That was an eternity ago by NFL standards. Plus, September has arrived, marking the start of a new season.
A week from Sunday, Peyton Manning and the Broncos will be taking on the No. 1 pass defense in the NFL a year ago in the Steelers.
Pittsburgh may have been unraveled in the postseason, but throughout the year it made life hell for opposing quarterbacks and wide receivers. The Steelers allowed less than 172 passing yards per game during the 2011 regular season.
That brings us to the team's next victims: Manning and his lackluster group of wideouts.
Let's take a look at some key areas of weakness that will have the veteran signal-caller in for a long opening night.
Something the Pittsburgh Steelers do very well, and have for a long time now, is being able to disrupt opposing offenses' rhythm throughout the course of a game. No team allowed fewer first downs in 2011 than Pittsburgh, who surrendered just 264 first downs all season, only 156 of which came through the air.
Manning has thrived on a rhythm passing game for the better part of his career, finding receivers downfield quickly, moving the chains and then anticipating his next move before the defense even knew what hit it. First downs clearly don't come easy against Pittsburgh, and that will make long drives tough to come by.
If Manning can't maintain or find a rhythm in the Broncos' opener, he will become more and more predictable as the game wears on.
Lack of Star Talent at WR
It's no secret that the Denver Broncos don't boast an explosive wide receiver corps, but that doesn't change the fact that it will be a huge area of weakness for Peyton Manning against Pittsburgh. Sure, Eric Decker, Brandon Stokley and Joel Dreessen are all solid options at the NFL level, but neither player is going to change a game on their own.
Manning and Denver would be better suited with a playmaker like Brandon Marshall on the outside. Denver boasts zero pass catchers capable of beating the Steelers defense on their own after the catch. Instead, the Broncos will rely on Manning's accuracy and pin-point passes to lead them down the field and into the end zone.
Although popular perception is that Peyton Manning doens't through interceptions, he has been much more prone to the careless pick over recent years than in past seasons. During his last two seasons with the Indianapolis Colts in 2009 and 2010, he threw 16 and 17 interceptions.
Manning also tossed three interceptions in three preseason appearances this summer, which suggests that he is still in the midst of learning the offense, adjusting to the players and the speed of the game as well as repeating past mistakes.
As mentioned time and again, Pittsburgh's defense is not one to let your guard down against. If Manning challenges its awareness too often, or discovers old bad habits before the good, he and the Broncos will be in a world of trouble on September 9.
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