Key Matchups In Denver���� By Steel Bran
are three key matchup areas going into this weekend's game. Certainly everyone
is always expected to perform to the standard as a Pittsburgh Steeler, but
these particular areas are my take on where the game will be won or lost. I
really like the Stillers chances this week.
#1 - Big Ben vs. the Broncos secondary. �Roethlisberger is 66/93 for 798 yds lifetime in Denver. That equates to an impressive 8.6 yards per attempt! He has thrown 9 touchdown passes while tossing three interceptions and losing two fumbles. Roeth boasts a solid 2-1 record, with the team�s lone loss coming on a Sunday nighter when the Broncs staved off a late Big Ben led 4th quarter surge.
The Broncos struggle heartily to stop opposing passing attacks. Denver is 18th in yards allowed, 20th in YPA, 23rd in completion %, 28th in opponent passer rating against, 31rst in 40+ plays allowed, and tied for second to last in interceptions for. Basically they give up big plays through the air, and hardly make any themselves. Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown both achieved 1000 yards receiving this season. Champ will probably draw Wallace, and they will look to double AB whenever possible. Whoever is slated as the number 3 man will need to be ready to see some passes. I expect a Manny Sanders coming out party. Sanders� skills are eye popping, and Ben could really go to town on the leaky Denver secondary with him in the lineup.
Pretty much anyway you look at it statistically, in facing the AFC North, the AFC South and the NFC West, Big Ben played a tremendously difficult passing schedule this season. Arguably the toughest for any quarterback in the entire league. �Looking at his stats though, nobody would guess that, as his numbers are almost right on par with what his career totals. Roethlisberger has proven to be a very good playoff quarterback, 10-3 all time. Given how well he has played this season, how great he has been throughout his career in January, and Denver's weak passing D, I really like this match up in favor of the Stillers!
#2 � Pittsburgh Inside Linebackers vs. Tebow and Running backs. �There is no secret about what Denver does on offense. That is why this game is great from a Steelers perspective. Pittsburgh will shut down running games. For the 10th consecutive season, the Stillers finished under 100 yards rushing allowed! Were Denver to have a threatening passing attack, I'd be much more concerned with the Broncos top ranked rushing attack, and their ability to run the ball. The Stillers are likely to commit extra bodies around the line of scrimmage, and dare the Broncos quarterback to consistently beat them through the air. Unless Tebow has been concealing some kind of hidden passing ability, he won't have a favorable match up. If there was ever a game to be a linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, this would be it.
#3 - Special Teams - The standouts here are the return men. Both Eric Decker and Eddie Royal have punt return touchdowns and are threats. That isn't good news, because the Stillers exceptional punt coverage men Curtis Brown, Cortez Allen and Chris Carter will all be out. Pittsburgh hopes to have Allen back for next week, while the others are gone for the year.
Denver has the top touchback percentage on its kickoffs, and punter Britton Colquitt is second in the league at forcing opponents to start inside the 20. The Broncos have forced some long fields, but moving the ball hasn't been an issue all that often for the Steelers. If Pittsburgh gets the chance to return a kick or a punt, it will be the team's all time record holder for single season all purpose yards and team MVP, Antonio Brown.
Score Prediction - Stillers win 27-7!