

Nine wins out of ten later and it's a very different story as the Chiefs have secured the number two seed in the AFC with a 12-5 record and are heading into the playoffs full of confidence.

They are fourth in the league in points scored and third in yards per game, with Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill representing one of the deadliest quarterback, wide receiver and tight end combinations in the NFL.

Mahomes has thrown for 37 touchdowns this season, a feat bettered by only three other quarterbacks, and his 284.6 passing yards per game is the fifth-best total in the NFL.

Kansas knows how to get it done in the postseason, having lost just one of their last six playoff encounters and it certainly looks like it would take a better team than Pittsburgh to eliminate them at this early stage.

Chiefs vs Steelers key match-ups

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker TJ Watt

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers proved in last year's Super Bowl that with enough pressure even the best offences will crumble, and if the Steelers are to have any chance against the Chiefs then they will have to disrupt Patrick Mahomes in the pocket.

Luckily for Pittsburgh they have one of the best pass rushers in the league at their disposal and T.J. Watt will be chomping at the bit to go up against an inconsistent Chiefs offensive line and really put Mahomes' skills to the test.

Watt not only led the league in sacks but his 21 tackles for a loss of yardage were also the most in the league, and if he can add significantly to his 39 quarterback hits then maybe this game will be closer than expected.

On the other side of the ball, with Ben Roethlisberger limited as to what he can do the Steelers will once again look to rookie running back Najee Harris, who has rushed for 93 yards or more in three of his last five matches, and averaged 70 yards a game overall.

His battle with a below-average Chiefs run defence is one of the few where the Steelers could well come out on top, but unfortunately for Pittsburgh their own run defence is the worst in the league and Chiefs running back Darrel Williams could also be set for a big day.

Chiefs vs Steelers key stats

  • Steelers defender T.J. Watt tied the single-season sack record of 22.5 when he brought down Baltimore Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley in Week 18.
  • Patrick Mahomes threw for 258 yards and three touchdowns in the Chiefs' Week 16 demolition of the Steelers.
  • The Chiefs have averaged 290 yards and 28 points per game this season.
  • The Steelers rank dead last in rushing yards allowed, conceding 146 yards per game along the ground.
  • Steelers running back Najee Harris ran for 1200 yards this season, a new Pittsburgh rookie rushing record.
  • In five matchups against the Steelers, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce's average of 49.2 receiving yards per game is over 20 yards less than his 2021 season average.

Planet Sport verdict

A look back to Boxing Day tells you everything about the mammoth task facing the Steelers on Sunday night, as they were hammered 36-10 by the Chiefs, a result made all the more impressive by the absence of Travis Kelce.

The Pittsburgh offence has been average all season, with Ben Roethlisberger rarely showing anything other than the ability to lead his side to victory in low-scoring encounters.

And that outcome looks to be off the table here as the Steelers offence is averaging just 20 points a game while the Chiefs have an average of 33 points in their last six matches.

Patrick Mahomes knows how to get it done in the playoffs and even if he has an off day, their tenth-rated rushing offence should make hay against a porous Steelers run defence.

So if the Chiefs can keep errors and turnovers to a minimum it should be plain sailing for them at Arrowhead Stadium.

Prediction: Kansas City 31-10 Pittsburgh