This season is a marathon, not a sprint. Keeping that in mind, hitting the wall last week in Baltimore may have not been such a bad thing. After all, the Broncos are supposed to have highs and lows to learn from their mistakes. A diamond with a flaw is much better than a pebble without. This week, the Steelers (5-2) visit the Mile High City to partake in a big Monday night game. The Steelers are coming off of their bye week, and are always deadly with Ben Roethlisberger leading the charge. The defending champions had a rough start to their season, but have won four straight games. When playing at home, the Broncos are 7-2-1 against the Steelers in the regular season. Walking away with a 3-1 record against the AFC North would be a great accomplishment. My Prediction: Broncos 23 Steelers 20.
Broncos - Pittsburgh is great at stopping the run, so the offensive line has got to do a great job protecting Kyle Orton. The pass attack is going to be favored with possibly some short dumps to Correll Buckhalter and Knowshon Moreno. The Broncos only managed 66 yards rushing last week, so I’m sure that was a main area of focus this week in practice and in the film room. The Broncos are without tackle Ryan Harris (toe). Getting on the scoreboard in the first half will be important for the Broncos. They have always started the game slow offensively, but last week, they reached a new low by failing to score in the first half of the game. Getting Tony Scheffler and Eddie Royal involved more is key to the Broncos success. Utilizing tight end Daniel Graham as a blocker for Buckhalter and Moreno looks to be a great option as well.
Steelers- Roethlisberger is pushing for the no-huddle offense because he saw the Ravens have some success last week when the Broncos weren’t able to cover the gaps once the offense got into a hurried state of play. The Steelers are 19th in rushing and 5th in passing. Rashard Mendenhall (59.7 yards per game) and Willie Parker (37.4 yards per game) lead the team in rushing while the very physical Hines Ward leads the team in receiving (86 yards per game, 2 TDs this season). Santonio Holmes is another deadly receiving target with a 71 yard per game average. They’ve got an enormous offensive line that could very well hold Denver’s quick defensive linemen.
Broncos - The opportunity for big defensive plays is plentiful against the Steelers. Both Mendenhall and Parker are prone to fumble the ball. Big Ben has thrown 6 INTs on the season, and he’s been sacked 20 times despite having that huge offensive line. Elvis Dumervil needs to get back on track after going sackless last week. Stopping the run will need to be Denver’s bread and butter because when the Steelers have the pass and rush going for them, that’s when they’re unstoppable. Forcing numerous turnovers a game is what has made the Broncos so successful this season. Putting pressure on Big Ben and forcing him into three and outs is the only way the Broncos will win this game.
Steelers- The Steelers’ defensive line is a beat up bunch that could have trouble against the Buckhalter-Moreno combo even though they haven’t allowed a 100+ yard rusher in the last 25 games. They even held Adrian Peterson to 89 yards in their win over the Vikings. Travis Kirschke is out with a torn calf muscle, forcing the Steelers to rotate a couple of rookies into the mix. The Steelers are 1st against the run and 16th against the pass. They have James Farrior leading the team in total tackles (48) and James Harrison leading the team in sacks (8). Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu are leading the team in INTs with 2 a piece. Ryan Clark may be unable to play, however. When this defense forces turnovers, it is just as capable of scoring as the Steelers offense is.
Broncos - Eddie Royal did a nice job with kick returns last week, and in fact, he’s the only one that’s been handling return duties. Matt Prater had better be ready to make some clutch field goals since this game could come down to a 3 point hit or miss.
Steelers- Jeff Reed is a spotty field goal kicker, particularly from long distance. He’s 9-12 on the year and 1-3 when kicking from beyond 40. Stefan Logan handles the bulk of the return game. He has a long of 56 yards on a kick return, but has not returned anything for a TD.
Broncos - Now that Josh McDaniels has absorbed his first loss as head coach, it will be interesting to see how he and his team bounce back from it. You can be sure many hours were spent in the film room this week. He goes up against another great young coach this week.
Steelers- Mike Tomlin is the man in Pittsburgh. He won the game of all games last year, and he’s a coaching genius who is always prepared. He delegates the play calling to his assistants, so that he can see the game as a whole. You can be sure McD looks up to him for finding sweet success at such a young age.
Tags: Adrian Peterson Ben Roethlisberger Correll Buckhlater Daniel Graham Denver Broncos Eddie Royal Elvis Dumervil Hines Ward James Farrior James Harrison Jeff Reed Josh Mcdaniels Knowshon Moreno Kyle Orton Matt Prater Mike Tomlin Pittsburgh Steelers Preview Rashard Mendenhall Ryan Clark Ryan Harris Santonio Holmes Stefan Logan Tony Scheffler Travis Kirschke Troy Polamalu Willie Parker