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Steelers vs. Broncos: A unique approach to an AFC rivalry

A Steelers/Broncos preview article with many non-Steelers/Broncos-related opinions and statements peppered throughout.

Tennessee Titans v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

In the politically and socially-charged times we currently find ourselves in, it appears one of our newest pastimes is deciding not to enjoy something if it includes statements and opinions that really don’t have much to do with that something. The Pittsburgh Steelers have certainly found themselves in a few PR messes in recent years for adding statements and opinions to their football performing duties that a lot of people don’t agree with, even if those statements and opinions don’t really affect the team’s football performing duties.

“Don’t mix that statement/opinion with football!” people who have been fans of the team for years have been known to say. They say it detracts from the football experience, it lessens the fun, it makes them not want to watch.

Therefore, I’d like to conduct an experiment while writing a bit of a preview article about the Steelers Week 2 match-up against the Broncos this Sunday at Heinz Field. While discussing this game, I will pepper in non-Steelers/Broncos-related statements and opinions about subjects that are important to me. Just to be fair, you’ll know when a non-football-related statement or opinion is coming because it will be in bold italics. I’m doing this because I want to see if these statements and opinions detract from the Steelers/Broncos information I’m giving you and/or make you want to boycott me.

Before I get started with my Steelers/Broncos article, I’d like to take this time to say that Rod Woodson was a better cornerback than Mel Blount.

The Steelers, fresh off an impressive 26-16 victory over the Giants last Monday at MetLife Stadium, take on the Broncos this Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field. No fans will be allowed inside Heinz Field, but I still think Pittsburgh will have a significant advantage, thanks to the Broncos having to fly cross-country and play a 1 p.m. (EST) game.

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Denver, led by young quarterback Drew Lock, could pose a formidable threat to the Steelers’ secondary, thanks to receivers Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy, as well as tight end Noah Fant.

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However, Denver does come to town a bit injury-compromised. As you probably know, famed outside linebacker Von Miller will miss a large portion of 2020 after having surgery to fix a dislodged tendon in his ankle. Joining him on the Injured Reserve list for Week 2 is cornerback A.J. Bouye, who suffered a separated shoulder in Denver’s 16-14 Week 1 loss to the Titans on Monday Night Football. Also, running back Phillip Lindsay, who did some damage against the Steelers in a critical late-season loss at Denver in 2018, is currently dealing with a turf toe injury that will keep him out of Sunday’s game.

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The Broncos may not have Lindsay, but Melvin Gordon III is no slouch at running back, and he could prove to be a handful.

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Unfortunately, the Steelers are also dealing with a rash of injuries—at least along their offensive line. Right guard David DeCastro, who barely practiced during training camp and didn’t play in New York, is out for this Sunday’s game. Joining him is right tackle Zach Banner after he suffered a season-ending ACL tear late in Pittsburgh’s win against the Giants. Compounding matters, veteran backup Stefen Wisniewski, who filled in for DeCastro in Week 1, also left the game with a pectoral injury that has now landed him on Injured Reserve.

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The injury situation along the offensive line means that some youngsters will have to step up and start on Sunday. Chukwuma Okorafor will start at right tackle, while rookie Kevin Dotson will get the nod at right guard. I’m not that worried about Okorafor, given that he’s already had four-career starts. Also, the camp battle between Okorafor and Banner for the right tackle spot was reportedly pretty close and really high-quality. And besides all of that, Banner literally has zero track record at the position, so it isn’t like Okorafor will be replacing a perennial All-Pro. Speaking of replacing All-Pros, Dotson is the literal unknown, given his inexperience and total lack of preseason action. But that’s the great thing about the NFL, sometimes you never know if a player has what it takes unless you just throw him into the fray and find out.

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The Steelers obviously have to take advantage of the Broncos young and injury-depleted defense. This might be a week where the receiving depth really pays off for Pittsburgh. If you add tight end Eric Ebron to the mix, that may be too many targets for Denver to handle.

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Conversely, what will Denver do to create match-up problems for the Steelers defense? As stated by BTSC’s own Geoffrey Benedict while previewing the game on Know Your Enemy on Wednesday night, one way Denver could neutralize Pittsburgh’s potent pass-rush is by using a lot of two-tight end sets, which could commit the outside linebackers to dropping back into pass-coverage.

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Finally, it remains to be seen how this Sunday’s game will play out, and whether or not injuries will affect either team’s performance. But I am confident the Steelers are the better team and will leave Heinz Field with a 2-0 record.

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So, there you have it, a Steelers/Broncos preview with a lot of my own strong statements and opinions on non-Steelers/Broncos issues peppered in. How did you feel about that? Did it lessen your enjoyment of the preview? Should I expect the readership of my next article to decline?

Before I go, I’d like to dedicate this article to all the left-handed people around the world.