Five things to watch in Saturday night’s Chiefs-Steelers preseason game in Pittsburgh (6:30 p.m. on KCTV, Channel 5):
The Chiefs need to do a better job of protecting the passer. They allowed seven sacks last week against San Francisco — three sacks of Alex Smith, three of Chase Daniel and one of Tyler Bray — and did not appear prepared for the 49ers’ blitz package. The Chiefs game-planned some for the Steelers, so they should be prepared for any exotic blitzes that Pittsburgh’s venerable defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau may throw at them.
Will Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith find Dwayne Bowe? The Chiefs have had Smith play it safe in the first two preseason games, and he’s hardly looked downfield. Bowe will command double coverage until someone, be it Donnie Avery, Devon Wylie or newly acquired A.J. Jenkins proves he can get open as the second receiver and stretch the defense. But not to have targeted Bowe yet in preseason doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Jamaal Charles, who missed last week’s game against San Francisco because of a minor foot injury, looked good in practice all week, running between the tackles and to the outside as well as catching passes. So he’ll likely get some touches in the first quarter. Hopefully Reid won’t expose his feature back too much and risk a recurrence of the injury or any other injury.
It’s a big night for the third- and fourth-teamers who are fighting to survive next Tuesday’s roster reduction from 90 to 75 players. There won’t be many surprises in that cutdown, but wide receivers Rico Richardson and Tyler Shoemaker; tight ends Demetrius Harris and Kevin Brock; running back Cyrus Gray; fullback Toben Opurum; defensive ends Austen Lane and Marcus Dixon; nose tackle Miguel Chavis; linebacker Orie Lemon; cornerbacks Vince Agnew and Semaj Moody; and safety Bradley McDougald can do themselves a world of good by making plays, not just on offense or defense but on special teams.
Free agent Akeem Jordan is doing his best to hold off rookie Nico Johnson in the battle for the inside linebacker spot next to Derrick Johnson. Jordan had three tackles, a sack, a tackle-for-loss and a quarterback hurry against San Francisco, while Johnson had three tackles.