Red Zone

Halftime observations: Steelers 12, Chiefs 7

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Albert Wilson hauled in a pass for a touchdown in the first quarter past the defense of Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Artie Burns during Sunday's AFC Divisional Playoff game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Albert Wilson hauled in a pass for a touchdown in the first quarter past the defense of Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Artie Burns during Sunday's AFC Divisional Playoff game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. deulitt@kcstar.com

It’s halftime at Arrowhead Stadium, and the Kansas City Chiefs trail the Pittsburgh Steelers 12-7 on Sunday. Here are some quick thoughts.

1. The first thing that stands out is there has not been much of a pass rush at all for the Chiefs. Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton dialed up a creative blitz on third down, which featured his top three edge rushers – Justin Houston, Dee Ford and Tamba Hali – on the field at the same time. Hali got home and should have brought down Ben Roethlisberger, but Roethlisberger shrugged him off and chucked a deep completion to Antonio Brown, who was being covered by Houston. People will crush Sutton for that, but it would have been a nice call if they’d just brought him down.

2. Le’Veon Bell, as expected, is pounding the heck out of the Chiefs’ defensive front. Sutton has stuck with even boxes against the Steelers’ offense, and Bell, an elite back, is making them pay. He has 101 yards on 18 carries, a superb average of 5.6 per attempt. Sutton has adjusted by using more fronts with three linemen or using two inside linebackers in subpackages, but it isn’t mattering. The Chiefs are holding up fine against base “21” or “12” personnel, but the Steelers’ three-wide groups are giving them a ton of trouble on the ground. Hard to see that changing.

3. The Steelers have moved the ball against the Chiefs, as expected, but the red-zone defense has been superb. Considering the Chiefs have not forced a single punt – and have been outgained 246 yards to about 100 – the fact they only trail 12-7 is a significant victory. That was always the key against the Steelers; hold them to field goals while scoring some touchdowns against a beatable defense. It’s on the offense to step up. Speaking of the offense...

4. Andy Reid has had two weeks to prepare for the Steelers and that was obvious early. The Chiefs’ first drive, which ended in a 5-yard touchdown throw from Alex Smith to Albert Wilson, was a thing of beauty. Reid even broke out a “full house” formation with Tyreek Hill, De’Anthony Thomas and Spencer Ware in the backfield at the same time. That was the formation they used to score the touchdown.

5. The Steelers, however, have adjusted since then. On the Chiefs’ first drive, they kept going with seven linemen and linebackers against the Chiefs’ three-wide sets. This allowed the Chiefs to chew them up through the air. They made the adjustment on subsequent drives, however, and the Chiefs have had a harder time getting anything going since then. Reid will need to dial up some good stuff in the second half against this defense.

Kansas City Chiefs fans began tailgating when the gates opened at 2 p.m. Sunday and are unfazed by the weather as they team faces the Steelers in an AFC playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium.

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