The high fying Pittsburgh Steelers offense will face their toughest matchup of the season in the Denver Broncos defense, and to get the inside scoop on the matchups which present themselves from the Denver side of the fence I sat down with the Mile High Report (SB Nation's Broncos site) to talk about this huge game.
Take a look at the interview with MHR, and be sure to check the Mile High Report for the best coverage around from the Broncos perspective.
The Broncos have the top defensive unit in the land, and the secondary gets a large majority of the credit. Is the "No Fly Zone" the biggest part of the defense, or would that come down to the pass rush forcing QBs to make quick and errant throws?
The "No Fly Zone" is for real. Let's start there. I'd take this secondary (and our corners especially) over any other group in the league, and it isn't even close.
That being said, the key to this defense is absolutely, positively the front-7. They are fast, furious, tenacious, and disruptive. Quarterbacks don't get much of a chance to challenge our corners deep because they just don't have time. They are forced to throw to routes within 10 yards of the LOS or risk their QB getting killed the vast majority of the time.
Brock Osweiler has been the man for the Broncos the past 5 weeks, and has gone 3-2 in that stretch. Is the fan base pleased with Osweiler as "the guy", or are they looking for Peyton Manning's return before the postseason?
The QB situation is such a tough subject at MHR and in general for Bronco Country. I think Peyton has from what I've seen lost too much to be able to handle this offense. It isn't because of lack of skill, but of durability.
I also think Brock Osweiler is not some great option at QB. He is playing like a 2nd year QB in the 6th start of the season really. He's better than a rookie, but he just doesn't have the experience to know a lot of the little things that great QBs know. He's a better option than Manning, but only as a game manager from what I've seen.
The key piece to this whole discussion is that the "QB situation" in Denver isn't a situation because of the QBs. It is a situation because of the poor quality of talent on the line matched with a system that the coaches brought in that requires a high degree of execution or it all falls apart in every facet.
The Steelers offense is as hot as any in the NFL right now. Will the Broncos try to do anything different to stop the Pittsburgh offense, or do they believe their standard defense is good enough to get the job done?
I'm a big believer in Wade Phillips as a defensive coordinator. He uses the strengths of his players to execute his system aggressively and to great effect. Each opponent has had wrinkles thrown at them (blitzes against the Lions, max coverage vs the Pats, etc). Wade will scheme against the Pittsburgh offense and I expect him to have a high degree of respect for your WRs. We will be in nickel as a base and we will likely see more cover-2 and looks while we pass rush and require our linebackers to help cover the underneath routes.
With Osweiler at QB, what will the Broncos offense do to try and put up points on a Steelers defense which gives up a lot of yardage, but doesn't give up a lot at points, especially on the road.
The Broncos offense will try to do what it is designed to do: Methodically move down the field, control the TOP, and keep advantage in field position. We have the best defense in the league and arguably the worst offense. There is no good way for this offense to put a ton of points on the board - they've tried everything in the book so far this year and it hasn't worked.
How do you see this game playing out, and what is your prediction?
I honestly don't have a big feeling on this game as far as how it is going to shake out. Denver could easily give up a 50-berger against that on-fire offense. They could also grind out another dominating defensive performance and win 17-3. I think it is going to be a great game and if you held a gun to my head I'd say Pittsburgh wins 21-13. Anyone saying our team is going to blow Pittsburgh away hasn't been paying attention to the reality of our offense.