ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — What happened to the Pittsburgh Steelers who started 11-0 last season?
Since then, they have gone 2-8. They are 1-3 this year and there is talk their long-time franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is washed up.
The Broncos aren’t believing it. They have praised Roethlisberger all week, saying he looks like the same Big Ben to them.
Now that Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has been cleared from his concussion, 3-1 Denver is a 2-point road favorite. This before Broncoland found out star receiver Courtland Sutton suffered an ankle injury in practice Friday and may not play. Still, the Broncos can prove the oddsmakers right (receivers don’t ordinarily affect the odds) by following these 5 suggestions:
1. Protect Teddy
The Ravens either blitzed or mixed up which four defenders they would send on the pass rush last week and the Broncos’ offensive line didn’t always pick it up well. Bridgewater got knocked out with a concussion at halftime and while he’s been cleared to play this week, he probably shouldn’t take another big hit.
2. Blitz Big Ben
Vic Fangio used the mush rush strategy last week against the prolific rushing quarterback Lamar Jackson. He should go the other way Sunday and bring extra pass rushers against the no longer mobile Ben Roethlisberger. Jackson showed the Denver D last week that coverage is difficult when there isn’t a pass rush. Give Blitzburgh a dose of the Fangio blitz.
3. No long returns
What’s the deal with Broncos’ coverage units? Enough, already, with the momentum-changing long returns.
4. Strap it on, play
Because of a backed-up wedding schedule in greater downtown Pittsburgh, the Broncos are not expected to get to their team hotel until around 8:30 EDT Saturday night. With the game kicking off at 1 p.m. EDT – 11 a.m. according to Denver players’ biological clocks – that’s not much rest and relaxation. Remember, the Broncos flew to Jacksonville a night earlier, Friday, because of the early Sunday start time.
To which we say: So? Deal with it. The body can adjust to anything over a 24 hour period. The unusual travel itinerary may catch up to a few players a day or two after the game, but it’s amazing how the human body -- especially the highly tuned, well-conditioned types – can adapt to adverse situations.
5. Fourth down gamble
Heinz Field has always been a tricky place for placekickers. Fangio used fourth downs to great success in the season opener against the Giants, but hasn’t gambled much on those situations since. Coming off a loss, a fourth-down conversion could help shift momentum for the team.
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