Pittsburgh Steelers: Keys to Victory over the Denver Broncos
Or maybe they are waiting with open arms—at least the Steelers defenders will be, as they will do their best to bring Manning down to the ground.
There may be no more player more excited than LaMarr Woodley who has been posting messages on his Facebook page since mid-July saying that he will “bring a gift” for Manning’s welcome-back party.
The Denver Broncos will be a tough challenge on Sunday night as the crowd will be fired up for the return of the NFL season and the regular-season debut of Manning.
But the Steelers will be motivated as well.
They have had to hear about Manning’s return all offseason and want to get a little payback for last year’s 29-23 playoff loss.
Here are the keys to victory for the season opener at Denver.
Welcome Back Peyton
There are some players that transcend the NFL, and Peyton Manning is one of those players.
For years he was the face of the Indianapolis Colts, and now he has to transition to a new city and a new offense. But one thing that won’t change is his command of the offense, and that will be the challenge for the Steelers’ defense.
Manning hasn’t been perfect in preparing for the season, and Dick LeBeau will have to attack him and take him out of his rhythm early.
After a down year in sacks and turnovers last year, the Steelers will look to bounce back and will need to take advantage of any remaining rust that Manning has.
That means a lot of blitzes and taking advantage of any errant throws.
Manning is the new face of the Broncos, and if the Steelers defense can get him off of his game, Denver’s offense will struggle.
Be Prepared for the Crowd
There’s something about Sunday Night Football on the road that gives the Steelers problems.
However, while they were the superior team by far in both of those games, the Steelers only won by a combined seven points.
A big problem seems to be the crowd and the noise—at least that was the case in a 2010 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
Following the game, Max Starks seemed to indicate to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the team wasn’t prepared for the crowd noise.
The communication aspect is what kind of gets lost. You try to make calls. If someone is making a call on the right side of the line and you try to hear it on the left side, it gets pretty tough, and the center can't pass that down because he usually has his head between his legs waiting for the quarterback.
After last year’s opening-day debacle against the Baltimore Ravens, there is no excuse not to be prepared for a raucous crowd in Denver.
Put the Game in Ben's Hands
The Steelers’ offensive line is already banged up, and there are still some questions surrounding the running back position.
Todd Haley put a focus on the team being more physical and effective at running the ball, but this game should be put on Ben Roethlisberger’s shoulders.
Roethlisberger was simply brilliant running the no-huddle offense and is getting more and more comfortable with the new offensive scheme.
He has his favorite deep target back in Mike Wallace, and Antonio Brown has developed into a true No. 1 receiving option.
Add in other players such as Heath Miller and Chris Rainey, and it is very clear that the Steelers are built to throw the ball, which is what they need to do.
Offensive Spotlight Player: Ben Roethlisberger
Manning will receive most of the press, but Roethlisberger is just as important for his team.
While he may not admit it, Roethlisberger definitely wants to go out there and outshine one of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game.
The running game is still in the works meaning that the Steelers will need to rely on Roethlisberger’s arm to win this game.
Defensive Spotlight Player: Troy Polamalu
The pass rush will be key against Manning, but it is hard not to acknowledge the chess game that will be played against two future Hall of Famers.
Troy Polamalu will be one of the first players that Manning identifies all night.
For Polamalu to be at his best, he will need to play near the line of scrimmage and mix up his role. But the absence of Ryan Clark could limit Polamalu’s versatility.
Even without Clark, Polamalu needs to play his game to be at his best. The other defensive backs will just need to step up so Troy can be Troy.
The Steelers lost the last meeting against the Broncos 29-23 in overtime on January 8, 2012.
Pittsburgh trails the series 10-17-1.
Mike Tomlin is 4-1 in season openers. The Steelers lost to the Ravens 35-7 in last year’s season opener.
Ryan Clark will not play.
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