With their win against the vastly overrated 49ers, the Ravens have now leap-frogged the Steelers in their race for 1st Place in the A.F.C. North. Essentially, until Baltimore screws up in a trap-game (who knows, they’ve done it twice this season), the tie-breaker still lies with them. Thus, the Steelers must keep winning every game until the Ravens (eventually and hopefully) screw themselves. But enough about Baltimore, let’s talk about tomorrow’s game between the Steelers and the Chiefs.
Despite Kansas City’s effort to try and shore up their QB situation with Kyle Orton earlier in the week, many are still predicting this game to be won easily by Pittsburgh. Don’t get me wrong, I am a bit of a worrier, and I am always fearing for possible “Trap Games” that the Steelers could get snared into each and every season. Nonetheless, I still feel that Pittsburgh can overcome Ben’s injury and the fact that the game is in Kansas City. How you may ask? Well, the Steelers must utilize one weapon that can exploit a weakness which has killed Kansas City’s Defense time and time again in 2011: Heath Miller (38 grabs for 465 yards and 2 TD’s in 2011).
So for today’s article I will discuss how and why Heath will be such an important factor for the Steelers to come out of Kansas City with a “W.” Hit that “Continue Reading” button and let’s move on now:
I’m sure many of you are rolling your eyes and saying “Well, duh Heath is important and he should be a fixture in the Steelers’ Passing Offense at all times.” Yet outside of the 1st Quarter of the New England game, Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians has seemed to forget at times that he has a Pro Bowl TE on his team that has unquestionably the best hands on the entire squad.
This week’s matchup against the Chiefs is one that I feel is quite favorably slanted towards the Steelers’ Pro Bowl TE Heath Miller. So hopefully, Arians will be drawing something up to burn the Chiefs in the passing game. Now let’s take a look at why Miller has a more than decent shot to burn Kansas City tomorrow.
By the Stats: The Chiefs Against TE’s in 2011
One of Kansas City’s biggest bugaboos in 2011 has been their Defensive play against TE’s. Moreover, their team seems to fold when facing TE’s that have talent. TE’s (both good and bad) have had quite a bit of statistical success against the Chiefs this season. Want proof, here it is:
Game 1: Scott Chandler (Buffalo): 5 grabs 63 yards 2 TD’s
Game 2: Tony Scheffler (Detroit): 1 grab 36 yards 1 TD
Brandon Pettigrew (Detroit): 1 grab 7 yards
Game 3: Randy McMichael (San Diego): 4 grabs 51 yards
Game 4: Visanthe Shiancoe (Minnesota): 6 grabs 58 yards
Kyle Rudolph (Minnesota): 3 grabs 44 yards
Games 5-6: (Curtis Painter, Kyle Boller, and Carson Palmer throwing passes)
Game 7: Randy McMichael (San Diego): 2 grabs 11 yards
Antonio Gates (San Diego): 4 grabs 73 yards
Game 8: Anthony Fasano (Miami): 2 grabs 38 yards 2 TD’s
Game 9: (Tebow, completed only 2 passes due to inability to play QB correctly.)
Game 10: Aaron Hernandez (New England): 4 grabs 44 yards
Rob Gronkowski (New England): 4 grabs 96 yards 2 TD’s
I don’t care who you are, but you can’t tell me that the 2011 Chiefs have had issues covering solid and spectacular TE’s in the N.F.L.. That New England game really illustrated to a national audience how many issues the Chiefs have at stopping TE’s.
Sure the combination of Miller/David Johnson/Weslye Saunders is not the caliber of the Gronkowski/Hernandez one, but what pairing/threesome in the N.F.L. is? Yet the Steelers’ TE’s, especially Miller, should simply look at film from a week ago and find ways that they can feast on the Kansas City pass defenders. Obviously numerous TE’s in the League have found ways to exploit them, why can’t the Steelers?
