Kansas City Chiefs (2-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1)
SERIES HISTORY: 31st regular-season meeting between the teams that first met in 1970 with the merger of the AFL and NFL. The Chiefs trail in the series 10-20, but they have the most recent victory, topping Pittsburgh last season in Kansas City 23-13. The Chiefs have not won a game in Pittsburgh since the finale of the 1986 season, when they won 24-19 in a victory that sent K.C. to the playoffs for the first time in 15 seasons. Since then they've lost the last five visits and overall the Chiefs are 4-10 playing in Pittsburgh, and they've never beaten the Steelers at Heinz Field. The teams met once in the playoffs, with Joe Montana leading the Chiefs to a 27-24 overtime victory at Arrowhead Stadium in the 1993 AFC playoffs.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Steelers didn't have an effective running game in their 34-3 loss to the Eagles last weekend and WR Darrius Heyward-Bey said they need a strong running game in order to be able to effectively throw the ball.
Le'Veon Bell may be big in both areas. He returns to the team after serving a three-game suspension. The Steelers could be without slot receiver Eli Rogers due to a turf toe injury so Bell's elite pass receiving skills could become a major factor.
The Chiefs closed the 2015 regular season with a 10th consecutive victory at the hands of the Steelers, 23-10 at arrowhead. But that Pittsburgh team arrived in K.C. without an injured Ben Roethlisberger to direct the offense. The K.C. defense forced three turnovers against QB Landry Jones.
Still, the Chiefs gave up 121 yards to running back LeVeon Bell and wide receiver six catches for 124 yards to Antonio Brown. So holding the Steelers to one TD was amazing. Then and this time Big Ben is running the show.
The Chiefs offense will need to play at a more efficient level than last year when they scored twice, but settled for early field goals that kept the outcome in doubt until the fourth quarter.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Steelers receiver Antonio Brown vs. Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters. Brown is tied for the NFL lead with 24 receptions. He posted 100-yard receiving games in two of his first three outings. Peters leads the league with four interceptions. Brown has mostly thrived in one-on-one matchups with other star cornerbacks around the league.
--Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison vs. Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher. Fisher got paid this summer, but it wasn't for his work against Harrison, who recorded 1 1/2 sacks against Fisher in a 2014 meeting against the Steelers at Heinz Field. The Steelers need to start generating a pass rush and Harrison will be looking forward to a matchup against a player he's owned in the past.
INJURY REPORT: CHIEFS -- Out: T Jah Reid (knee, ankle), RB Charcandrick West (ankle). Questionable: RB Jamaal Charles (Knee), CB Phillip Grimes (knee), LB Tamba Hali (knee, hand). STEELERS -- Out: G Ramon Foster (chest), S Robert Golden (hamstring), CB Senquez Golson (foot), RB Roosevelt Nix (back), WR Eli Rogers (toe), LB Ryan Shazier (knee), C Cody Wallace (knee)
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. Last Sunday, Kelce finally found the end zone, catching a 12-yard touchdown pass from Alex Smith, the only offensive score of the game for the Chiefs. He also posted his longest play of the season, a 42-yard catch and run in the second half. Kelce leads K.C. with 17 catches for 197 yards. Those are disappointing numbers for Kelce and the Chiefs offense, because so much is expected from him. "There are some things he needs to take care of," said head coach Andy Reid. "There's always room to improve."
FAST FACTS: Chiefs QB Alex Smith won 12 of past 13 starts. Chiefs defense has allowed one touchdown in the last 32 opponents' possessions. . . Then Steelers are 22-13 with Bell in the lineup since his 2013 rookie season. WR Sammie Coates is averaging 29 yards per catch (7 catches, 203 yards), best in NFL.
PREDICTION: This should be a prime time punch-out between excellent AFC teams and coaches that might even give a boost to the sagging TV ratings. Steelers should benefit with return of Bell to add go-power both running and receiving, giving Big Ben the ability to balance his offense.
OUR PICK: Steelers, 28-24.