Denver Broncos: Behind Enemy Lines with Still Curtain

Sep 19, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers fans wave Terrible Towels against the Las Vegas Raiders during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. Las Vegas won 26-17.Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 19, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers fans wave Terrible Towels against the Las Vegas Raiders during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. Las Vegas won 26-17.Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The Denver Broncos head to face the Pittsburgh Steelers this week. We interview  Tommy Jaggi of Still Curtain in the latest edition of Behind Enemy Lines.

The Denver Broncos have finished the first chunk of the 2021 season with a 3-1 record after defeating the New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars, and New York Jets and losing to the Baltimore Ravens.

In the loss to the Ravens, the Broncos lost quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to a concussion, leaving his status for this week’s game in question.

This week’s opponent, the Pittsburgh Steelers, won their first game of the season against the Buffalo Bills in week 1, but have dropped their last three games by a combined score of 77-44.

Neither team is coming into the game with victory momentum. Hypothetically, that may mean it will be more of an even matchup.

In the latest Behind Enemy Lines edition, I talked with Tommy Jaggi of Still Curtain.

PO: What has been your overall impression on the Steelers through four weeks?

SC: This Steelers team isn’t what most fans expected this year. Though we didn’t expect the offense to be great, we envisioned being better than one of the worst units in the league. Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t been good enough to put up 20 offensive points in a single contest yet this year, and the defense has been very banged up. Through the first four weeks of the season, the Steelers have shown that outsourcing their opponents is going to be an issue this year, but they should be able to hang tough with most teams thanks to their defense.

PO: Are there any weaknesses on the Steelers, offense or defense, that could be a concern against the Denver Broncos?

SC: The Steelers’ offensive line has been an issue all season. While this is a very young unit that is arguable coming off their best game of the season against the Packers, they just can’t seem to keep Roethlisberger upright and they struggle to carve out running lanes for rookie RB Najee Harris. Defensively, Pittsburgh’s secondary has been very susceptible this season — particularly when the pass rush doesn’t get there fast. Both of these areas are major concerns against the Denver Broncos this week. 

PO: With Ben Roethlisberger getting closer and closer to retirement, what do you envision the Steelers doing at the quarterback position?

SC: This is an excellent question and one that members of Steelers media tend to disagree on. Many would suggest that the team should stream a veteran quarterback following Ben’s likely retirement in 2022, but I would urge that they need to rebuild from the ground up and take a quarterback in the NFL Draft. Eventually, I think the Steelers want to draft their own guy who will hold the reigns of this franchise, but for the next few years, I could see them going with a stop-gap FA option in an effort to stay competitive.

PO: Who is one under-the-radar player on the Steelers that fans need to watch on Sunday?
SC: James Washington was an unsung hero for the Steelers last week filling in for wide receiver Chase Claypool. He caught all 5 catchable targets against the Packers for 69 yards, but he may not play a big role if Claypool returns this week. Rookie tight end, Pat Freiermuth, is another very reliable receiving option who can wreak havoc over the middle of the field when given the chance. Roethlisberger has a 132.2 passer rating when targeting him this year, according to Pro Football Reference. Defensively, second-year pass rusher Alex Highsmith has been sneaky-good when healthy. 

PO: Which player on injured reserve have the Steelers missed the most that would have made a big difference against the Denver Broncos?

SC: Offensive tackle Zach Banner has spent the first four games on injured reserve, but losing DL Stephon Tuitt was no doubt the biggest loss. Last year, Tuitt earned 11.0 sacks, 10 TFLs, and 25 QB hits in 15 games (via PFR) but somehow remains as one of the most underrated defensive players in the league. His loss has hurt Pittsburgh in both their pass rush and run defense this year. Chris Wormley has done an admirable job in his place, but it has not been the same.

PO: How do you see this matchup playing out?

SC: With Ben Roethlisberger from a few years ago, I would have been very confident that the Steelers would take care of business against a very banged-up Broncos team. Now I’m not so sure. In my early game prediction, I had Pittsburgh narrowly escaping Week 5 with a win on their own turf. With all of the injuries Denver is dealing with, I have a gut feeling the Steelers will win, but it will be close. 

As this game is in Pittsburgh, the matchup is an early 1PM ET start. It should be a fun game to watch for fans of either team.

Thank you to Tommy Jaggi for taking the time to answer these questions and give his perspective on several topics. You can check out Tommy’s work at Still Curtain here.