With Ben nicked up, Arians should not go “Nancy-Pants” and run Off-Guard with Mendenhall and waste possessions if there are 8 guys in the Kansas City box. Unless he is physically unable to, Arians’ should try to at least replicate what he did against New England in the opening Quarter and have Ben target Heath (along with Johnson and Saunders) on quick throws from the Pistol or the Shotgun formation that can spread Kansas City’s Defense out all over the field. Quick throws to Heath should get the ball out of Ben’s hand fast and negate any sort of pass rush that Tamba Hali and the rest of the Chiefs’ Defense can muster.
It’s a great matchup for the Steelers to use Heath against the Chiefs’ Defense if they decide to use Base Formations if Pittsburgh elects not to go to the Pistol or the Shotgun and need slower LB’s and smaller Safeties to cover Miller. Arians should look at how the Patriots used Gronkowski last Monday Night in different spots on the field to create matchup problems.
Take Gronk’s 2nd TD catch for instance. I called the play from my living room and told my Mom to look for him in the flat with him lined up at FB. Brady found him wide open, and the Chiefs never knew what hit them. How Romeo Crennel couldn’t identify the flat pass on 3rd and 2 and get his Defenders alert is a mystery to me. Yet what the play itself and Gronko’s overall game showed was one important thing to the rest of the N.F.L.: Kansas City’s Defense can be exploited by athletic Tight Ends lined up all over the place. The Steelers should look for Heath in the side-car and even split in the slot to give the Chiefs different looks and try to get him favorable matchups.
Maybe the best part of the whole scenario of Heath starting off well is the rest of the Steelers’ WR’s and Passing Game as a whole could benefit. The Steelers could destroy the Chiefs’ Secondary with Manny Sanders now back. All of Pittsburgh’s 5 WR’s will inevitably reap the benefits if Kansas City directs too much of their attention to Miller.
In the event that the Steelers’ Passing Offense gets hot, don’t be surprised if Kansas City has to take guys out of the box to stop it. With only 6 or less guys in the box and the Steelers in a 3 WR, 1 TE set, yardage could be had in large quantities. Enter Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman who we all know have the ability to do nice things at the 2nd Level of the Defense. If the pass opens up the run tomorrow, the Steelers could really do some nice things on Offense.
In terms of scoring, Arians shouldn’t be afraid to use his TE’s. This Sunday if the Steelers are in Red Zone situations, Heath should be a #1 or #2 option on the play. Kansas City has surrendered great statistical days to numerous TE’s throughout the League, and guys like Fasano, Campbell, and Gronkowski have killed them in terms of scoring points. Hopefully Arians will try to center his game-plan around Heath (and Johnson and Saunders) more near the Goal Line as well.
It’s up to you Brucey (as always). Just know that you’ve got a guy on your team that can really make a difference each and every week. The guy just needs touches in situations where he can light up the field.
Redemption for Heath? Bit of History:
Heath also has a bit of redemption on his side as well. While Miller had a fantastic outing at Arrowhead in 2009 where he had 7 catches for 95 yards and a TD, he made one costly mistake that put points up on the board for the Chiefs. Miller dropped a pass in the Red Zone that was INT’d by Chiefs’ LB Andy Studebaker and took points off of the Steeler scoreboard in a game that was won 27-24 in O.T. by the Chiefs. Don’t tell me that Heath won’t be looking to avenge that key mistake and make up for it in a big way.
Don’t get me wrong, the Chiefs at Arrowhead are always a tough draw for an opponent. Kansas City is on their proverbial “last legs” in terms of their playoff hopes, and they will do everything in their power to keep their season alive.
However, the Steelers are far and away the better team in terms of this matchup and theoretically should win big. But hey, that’s why the play the games isn’t it?
So come on Heath, kick some tail tomorrow. And please, Brucey, actually get your TE’s involved more!
Hope you enjoyed my article, and enjoy the rest of your Turkey Day break.
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