Chiefs vs. Steelers Preview: Time To Step Up

Chiefs LT Branden Albert

When the Kansas City Chiefs kick-off against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday night, this game could prove pivotal for five players hoping to make an impact on the 2013 season. So who needs to shine Saturday night for KC?

1. QB Alex Smith - Though Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach, Andy Reid, may not divulge much of his regular season game plan Saturday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Alex Smith has to play more like he did against the New Orleans Saints than the San Francisco 49ers.

To be clear, I'm firmly on the Smith bandwagon. He's going to have a terrific season for the Chiefs. And I think against a Steelers team in the midst of a transitional period, KC's signal caller has to show last weeks Arrowhead debut was a fluke.

Against the 49ers Smith was plagued by poor execution from his offensive line, too many dropped balls and was under too much pressure to get off a good pass on consecutive snaps. Still nobody is going to feel sorry for him and it's his job to win games when his offensive mates aren't always at their best.

So playing in a hostile environment like Pittsburgh, could be a good opportunity to show that Smith can deliver the goods on the road. And if you look ahead to the regular season, the Chiefs have some fortuitous advantages in some of their road games so Saturday's game could be critical for Smith.

2. A.J. Jenkins - Let's see what the kid can do. I'm certain, if he's up to speed in KC's offense, he'll get some reps on the field. And if the Chiefs are going to unlock any of his talents, why not throw him into the fire right off the bat.

With Donnie Avery positioned opposite Dwayne Bowe, the Chiefs could have two speed burners on the field at the same time. Avery is a master at hauling in the bomb and Jenkins has skills in the middle of the field that can take an ordinary catch and turn into a stadium-rocking touchdown.

The young receiver is a bit wet behind the NFL ears but there's a reason Reid and General Manager, John Dorsey traded Jenkins for Jon Baldwin. I'm just anxious to find out what those reasons might be.

3. LT Branden Albert - I haven't been a fan of his play to date. Even in the Saints opening drive two weeks ago, the Chiefs ran the ball and mostly threw to the side being flanked by rookie tackle, Eric Fisher.

This week Albert admitted to some communication breakdowns against the 49ers. That's fine in the regular season but not in two weeks when the Chiefs open the season against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

As the Chiefs highest paid player, he needs to elevate his game to a level he's yet to achieve in the NFL – Pro Bowl caliber.

Granted this is preseason and I get that. But for all practical purposes, this is Albert's last chance to get ready for the regular season. He has to hit the season running and playing at an elite level is the only chance he has at getting the coin he's been clamoring for all off-season.

4. S Bradley McDougald - Thanks to my Out of Bounds Podcast partner, Nick Jacobs, KC's undrafted free agent safety from the University of Kansas, played solidly last weekend against the 49ers.

McDouglad has mad cover skills and enough talent to be a solid safety in the NFL. Though he's currently third on the depth chart behind All Pro Safety, Eric Berry, and special teams standout, Quintin Demps, should the Chiefs put him at free safety at some point, he could provide some much needed depth for KC's defense.

If there is a weakness on KC's defense it's depth at safety. Kendrick Lewis has yet to establish himself as a 16-week performer. Demps is really a special teams guy. So that gives McDouglad, who can also play special teams, a great opportunity to make KC's final 53-man roster based on his play in the nickel defensive packages.

5. DE Mike Devito - He was one of the more quieter off-season acquisitions by the Chiefs. But the former New York Jets defensive end has solidified one of KC's biggest needs. Though the jury will always be out in regards to Tyson Jackson, DeVito is a proven commodity.

Now he's not a sack machine. But he can push back a tackle creating space for KC's best pass rushers, Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. He will get some sacks this year and with the help of his linebacker mates, he could get more than the Chiefs had hoped when they signed him.

Thus I'd like to see him get off to a good start against the Steelers because this Chiefs unit is going to be better thanks to the maturation of nose tackle, Dontari Poe.

So if DeVito can become a pass collapsing force, who can get an occasional sack or two, KC's defense could make that jump from Top 15 to Top 10.

Which of these five needs a big game against the Steelers?

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