Last week saw quarterback Bryan Randall fumble twice, running back Tyre Young once, and three missed PAT attempts from kicker Seth Burkholder, who was given his walking papers after the game. It all adds up in the standings and the Power have no margin for error if they still dream about making the AFL playoffs. It would take a miraculous comeback, but this is the team that rallied from 31 down against Orlando earlier this year to win a game.
The journey towards that miracle starts this Saturday as the winless Kansas City Command invade the Consol Energy Center to take on the Power.
Kansas City has the lowest scoring offense in the league (36.1 PPG) and will start AFL rookie Matt Gutierrez at quarterback. He has struggled mightily this year, completing only 56.1% of his passes. Pittsburgh might not respect his arm, but they do have to worry about him running the ball. If the Power's defensive line can contain Gutierrez, the Power D should be in great shape.
The Command have had major injury issues but they do have a strong playmaker in Armand Robinson at the wide receiver position. In just two games this year, Robinson has amassed 21 receptions for 239 yards and 5 TD's.
Pittsburgh spent most of the year searching for an answer at the quarterback position, and may have found one in Randall. Randall leads the league in completion percentage (69%), and has throw for over 300 yards in back to back games. Last week he set a Power franchise record for yards with 387. If Randall can curtail his fumbling issues, he could be an elite quarterback in the AFL.
His favorite target last week was P.J. "Superman" Berry who caught a franchise record 19 receptions for 188 yards and 2 TD's. He finished one shy of the league reception record for a game set by Dwayne Dixon in 1987.
Another popular target for Randall is Oderick Turner. In just two games this year for Pittsburgh, Turner has hauled in 19 catches for 215 yards and 4 TD's and looks like a potential force for the Power offense.
Keys to the game:
- How well does Matt Gutierrez match up against an aggressive Power secondary. Chris LeFlore is third in the AFL in the interception category with six and has to be licking his chops for a few picks against the Command.
- Can Sione Ohuafi step in for injured Power center Beau Elliott who suffered a season-ending injury against San Antonio. Ohuafi might be rusty after not playing for almost a year. This could especially be problematic on quarterback/center exchanges.
- Can Pittsburgh finally find a solid kicker who won't leave points on the field? After an 0 for 3 performance from Seth Burkholder, the Power have brought in Geoff Boyer to try and stabilize the position. Boyer was 19/24 on FG's and 49/54 on PAT's for the Albany Panthers of the SIFL this year.
Playoff chase aside, this is a game that Pittsburgh cannot afford to lose. Fans are getting frustrated in the Steel City and a loss to a winless Command team would be devastating. I just don't think it'll happen though. Pittsburgh is too talented to blow this one.