Steelers: Denver Broncos preview and prediction


The Pittsburgh Steelers will take on the Denver Broncos on Sunday afternoon. 

The Pittsburgh Steelers are starting to hit their stride after dispatching the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday.

However, they welcome the 10-3 Denver Broncos who are fighting for home field advantage in the AFC playoff race. Pittsburgh needs a win to keep pace in the AFC wild card chase, but they will face linebacker Vonn Miller and the NFL’s best defense. Surprisingly, the Steelers are the betting favorite on Sunday.

The Broncos are coming off a 15-12 loss at the hands of the Oakland Raiders last week. Denver was able to hold the powerful Oakland offense to 15 points, but wasn’t able to get anything going offensively with first-year starter Brock Osweiler.

Since taking over for the injured Peyton Manning, Osweiler has given hit-and-miss performances. He’s thrown five touchdowns and three interceptions in his starts this season. However, he hasn’t been able to consistently string a solid performance together.

Offensively, Denver really struggles to run the football consistently. C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman have run the two-headed committee for Denver this season, but neither have put a stranglehold on the job. Containing this Broncos’ rushing attack should be no problem for Cameron Heyward and the sixth-ranked Steelers run defense.

Nov 22, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (88) runs past Chicago Bears defensive back

Chris Prosinski

(31) during a 48 yard touchdown reception in the first quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Despite Osweiler’s inconsistency, Pittsburgh will have to key in on receivers Demaryius Thomas and former Steeler Emmanuel Sanders. Thomas has already broken 1,000 receiving yards (1067) on the season and Sanders has 57 receptions as a No. 2 target.

The Georgia Tech product Thomas has been an elite receiver in this league since his rookie season and is always dangerous no matter who is throwing the ball. Pittsburgh cornerback Antwan Blake will have his hands full. It is painful to write, but Thomas has crushed Steelers fans’ dreams before. He is even more capable now than he was during the 2011-2012 AFC wild card game.

Additionally, both linebacker Bud Dupree and Mike Mitchell’s status have generated discussion this week. Between Dupree’s pass rushing presence and Mitchell’s coverage, containing Thomas will become more challenging if those two are absent.

While Denver’s offense doesn’t necessarily present a daunting task—the Broncos defense is the best in the NFL—and it isn’t that close.

Miller has feasted on the soul of 10 quarterbacks so far this season. His partner in crime —future hall-of-famer Demarcus Ware—has eaten 6.5 sack lunches this season. This group can get after the quarterback with the best of them. It’s unrealistic to expect left tackle Alejandro Villanueva to compete on a high-level in this game.

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Not only can Denver rush the passer, but they have locked teams down on the back end. Cornerbacks Chris Harris and Aquib Talib held rookie sensation Amari Cooper catch-less in last week’s game against the Raiders.

While receivers Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant may be the best one-two punch in the NFL, they’ll face a tandem equally as powerful in this game. If Villanueva and the Steelers’ offensive line can keep Ben Roethlisberger upright, the killer B’s should be able to make some plays underneath against this stout group.

The key to the Steelers’ offensive success will be keeping Roethlisberger upright. If the lines can hold, the Steelers should be able to get the victory in front of the home crowd in what is most likely the last home game of the season.

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Prediction: Steelers 24-Broncos 10