Three players to watch for in Steelers-Chiefs

Here’s a game that will be headlined by what players will be affected by COVID-19 and what players will use this as their opportunity to shine.

The Chiefs are hot right now. They have gained full control of their own destiny in the AFC. Following losses by the Titans and Patriots last week. The focus now shifts to Pittsburgh, who is trying to make a playoff push of their own in a crowded AFC North division. Let’s check out a couple of players I think you should keep an eye on come Sunday.

Josh Gordon

This could be the chance that Gordon has been waiting for. With Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce currently on the reserve/COVID-19 list, the Chiefs are missing a huge chunk of their offense. Those two have combined for 2,244 yards and 16 touchdowns this season. Their absence will be felt if they are unable to clear protocols.

If they’re both unable to suit up on Sunday the lights will be on the Chiefs’ reserve receivers such as Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle, Demarcus Robinson, and Josh Gordon. Gordon presents the most upside out of the four receivers. He should be fresh since recently returning to practice after being activated off the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Gordon would be the most established of the Chiefs’ receivers if Hill is unable to go Sunday. “The confidence I have in him is because he’s done it before,” quarterback Patrick Mahomes said of Gordon in a recent press conference.

Diontae Johnson

Johnson should come into this matchup being fired up after being snubbed a spot on the pro bowl roster. After JuJu Smith-Schuster went down with an injury earlier this season, it continued to open up opportunities for Johnson. With Chase Claypool taking a back seat within the offense as well, Johnson has turned into a target haul for Ben Roethlisberger.

This season, Diontae has posted incredible numbers this season. He’s hauled in 86 catches this season for 1,028 yards which is the fifth most in the AFC. His heavy volume keeps him relevant in every matchup.

I think that Johnson’s reign will continue against the ferocious Chiefs’ defense who gave up 78 yards and a touchdown to the Chargers’ top target Keenan Allen last week. If the number of players from the Chiefs’ on the reserve/COVID-19 list continues to rise, Johnson could be in for a big day.

Chris Jones

After missing last week’s contest against the Los Angeles Chargers due to being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, Jones was activated off the list and returned to practice on Thursday. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has shown his growing pains within the pocket this season. Roethlisberger has been sacked 33 times this season, the most in his career since the 2014 season. Jones will look to take advantage of this vulnerability Sunday.

Jones has seven sacks so far this season despite missing four games. His return will provide a force to be reckoned with in the middle of the Chiefs’ front seven. He’s returning at a key time for the Chiefs’ defense as they continue to solidify the top overall seed in the AFC.

However, the Steelers’ offense has started clicking at the right time after knocking off the Titans and the Ravens in the past three weeks. Mike Tomlin’s coaching has been the difference maker as of late. Andy Reid’s coaching has been consistent all season. Don’t be surprised if this game comes down to the wire and individual coaching styles could put one team over the edge.