The Steelers (7-2-1) are set to take on the Broncos (4-6) Sunday afternoon at Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado.
Since the Steelers have a superior record, there is no way they’re going into the 4:25 kickoff thinking there’s even a remote possibility they will lose. In other words, mere hours before deer hunting season begins in Western, Pa., the big game that are the Steelers’ players could fall prey to the trap the Broncos have set for them in the mountains of Colorado.
That’s right, Sunday’s contest is one of those infamous road trap games head coach Mike Tomlin’s teams always succumb to this time of year.
But to quote Dwight Schrute: “False.” The Steelers do not fall prey to trap games in November. No, Steelers players usually roam around visiting stadiums without a compass and without a clue in September, a time of year when they’re most vulnerable to attacks from Eagles, Dolphins and Bears (yes, THAT game). Fact: Bears eat beets (and Steelers). Bears. Beets. Battlestar Galactica.
This isn’t to say the Broncos aren’t a formidable animal capable of bucking the Steelers right off of their six-game winning-streak. Tomlin said as much at his press conference on Tuesday, a time of the week when he makes upcoming opponents seem like a combination of the ‘78 Steelers and ‘07 Patriots (Super Bowl extra not included). But Tomlin wasn’t off-base with his praise for Denver.
This really is one battle-tested team, a team whose six losses have come against opponents with a combined record of 34-18. The Broncos have lost to the Chiefs (twice), Rams, Texans, and the Ravens back when everyone thought they were good.
The Broncos defense includes linebacker Von Miller, who has 10 sacks on the season. It also has Bradley Chubb, a rookie linebacker with nine sacks.
Did you see what Miller did last Sunday to Chargers’ quarterback Philip Rivers, when he hopped up at the line of scrimmage to intercept one of those quick little receiver screen-type passes? How many times has Terrell Suggs done that to Ben Roethlisberger? How much does Roethlisberger love to throw those kinds of passes? If you said “a lot” in both cases, you would be correct.
Case Keenum is a quarterback capable of taking his team to a conference title game, which he did last season as a member of the Vikings. Phillip Lindsay is a young running back cut from the same cloth as the Panthers Christian McCaffrey, a player who kind of had his way with Pittsburgh’s defense back on November 8. And, obviously, Emmanuel Sanders is a really good wide receiver, who would like nothing better than to stick it to his old team.
Also, there’s Denver’s altitude that, in-case you weren’t aware, is really, really high (yes, even higher than Pittsburgh’s Mt. Washington neighborhood). Then there’s the Steelers history of playing in Denver, a history that doesn’t include a whole lot of victories—Tim Tebow beat them there.
Fortunately, these aren’t your September Steelers. These are your October, November and December Steelers, complete with a thick and hardened shell, one durable enough to survive one or two falls off of a really angry and bucking Bronco.
Maybe the Steelers win ugly like they did against the Jaguars last Sunday. Maybe they lose. But no matter what happens, it won’t happen against a helplessly inferior opponent (the trap game narrative is more suitable for the Raiders in Oakland two weeks later—a whole other thing, yikes), and it won’t be because the Steelers traveled to Denver without their compass and without their armor.