It’s a gorgeous September Friday morning in the City of Champions with the buzz of a road opener putting a spring in the collective step of the “Steeler Nation”. Our beloved “Stillers” venture to Denver in an effort to get a little payback from that Tebow foolishness last January. Coach Lebeau, you are a great man, a great coach and a great Hall of Fame member, but you owe us one for calling all of the zero coverage that got us beat. (Sorry, I had to get that out)
However, it is interesting to observe that the prevailing wind blowing around town is calling for trouble in Mile High. You gotta love this town. These sons and daughters (I suppose they are now grandsons and granddaughters) of steel workers and coal miners surely know their football.
I can’t say I disagree with em.
Here are 7 reasons to take the Broncos – 1:
1. James Harrison effectiveness is very questionable this weekend. No one is even sure if he can go Sunday night. Contrary to popular belief, James is the straw that stirs the drink on the defensive side. I know that is sacrilege to all of the Polamalu faithful but yeah, I said it. LaMarr Woodley (no knock on him) has a lot of difficulty getting it done without James. The 3-4 zone blitz defense is predicated on disguised pressure from anywhere near the box; for whatever reason, they don’t get it done without Harrison. Even if he isn’t getting sacks, he still provides value because he gets the proper attention from the opposing O-line.
2. The Steelers’ new Offensive Coordinator, Todd Haley, is attempting to make the transition back to a more balanced offense that incorporates the run game much more that in the recent past. In my opinion, this move comes at the edict of the Rooney’s themselves as they wish to protect their investment (i.e. Ben Roethlisberger) from further harm.
While I certainly understand the logic, the 2012 Steelers simply don’t have the personnel to carry out the mission. Max Starks will start at left tackle because the second round pick, Mike Adams, who they attempted to plug in at LT, is not ready to play left tackle in an NFL setting as of yet. The first round pick, David DeCastro, who was penciled in at left guard, tore his MCL along with patellar tendon damage.
I don’t want to write a novel here and there are other issues with the O-line but suffice it to say that the strategy to transition back to the run is a work in progress.
3. The Steelers running back situation is suspect. In light of this renewed focus on the run, it has me scratching my head. Rashard Mendenhall isn’t ready to play. Isaac Redman, while you gotta love his intensity, is not the answer. Jonathan Dwyer is NFL material, but he along with the rest of these guys have a problem. They are going to run behind a line that isn’t built to play smash-mouth football.
4. The failure in the run game will force the Steelers to throw. Well, that plays right into the hands of the Broncos. Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil may have the Rooneys drinking a few Jamesons in the thin air at Invesco. Hopefully, Bishop Zubik will be making the trip with them. Nice Catholic boys, those Rooneys.
5. In Coach Tomlin parlance, the “communication hub” won’t make the trip. As we all know, Ryan Clark’s medical condition will prohibit him from participating on Sunday night. While Tomlin downplays the loss with his normal “Coach-speak”, it is significant since the Steelers face Peyton Manning this time, not Tim Tebow. The new secondary will be challenged not only due to the fact that there will be one new starter at cornerback but also a back-up in the person of Ryan Mundy. While Ryan is an excellent back-up, there is some drop-off in calling the secondary and overall ability.
6. The one point Denver is giving is negligible given the fact that they are at home and it is below the key number of 3.
7. I saved the most important point for last. Peyton Manning can and will carve up a Pittsburgh defense that is depleted due to injury and makes a living on pressuring the quarterback. Peyton’s got something for dat and yinz know it.
Now for all of the people who question Peyton’s ability to comeback from over a year away and his depleted arm strength, I say “he don’t throw it with his neck”.
Take the Broncos to cover and enjoy the weekend!
Article by contributor T. Hunter Williams
Photo Credits: Getty Images