Chiefs contender tag to be put to the test by COVID-19 and Steelers defense

The phrase “Next man up” could take a new dimension for a Kansas City Chiefs who may not have several key players in their attempt to secure their playoff berth and clinch the first seed in the AFC in the duel against the Pittsburgh Steelers .

It is simple. The Chiefs will need to confirm that they are real Super Bowl contenders with a depleted roster following the recent wave of COVID-19 infections that sent 13 players to injured reserve, including leading tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill. Patrick Mahomes’s weapons in the passing game.

In addition to dealing with several possible absences, the Chiefs’ offense will face a defense which is the reason the Steelers are still in contention for a playoff berth in Week 16.

Hill’s possible absence would leave Mecole Hardman and Byron Pringle as Kansas City’s primary receivers and could also open the door for more involvement from Josh Gordon, whom the Chiefs regained after being placed on the reserve / COVID- roster. 19 and lose the game against the Los Angeles Chargers.

“The confidence I have in him (Josh) is because he’s done it before,” Mahomes told ESPN’s Adam Teicher about Gordon and his likely greater involvement in the game against Pittsburgh. “He has already produced at a high level in this league, he has the talent and work ethic.

“If Travis and Tyreek can’t play, we have other players who can step up and take those roles on the field. We will already find a way to compensate for the production that we would lose ”, added the passer.

One aspect that has prevented Mahomes from having a solid No. 2 receiver is the inconsistency of Hardman, Robinson and Pringle, who are capable of catching difficult passes or in traffic, but also tend to drop balls in difficult situations.

That inconsistency could put a Chiefs offense in trouble that will face a defense that has just shrugged off the team by producing four steals with which the Steelers beat the Tennessee Titans in Week 15.

In all, Pittsburgh has stolen seven balls and lost only one in its last three games, of which it won two.

The motivation and energy with which the Steelers have played defense in 2021, in addition to having TJ Watt, candidate for the award as Defender of the Year, could make Sunday’s game in Kansas City, with a defense of the Chiefs that does not has allowed opponents more than 10 points in four straight home games and will have Chris Jones back after being one of 13 items to make the reserve / COVID-19 list.

While for the Chiefs, the last home game of the regular season is the opportunity to secure their playoff berth and cement their position in the race to the Super Bowl, the game in Kansas City could already be considered Postseason for some Steelers who they have gone further in 2021 than many believed.