The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for their AFC Divisional playoff game against the Denver Broncos in Mile High, and the Broncos are heavily favored in this re-match of the Week 15 game at Heinz Field. The latest spread has Denver as 7-point favorites, and a lot of that has to do with the injury situation on the Steelers' offense.
Ben Roethlisberger suffered a sprained throwing shoulder in the AFC Wild Card game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Antonio Brown failed to get right from a concussion suffered last week and DeAngelo Williams continues to deal with a foot/ankle injury which was suffered in Week 17 of the regular season.
Brown has officially been ruled out, but the aspect of this game which isn't getting much attention is the Steelers' opportunistic defense going against the unknown commodity of Peyton Manning. Sure seems strange to say that, but in a season where Manning has thrown 17 interceptions and 9 touchdowns, questions certainly come up.
There are a lot of story lines in this playoff game, but when the rubber meets the road, who are the experts taking to win and advance to the AFC Championship game against either the New England Patriots or the Kansas City Chiefs?
At ESPN, their 13-person panel is heavily favoring the Broncos. To be accurate, only 3 experts are taking the Steelers to win on the road. This trend continues at CBSSports, where only 3 of the 8 experts on the panel believe Pittsburgh has a shot to win Sunday evening.
At FOXSports it gets even worse with only 2 of 8 experts envision the Steelers leaving Colorado with a win and to continue their hopes of claiming a 7th Lombardi trophy. Here at SB Nation, it is ugly. In fact, only one expert views the Steelers as having the ability to go on the road, banged up, and beat the Broncos.
Our friends at NFL Pick Watch, a website devoted to tabulating, calculating and referencing every NFL expert pick on the internet, has the Broncos being selected 81-percent of the time across the world wide web.
For the 2015 Steelers this is rare. Not the fact they are dealing with injuries, but being heavy under dogs in a big game. Mike Tomlin might be known for his occasional stinker against a sub-standard team, but he is a big game coach who typically has his prepared to win when the stage is brightest. Without Antonio Brown, this theory will be tested, and only time will tell how it pans out. One thing is for sure -- the experts certainly aren't banking on that to take place.