RT Mike Adams vs. LOLB Justin Houston
Houston’s been the bright spot on a struggling Chiefs defense. Making his presence felt early, the 2011 third-round pick has 5 sacks in 7 games. A relentless-motor kind of player, he’s a little reminiscent of Steelers OLB James Harrison. He gets underneath taller tacklers, bending aggressively toward the passer.
Adams had a rough time with the Giants’ dominant edge rushers, Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul. Houston is smaller than both of them, but he’ll present a challenge to Adams, who has been very effective in the ground game, but still has technical flaws in his pass protection.
LT Max Starks vs. ROLB Tamba Hali
Starks has seen some strong pass rushers this season, and Hali could be the toughest of all of them. He’s as complete an edge defender as there is in the league, and he roughed Starks up quite a bit in Pittsburgh’s 13-9 win over the Chiefs in 2011. He will likely draw help in pass protection, given his success last season, and the fact he has 5 sacks in the Chiefs’ last 5 games.
Starks hasn’t been very strong this season, but, coming off of knee surgery this offseason, he’s improving with each week. Starks held up well against the Giants, and is getting closer to his 2011 form with each passing game. Hali will give him a real test, getting a step off the edge instead of the three-point stance he saw against the Giants.
ROLB James Harrison vs. LT Branden Albert
The Steelers were high on Albert when he came out of the University of Virgina in 2008, and he’s showing why. He’s developing into one of the game’s better left tackles, and hasn’t allowed a sack in the Chiefs’ last 7 games. He has outstanding athleticism but is more of a finesse blocker. This limits him a bit in run blocking. He’s been limited in practice this week, but is expected to play Monday.
Harrison has not gotten after the passer the way he has in years past, and some of that can be attributed to his continued progress from knee surgery in August. He doesn’t have the same explosion off the edge, but he’s getting his lower body strength back. That’s helping him anchor down on the offensive left side, and is getting harder to eliminate in opponents’ run games.