The Pittsburgh Steelers lost a member of the family this past week, and it has had a very definite effect on how they have proceeded in training camp. Now they must prepare to play the Kansas City Chiefs, who performed in their pre-season debut like a team that was looking to pick up where it left off last year.
The Steelers and Chiefs will do battle on Saturday night at Heinz Field, in the second game for each squad. Kickoff is at 7:30 PM ET on NFL Network, and remember that BetAnySports patrons will have the opportunity to place wagers even after the game gets underway, as they access all that is available through Live Betting Ultra.
Let’s start with the Chiefs, who scored more points than anybody last season. After winning the MVP award, Patrick Mahomes found that things were moving even slower around him in training camp, indicating that he was seeing things a lot easier. And he made his one and only series a special one against Cincinnati last week, going four-for-four with 66 yards. Chad Henne followed, and later on, Chase Litton was strong, completing eleven of 15 for 122 and a pair of touchdowns.
The general feeling, as this team had to forge ahead without former NFL rushing champion Kareem Hunt, was that it was going to be more of a “committee” approach handling the load in the backfield. And one of the prominent members of that committee is likely to be Darwin Thompson, who averaged 6.8 yards per carry with 14 touchdowns in his only season of FBS football (at Utah State). He also averaged 15.3 yards per reception, and had a nice 29-yard catch-and-run for a TD. Thompson and the other backs were impressive enough that Josh Caldwell, a KC-area product who had a beautiful 47-yard run against the Bengals, was promptly waived.
In the NFL betting odds on this game, the Chiefs are the favorites.
Kansas City Chiefs -2.5 (-102)
Pittsburgh Steelers +2.5 (-108)
Over 46.5 points (-109)
Under 46.5 points (-101)
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The Steelers were shaken up by the death of wide receiver coach Darryl Drake, who died this past week. Apparently he was experiencing chest pains, and had gone to the hospital, where they wanted to hold him overnight for observation, But he refused, went back to the training camp in Latrobe, and died, aged 62.
The team canceled two practices and had a third rained out, when no one was really in the mood anyway. And speaking of mood, it was such that the players didn’t want to speak much to the media about the passing of Drake. They chose Pro Bowl offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva to speak for them. And Ray Sherman, who had been the offensive coordinator for the Steelers back in 1998, has stepped in to help coach the receivers.
We’re not sure how much we will see out of Devin Bush, the first-round draft pick, but the former Michigan linebacker not only had ten tackles, but had head coach Mike Tomlin making something of a comparison between him and All-Pro Ryan Shazier, who had his career short-circuited with a serious spinal injury. They wouldn’t want to take too many risks with someone who is going to be a leader of this defense.
Joshua Dobbs and Mason Rudolph will continue to duke it out for the backup job. Rudolph threw two touchdown passes in the 30-28 win over Tampa Bay. Devlin Hodges did well enough (79 passing yards and a touchdown) to merit a further look. But the defense as a whole had a rough night, giving up 479 yards and 31 first downs.
You hear coaches talking about how far behind players are falling when they miss a number of workouts, especially when they feel the player isn’t injured badly enough to stay off the field. Tomlin is doing that now with Sutton Smith, an All-American linebacker out of Northern Illinois who could be very useful on special teams, and has a hip injury.
Here’s our point – you could look at this game and, and visualize the Steelers, in the words of an old handicapper friend of mine, “winning one for the Gipper.” But the reality is that most of the players who will take the field, especially in the second half, didn’t know coach Drake very well. The more operative factor here is that missing three practice days is something that sets this team back, particularly the young guys who need the reps. Enough other people must think that way as well, as the Chiefs, who were an underdog, have now become a favorite. We are also pretty solidly behind Kansas City here in this NFL Network-televised game.
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