Robert Ayers hits Ben Roethlisberger as the ball is released during the playoff matchup last January. (Chris Schneider/AP)

Denver Broncos Prepping For Improved Pittsburgh Steelers' Offense


 

(Chris Schneider/AP)

So much was made about the Pittsburgh Steelers defense last year, that we forget about what a potent offense they have, especially when they’re healthy.

The Steelers have that balanced offense that every team in the NFL strives for.

“He’s one of the top quarterbacks in the league,” defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said about QB Ben Roethlisberger. “He’s now a veteran with some time under his belt. He’s always been dangerous. He’s got the ability to extend plays with his feet, and got the arm strength to throw the ball down the field to some very, very talented receivers, and that’s not even what they really want to do. They want to pound you in the run game.”

The Steelers were ranked 14th in rushing and 10th in passing last season. That was too mediocre by Steelers’ standards. The team hired Todd Haley who was fired as the Kansas City Chiefs head coach in December as their new offensive coordinator. Haley grew up in a suburb of Pittsburgh and his father was the personnel director for the team at one time.

I know that he brings legitimate enthusiasm and energy to what he’s doing,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said of Haley. “Obviously he’s got a strong love for the Pittsburgh Steelers given that he grew up in this environment, and he’s a very credible and accomplished offensive coach. We find comfort in all of those things.”

Of course the Broncos are familiar with Haley’s style because he was the head coach in Kansas City for nearly three years. The Broncos are also familiar with the Steelers simply because they haven’t changed their philosophy in years.

“We know what type of team they want to be,” linebacker Joe Mays said. “They want to come in, run the ball, and we definitely want to be on top of our game and try to stop the run so we can force them into pass situations, and then try to get after them.”

It’s hard to get after a team like the Steelers, however. Roethlisberger is a tough guy to bring down thanks to his size (6’5″, 241 pounds), and his ability to extend the play by scrambling.

The Broncos played Roethlisberger last January when he had a sprained left ankle. This year, he’s more likely to slow down on the field only if his wife goes into labor.

Roethlisberger was 9th in passing yards last season, sandwiched in between Matt Ryan and Cam Newton. Champ Bailey thinks he’s up on the same level as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

“He’s right there,” Bailey said. “How many guys that size can scramble and be accurate at the same time? Not a lot. He’s one of the best at it. He gives you a lot of fits because he extends plays. He’s as sharp as they come.”

The Broncos’ defense faces a good test right off the bat in dealing with a team that can come at you from all angles.

“It’s going to test how physical we are, it’s going to set our identity for the year,” Mays said. “You couldn’t start with a better game than the Steelers.”

Amen to that.

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