Kansas City, MO - The Pittsburgh Steelers saw their high-flying offense hit a big stumbling block in their latest game, but have reason to believe it will bounce back at Arrowhead Stadium.
Pittsburgh tries to get its offense recharged Sunday by taking advantage of the lowly Kansas City Chiefs, who look to win consecutive games for the first time in more than two years.
Oddsmakers from online sports book SPORTSBETTING.com have made the Steelers -10 point spread favorites (View NFL odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 83% of bets for this game have been placed on the Steelers -10 (View NFL bet percentages).
The Steelers (6-3) had the NFL's fifth-ranked offense (403.7 yards per game) through six weeks, with Ben Roethlisberger's passing attack averaging 315.5 yards - second behind Indianapolis. The next two weeks saw Pittsburgh's rushing game take over, averaging 140.0 yards behind the emerging Rashard Mendenhall in wins over Minnesota and Denver.
But neither the ground attack nor Roethlisberger could get untracked last Sunday, when the Steelers failed to score a touchdown in an 18-12 home loss to Cincinnati. They were limited to a season-low 226 total yards and held under 27 points for the first time since Week 3, giving the Bengals a one-game lead in the NFC North and a season sweep of the Super Bowl champions.
"There was just something missing all day, I don't know what it was," said Roethlisberger, who was 20 of 40 for 174 yards and an interception. "We weren't good in the red zone, we weren't good in the run, we weren't good in the pass. ... It hurts. But how can we rebound now?"
Visiting Kansas City (2-7) could be a good way to do it. The Chiefs have allowed averages of 443.3 yards and 30.0 points in losing their last three at Arrowhead, and they are 0-4 at home for the first time since opening 0-6 in 1976.
They've given up an average of 152.3 rushing yards in the last six games overall, and that bodes well for Mendenhall after he was held to 36 yards on 13 carries last week.
However, perhaps the Steelers' two biggest problems against Cincinnati had nothing to do with their lackluster offense.
Troy Polamalu left with an injury to his left knee in his fourth game back after previously missing four games with an MCL sprain in that knee. While this injury wasn't initially considered as serious, the All-Pro safety has been limping this week and is all but certain to be out Sunday.
The Steelers also need to shore up their special teams, which allowed a kick return for a touchdown for the third time in four games. It was the seventh straight they allowed a TD via defense or special teams.
Pittsburgh's defense has allowed a league-low 11 touchdowns, but a season after having the league's best kickoff coverage unit (19.1 yards per return), it's 29th (25.9 ypr) in 2009.
"They're all head-scratchers. ... It's detail, it's about shedding blocks and making tackles and being schematically sound," coach Mike Tomlin said. "We're in the process of looking at all elements of that unit."
No team has allowed four kickoff returns for TDs in a season since the 1998 Vikings. The Chiefs haven't had one since Dante Hall did it in 2005.
Kansas City was happy to get any sort of touchdown in Oakland last Sunday. Jamaal Charles had a 44-yard TD - the Chiefs' first on the ground this season - in a 16-10 victory, less than a week after Larry Johnson was released.
"We talked about that before the game, that one of the running backs had to go and make something happen," said Charles, who rushed for 103 yards. "It turned out to be me, and I'm blessed to be in that position."
Kansas City hasn't won back-to-back games since Oct. 14-21, 2007.
The positive feelings from the win in Oakland were dimmed Tuesday, when leading receiver Dwayne Bowe was suspended four games for violating the NFL's policy against performance-enhancing substances. Bowe, who had 466 yards and four touchdowns, took a diuretic for weight loss, according to his agent.
"It's no different than injuries," coach Todd Haley said. "When somebody goes down, somebody has to step up and that's all part of the process of us becoming a good team."
Haley has ties to Pittsburgh - he was a ball boy for the Steelers when his father, Dick, was their director of player personnel and the architect of four Super Bowl winners in the 1970s.
He also was Arizona's offensive coordinator last season, when the Cardinals scored 16 fourth-quarter points before Pittsburgh rallied to win its sixth championship, 27-23.
"I know the Super Bowl was a surreal experience, having to play of all the teams, the Steelers," Haley said. "Now we get to play them again and I'm just looking forward to the challenge."
The Chiefs and Steelers haven't met in Kansas City since 2003. Roethlisberger was 16 of 19 for 238 yards and two TDs in a 45-7 win in Pittsburgh in 2006.
Posted: 11/18/09 8:27PM ET