Saturday, November 04, 2006

A Mile High View

The following is a portion of an article by Lynn DeBruin of the Rocky Mountain News previewing Sunday's matchup between the Broncos and Steelers.


• The skinny: The Steelers have faced three teams this season whose rushing attacks are among the league's top 10 - Atlanta (1), San Diego (2) and Jacksonville (6). Those also happen to be the three teams that have topped 100 yards rushing against them. The Steelers are hurting with nose tackle Casey Hampton battling a hamstring injury and safety Mike Logan out because of a hamstring injury.

• It's a fact: No individual running back has topped 100 yards against the Steelers this season. In fact, only one back has topped 70 yards rushing this season - Jacksonville's Fred Taylor gained 92.

When the Broncos pass the ball

• The skinny: This will be a different deal up front for the Broncos. While left tackle Erik Pears has performed well in place of injured Matt Lepsis, especially in the run game, this will be the defense that tests him the most so far on the edge with blitzes. The Colts blitzed a smattering of times, but Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will bring far more pressure to bear. Choices have to be made quickly in protection.

• It's a fact: The Steelers have two games this season with six sacks each - Cincinnati and Oakland - and one game with four - San Diego.

When the Steelers run the ball

• The skinny: The Broncos didn't tackle against the Colts the way they have for much of the season. They'll need an effort like they had in New England if they are going to win. The Steelers' offensive rhythm comes from the run. When Pittsburgh doesn't get production on early downs, it often looks out of sorts. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has turned over the ball plenty, especially when he hasn't had the comfort of a running game.

• It's a fact: The Steelers have rushed for at least 143 yards in three games this season, and all three have come at Heinz Field, and two were their wins.

When the Steelers pass the ball

• The skinny: The physical toll of Roethlisberger's injuries might be catching up to him. A near-fatal motorcycle accident in the offseason, an emergency appendectomy just before the opener and a concussion against the Falcons have left him a little wobbly, no matter how much he says he's fine. His play says differently. He has tossed 11 interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns Sunday.

• It's a fact: The Broncos have limited quarterbacks not named Brady or Manning this season. Those two are the only quarterbacks to top 217 yards passing against Denver this season.

Special teams

• The skinny: No matter how well the Broncos kickers have done this season, it's difficult to give the team the nod against anyone, given the continued struggles to get quality field position in the return game. The Broncos are last in the league in average drive start, and that means they are making their offense go the long way.

• It's a fact: The Steelers have nine kickoff returns of at least 25 yards this season from rookie wide receiver Santonio Holmes, including a 42-yarder against Atlanta. The Broncos have one, a 27-yarder by rookie wide receiver Brian Clark against the Colts.


• The skinny: The Steelers are a different team at home. Four times this year, they have topped 340 yards on offense, and two of those have come at Heinz Field. Their only three games with at least 140 yards rushing have been at home, and both of their wins have come at home. The Broncos need the early lead, or it could be a disappointing flight home . . .

[P]rediction: Steelers 23-21

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