Steelers vs Broncos: 3 Key Matchups


Here are three keys to the Steelers’ matchup against the Broncos this weekend.

The Pittsburgh Steelers will take on the Denver Broncos this weekend.

Denver has the league’s No. 1 defense and has elite wide receivers on the outside. The Steelers will have to contain some of the Bronco’s defensive firepower if they hope to win this game. Here are three keys to a Steelers’ victory this weekend.

1. The Steelers passing attack vs. the Broncos Pass Defense

Talk about a heavyweight matchup.  The Broncos enter Sunday’s game with the best pass defense in the NFL, giving up a mere 188.2 passing yards per game.  More importantly, they have yet to yield a 300 yard passing game this season.  This is after facing the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Andrew Luck and Derek Carr, who torched the Steelers a month ago.

Now the Broncos face a Steelers pass offense that has been rolling on all cylinders since the return of Ben Roethlisberger.  The Steelers currently sit fifth in passing yard per game with 284 yards; granted that number would be a lot higher if Roethlisberger does not miss four games.

But this is not the Steelers first rodeo this season against a great secondary.  Roethlisberger was able to torch the Legion of Boom for 456 yards through the air in their 39-30 loss in Seattle.  What stood out in the game was Ben’s ability to dominate with Antonio Brown being held to only six catches for 51 while being blanketed by Richard Sherman.

With Brown covered, Markus Wheaton exploded for a career day nine catches for 201 yards and a score.  Against the Broncos, the Steelers will face another team who likes to man up their corners and play press coverage.  Bronco cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr have played at a Pro Bowl level all season while third cornerback Bradley Roby could probably start on most teams including the Steelers.

However, the Broncos will be without their top safety T.J. Ward for Sunday’s game. With Ward now sidelined, the speed of the Steelers’ receivers may be too much for the Broncos.  Something has to give this Sunday.

2. Steelers offensive line vs. Broncos pass rush.

One of the biggest stories of this Steeler team has to be the play of the offensive line.   Despite losing their All-Pro Center for the presumably the season and their Left Tackle, the o-line has been surprisingly one of the many bright points on this team.  Cody Wallace and Alejandro Villanueva have both played a high level since entering the starting lineup.

As a whole, the offensive line has only given up 27 sacks on the season.   This week will be the toughest test for the revamped line.  The Broncos rank first in sacks with 44 on the year.

All-Pro Von Miller leads the Broncos with 10 sacks while recording a sack in five straight games.  Drawing the matchup with Miller will be Right Tackle Marcus Gilbert, who has been playing on a Pro Bowl level in 2015.

Gilbert gave up his only sack of the season last week in Cincinnati against Carlos Dunlap.  Along with Miller, the Steelers will have to contend with veteran Demarcus Ware and Shaquil Barrett. The duo has combined for 12 sacks on the year from the left side, giving Villanueva one of his toughest tests so far in his young career.

3. Steelers pass rush vs. Broncos offensive line

Raiders Linebacker Khalil Mack single handedly dominated the Broncos last Sunday in their 15-12 upset at Mile High over the Broncos.

Mack sacked Brock Osweiler five times, all in the second half, to hand the Broncos their third loss of the season.  Since taking over the starting job from Peyton Manning, one of the main knocks on Osweiler has been the fact that he has taken too many sacks.  In five games this season, the Arizona State product has been sacked 17 times, including being sacked at least three times in four games.

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The total blame cannot all be placed on the young quarterback. The Broncos offensive line has been a patchwork group since the beginning of the season.  All-Pro LT Ryan Clady was lost in the preseason while his replacement Ty Sambrailo was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury following their win over the Green Bay Packers.

It might be another long day for Osweiler if the Steelers’ fifth ranked sack attack applies much needed pressure.  So far this season the black and gold have racked up 38 sacks on the season and have recorded at least three sacks in four of the past six games.

Next: Steelers vs. Broncos: preview and prediction

Defensive End Cam Heyward currently leads the team with six sacks, but look for veteran James Harrison and rookie Bud Dupree to be big difference makers off the edge.  Harrison tallied three sacks in their blowout win over the Colts while Dupree has not recorded a sack since Week 8.  Look for that to change Sunday.