Steelers vs. Broncos: Unsung Heroes Who Will Play Important Role in Outcome

Justin WeltonAnalyst IISeptember 9, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 30:  Chris Rainey #22 of the Pittsburgh Steelers carries the ball on a kick off during the preseason game against the Carolina Panthers on August 30, 2012 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Peyton Manning makes his official NFL return when his Denver Broncos host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football in Week 1 of the 2012 NFL season. 

Much to your dismay, there are many more players who will influence the outcome of Sunday's game.


Chris Rainey

Todd Haley's offense will be completely different than Bruce Arians'. He will actually utilize the screen pass. 

Yes, the Steelers will actually offset the continuous rush on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger with screen passes to the running backs. It's only been years since fans were screaming for the screen.

They will receive their wish. 

Steelers fifth-round NFL draft pick Chris Rainey will benefit most from the screen pass. He is dynamic in the open field, has great acceleration, and his speed and elusiveness is tremendous. 

Rainey also plays on special teams. He returned two punts for touchdowns against the Carolina Panthers, but both were overturned because of penalties on the Steelers.

Regardless of whether or not it counted, Rainey proved why he will be utilized in the Steelers offense—not just in Week 1 against Denver, but beyond.  


Eric Decker

With Ike Taylor attempting avenge himself for his disastrous performance against Demaryius Thomas in the AFC Wild Card game last season, expect the other receiver to have a big game. 

Eric Decker will turn out to be the go-to receiver for Peyton Manning and the Broncos this season. He is a complete player and his possession-style of receiving will mesh perfectly with Manning.

Also, the Steelers secondary is the major question mark on the defensive side of the ball heading into the 2012 season. Ryan Clark will once again miss playing against the Broncos because of his spleen, and the cornerback opposite of Taylor will be Keenan Lewis, as well as others who haven't proven anything in the NFL.

Manning, as knowledgeable as he is under center, will realize how porous the secondary of the Steelers is. If he can get enough time, expect Decker to be found time and time again.


The Broncos' entire offensive line

Pittsburgh will bring pressure from its 3-4 defense. That's a given. Linebackers, cornerbacks, Troy Polamalu and others will be coming from all directions.

Manning has had his share of struggles against the Steelers in the past, and when he has struggled that was the reason why. With Manning coming off surgery, he will be a little reluctant about the idea of getting hit by LaMarr Woodley and others. 

The game will be decided in the trenches, just like most games in the NFL. If the Broncos can keep the Steelers away from Manning they will win the game. If the Steelers can make Manning uncomfortable in his return, Pittsburgh will win the game. 

It's really that easy.