Steelers, Chiefs could have second-year QBs running the show on Sunday
Both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Kansas City Chiefs could have second-year running quarterbacks running their respective offenses when they meet Sunday at Heinz Field at 1 p.m. (ET).
Chiefs signal caller Patrick Mahomes is coming off a stellar four-touchdown game in a win over the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 1.
"It helped that a I had a lot of guys that played well for us on the offense," Mahomes said. "Tyreek (Hill) had a great game, the offensive line played really well. Everybody seemed to make plays. I'm glad I got the honor, but it was kind of an offensive unit honor."
Mahomes led AFC quarterbacks with four touchdown passes and a gaudy 127.5 passer rating in Week 1. He completed 15 of 27 throws for 256 yards, yielding an AFC-best 9.5 yards per attempt. He also added 21 yards rushing on five carries.
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid emphasized that Week 1 is simply a starting point, and it's all about how Mahomes backs it up in the games ahead.
"He understands that, he's wired that way," Reid said. "It's a nice honor, but you're only as good as that next game, so that's how that works."
The quarterback situation for the Steelers (0-0-1) is a little more complex.
Veteran starter Ben Roethlisberger missed a second straight day of practice Thursday, putting his status in jeopardy.
Although Roethlisberger expressed confidence that his bruised elbow sustained in a tie with the Cleveland Browns on Sunday would not prevent him from playing against the Chiefs, sitting out Thursday's practice led to some doubts.
Asked Thursday whether he expected Roethlisberger to be under center Sunday, Steelers offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner told the NFL Network: "I wouldn't be able to answer that at this point."
Backup Joshua Dobbs, a fourth-round draft pick out of Tennessee in 2017, took all the first-team snaps at Thursday's practice and could make his first NFL start on Sunday.
Dobbs threw for 2,946 yards with 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in his senior year with the Volunteers.
Roethlisberger, who routinely doesn't practice on Wednesdays, injured the elbow on the penultimate offensive play in the Steelers' 21-21 overtime tie with the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
The six-time Pro Bowl selection completed 23 of 41 passes for 335 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions against the Browns. He also lost two fumbles on sacks.
A two-time Super Bowl champion, Roethlisberger has been Pittsburgh's starter since he was drafted in the first round in 2004.
Sunday's matchup will be the 35th regular-season meeting between the teams. The Steelers lead the all-time series 23-11.
The Steelers won seven of the last eight vs. Chiefs, including a victory in Kansas City last October that kick-started an eight-game winning streak.
"Every game has been a little bit different, but the end result was that they won the game," Reid said about his team's recent struggles vs. the Steelers. "When you play this crew, you have to play a complete game, you have to do it for four quarters.
"Given opportunities, you have to take advantage of opportunism on both sides of the ball and special teams. That normally is what differs a game when two good teams are playing each other. Eliminate some mistakes in certain places and you will be alright."
While All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell almost assuredly will miss the game while he continues to be absent from the team in protest of being franchised for the second straight season, cornerback Joe Haden is a better bet to miss the game than Roethlisberger because of injury.
If Haden's hamstring injury is too much to overcome, Cameron Sutton is ready to start.
"You expect the ball to come to you every play," Sutton said. "It's not just because I'm a backup cornerback or come in the game at a certain point in time. I feel like everyone on the field should expect the ball to come their way if you want to make plays. When you're out there, you have to expect it."
Sutton's teammates have confidence in the second-year corner out of Tennessee.
"Cam has prepared himself for moments like this, where he can showcase that he deserves to be out there to get a chance," safety Sean Davis said. "The Browns tested him. That's what happens in the NFL. He lost his first battle but came back and won the second one. That's what's expected of him. I'm confident in Cam Sutton."
For the Chiefs, safety Eric Berry remained on the sideline at midweek with a sore heel. The team continues to label Berry as day to day.
Reid emphasized he will return to the field when both Berry and the team's medical staff are comfortable with his physical condition.
Linebacker Ben Niemann also missed practiced Wednesday with a strained left hamstring.
Linebacker Reggie Ragland remains on the team's injury report with a knee issue that stems back to the inflammation he developed during offseason workouts. He said the knee issue is behind him, but Ragland played just 42 of 82 defensive snaps last week.
Updated September 13, 2018