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Steelers Film Room: Pittsburgh defense will get turnover chances against Peyton Manning

We take a look at Manning's most recent performance coming into the Steelers' divisional round matchup with the Denver Broncos.

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Peyton Manning has had a rough season, throwing only 9 touchdowns and 17 interception in his time during the regular season and facing plenty of criticism that says that maybe he should hang it up. While the veteran Super Bowl champion will not just bow out because some people think he should not play anymore, he will have to limit his mistakes against a Pittsburgh Steelers' defense that recorded the third most takeaways in the NFL during the 2015 NFL season.

Just last week, the Steelers' defense forced four turnovers in a slugfest with their division rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals. Manning's performance this year suggests that maybe the opportunistic defense of Pittsburgh will have a chance to be just as successful this week. We take a look at Manning's replacement performance against the San Diego Chargers to show the good and the bad that he has gone through recently.

First Play:

This is a perfect example of what could go right for Manning and the Broncos if they are not pressured into making tight plays against Pittsburgh. Manning drops back and never has to change his launch point due to pressure, while Emmanuel Sanders runs his route freely and is never challenged, allowing for their timing pattern to convert an easy first down. The Steelers cannot allow Manning to sit back and be comfortable. He is not mobile and his discomfort with his inuries this season will be a problem for him should Bud Dupree, Cameron Heyward and James Harrison are chasing him around in the backfield. The Steelers need to do what they did last week and the week before, bring the heat.

Second Play:

I remember when Peyton Manning was the most accurate passer in the NFL. Today he is not that anymore and Pittsburgh needs to realize this. Notice how Sanders is challenged at the line of scrimmage and Manning's window of opportunity on this throw is miniscule. With his decreased arm strength, Manning would have to take a big chance with a throw here instead of safe and easy decisions with underneath routes.

Also notice how Manning may have felt rushed from the surge of San Diego's defensive front. They started to get through and Manning just launched up a deep pass that was far from ever being completed. When the Steelers bring the heat, they need to be sure of their coverage assignments and make Manning beat them with difficult passes into tight windows. Eventually Blitzburgh might get the turnovers they need in a game where their offense is seriously hurting.

Third Play:

Here Manning has all sorts of time to decide where to throw the ball but his options are covered and he is unable to create a play after the routes are finished. He tries to step up in the pocket but the Chargers are all over him and are able to record a sack. While the Steelers' secondary did a solid job last week, I would not try to rely on too many coverage sacks against the Broncos. This type of play might happen on Sunday, but I think the better plan of attack would be to create the pressure on Manning, rather than hoping it might come from a minimized pass rush.


This the first time this version of a Steelers' defense will face Peyton Manning. The last time was on opening night of the 2012 NFL season when they lost to him on the same field the teams play on this weekend. But the only other time Manning faced the Steelers in the playoffs eerily holds several similarities to this season. Manning's team earned the number one seed and had already played Pittsburgh earlier this season, while Pittsburgh managed to make the playoffs as the sixth seed in the AFC and is coming in after a tough win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

Last time, the Steelers sacked Peyton Manning five times for a total of 43 yards in losses. Two of those final sacks came back-to-back from Joey Porter that forced a turnover on downs, whom is now outside linebacker coach for Pittsburgh. The Steelers' defense was much different then and full of veterans and superstar talents, but this defense also has lots of youth and several players with high ceilings that have not been tapped yet. It may come down to some young players like Ryan Shazier, Dupree, or Tuitt, or veterans like Heyward, Mitchell, Harrison and Gay to come out and save the day.