The Chiefs got a giant boost against the Pittsburgh Steelers from an unlikely source. Jerick McKinnon dominated the game and looks like he is poised for a big postseason run.
It became clear early on that the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t account for Jerick McKinnon in their game plane headed into Super Wildcard Weekend at Arrowhead Stadium. To be fair, outside of the Chiefs’ win in week 18 against the Denver Broncos, it would be safe to assume the 2021 NFL season was a bust for McKinnon.
He accounted for just 25 total touches, and less than 200 total yards. His one touchdown came in the third quarter of the previously mentioned game in Denver. That week may have just looked like the Chiefs letting a veteran backup play due to injuries and just for him to put some tape out in an unimportant game.
The Chiefs running back unit was without Clyde Edwards-Healaire once again with a shoulder injury, Darrel Williams was limited most of the week with a toe injury, and was sent to the bench after a costly fumble early in the game. Andy Reid stuck with the hot hand, and McKinnon had a game to remember.
McKinnon had 12 rushes for 61 yards, six catches for 81 yards, and the touchdown seen above. The perfect symmetry between his carriers and receptions made it hard for the Steelers to pinpoint a way to stop him, while at the same time trying to defend the Chiefs passing attack. The Chiefs’ offensive line also helped pave the way in both the run and passing game having one of their best collective days as a unit.
The Chiefs even ran some outside zone looks, something that they had not shown much of in the regular season.
Something else to note is that it had been a while since we had seen much motion out of the Chiefs offense, especially on run downs, but this week Andy Reid brought his A-game as well. It was clear on film that the Chiefs’ coaching was far superior, every play the Chiefs ran seemed to directly counter what the Steelers were looking to do.
Joe Thuney had a tall task this game going against All-Pro Cam Heyward, but he was able to have one of his best games of the season. McKinnon helps him out some on the play below.
McKinnon doesn’t have the speed or open field acceleration that he did at one point in his career, but he hasn’t lost any of his vision and has looked very good making cuts in space, as well as helping his linemen out by setting them up to make blocks like on the screen above. He knows the Steelers will be trying to meet him at the sideline so he hesitates, allowing Humphrey and Smtih to get angles on them, and then he follows Thuney straight up the middle for a big gain.
This was a fantastic game overall for the Chiefs with McKinnon playing a huge role in the win. Andy Reid is no stranger to playing the hottest hand as the starting running back.
Is it just timing and the universe coming together to give McKinnon one more shot as a feature back on a championship team, or has Andy Reid been saving it all for this moment? We will never know for sure what it is, my guess would be some combination of the two. Andy Reid knows how to get the best out of every player on the Chiefs roster and the skill set of McKinnon has allowed him to dive a little deeper into the playbook as far as what the Chiefs can do with their running backs.
The Steeler’s didn’t gameplan much for McKinnon, but now with what he has put on film, and what the rest of the offense did it is sending the Chiefs into a great position this Sunday when they play the Buffalo Bills in the divisional round of the playoffs.