Denver Broncos vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: What Did We Learn?
These two young NFL coaches have a bright future ahead of them. I saw things they should be proud of and some things that still need work, on both sidelines, in Denver's first win of the pre-season, 34-17
A disclaimer: I watched the game with the sound off so as not to be influenced by Joe Buck or Troy Aikman. So any mistakes or perceptions are purely mine from watching the game in blessed silence.
The Best QB For the Steelers Won't Be Starting the Season
Having watched the game tonight, it was quite clear that for the Steelers to have a chance to win the AFC North, they have to pray for at least a 2-2 start from whoever starts during Big Ben's suspension.
Roethlisberger looked in mid-season form and was the true leader of this team, whether on the field or on the sidelines acting as the #1 cheerleader.
Denver's Defense is Back
Watching how the starting defense was able to not only bring pressure on the Pittsburgh QBs, they showed the ability to stuff the run at times.
In addition, they showed great balance between the Front Seven play and that of the defensive backs.
Andre Goodman was up to his usual tricks with a Pick 6 in the first quarter, thanks to great defensive pressure and his knack for breaking on the ball.
And rookie Perrish Cox had a leaping acrobatic catch in the end-zone for his second INT in two weeks.
And unlike last week, I saw strong play from the second and third string players as well.
We Have Seen the Shifting of the Bronco Quarterback Depth Chart
Brady Quinn may have just lost his backup role in the Denver depth chart. Once again, he looked tentative, held on to the ball too long and had a bit of the "deer in the headlights" thing going on.
Tim Tebow, on the other hand, grabbed the reins and showed that when given the chance, this is his team. No, he isn't the starting QB yet, but he showed flashes of why he was drafted in the first round.
He had a rookie-like INT when he was fooled by a veteran DB but also showed some snap on his ball and had a TD to balance out his INT.
We Have Seen the Shifting of the Steeler Quarterback Depth Chart
This was supposed to be the chance for Dennis Dixon to cement the starting role for the games that Roethlisberger will be out But he was not on his game and neither was Charlie Batch, who Dixon was supposed to battling for that spot.
In the end, my read was the veteran Byron Leftwich may have backed into the job with his steady play.
The Rookies Stood Up
From the somewhat erratic but encouraging play of QB Tim Tebow to the rookie O-linemen, JD Walton and Zane Beadles.
From the stellar ball-hawking of Perrish Cox to the return fireworks of Syd'Quan Thompson.
From the veteran moves of Eric Decker to the encouraging play of Jimmie Kirlew.
These kids are ALL RIGHT!
The Denver Running Game is Back in the Playbook
Although the performance so far won't challenge the glory days of Terrell Davis, I finally saw a glimmer of hope. When the injured players return, we can count on at least a semblance of a running game that will make the balance more in line with Josh's philosophy.
We had some success running in the second half after the blocking schemes with a pulling guard to the outside opened up some running room. With the timing getting better in the young line and the healthy backs coming back, we will be OK.
Pittsburgh Has Some Offensive Line Issues
Although I would like to say that it was all Denver's defensive domination, there are some interior weaknesses in the Steeler offensive line.
Like Denver, they are starting a rookie Center. Unlike Denver, they drafted Maurkice Pouncy, of Florida, in the first round.
But Denver drafted their starting center, JD Walton in the third round and may have got the better of the deal there. Pouncy played OK for a rookie, but didn't impress me.
Whether it was Big Ben, Byron Leftwich, Charlie Batch or Dennis Dixon, there was no consistent protection in the pocket. And with the exception of a few longer runs, the ground game was controlled by the Denver defense as well.
Denver May Have Had the Best of the 2010 Draft
From the top to the bottom, this may the best draft class of any NFL team this year.
Round 1: WR DeMarius Thomas - DNP, but has the skills IF he can stay healthy.
QB Tim Tebow - Showing signs of becoming a starting QB in this league. Still has some learning to do on his reads and some footwork from under center but his passes were crisp and he was making quick decisions.
Round 2: OL Zane Beadles - Will be starting this year and at a G position and brings some nastiness that we haven't seen for a while in the offensive line.
Round 3: C JD Walton - As mentioned earlier, I think he will be as good or better than Maurkice Pouncy, a 1st rounder. All he needs is a bit more strength and size to move those 325# DTs out.
WR Eric Decker - Already showing veteran moves and has great hands and size. Will be a contributor this year and for years to come. Our new Eddie McCaffrey.
Round 5: CB Perrish Cox - Maybe the steal of this draft. He has shown a great nose for the ball, has the height to cover the bigger WRs and is a KR as well. Will be starting as the Nickel and could challenge for a true staring role this season.
Round 6: C Eric Olsen - Although not an immediate impact player, I think he will develop and become a staple in the O-line as a multiple position player.
Round 7: - CB Syd'Quan Thompson - This kid can play! He has the instincts as a great KR and can be a difference-maker as a Nickel and Dime back as well. A STEAL!
DE/LB Jimmie Kirlew - Although only seeing spot duty this pre-season, I see him as a potential to make the final 53 or at least the Practice Squad. Good instincts, smart and a hard worker.
Denver Special Teams Will Be a Significant Contributor This Season
For the first time in three pre-season games I have seen consistent coverage on kicks and punts and great blocking and returns by the receiving team. Field position being such a large part of the game has made all facets of Special Teams of great importance.
Prater's accurate leg on field goals and his consistent booming kicks into the end zone for touch backs has created a major advantage for the Broncos. And Colquitt has the leg and the genetics to be one of the top 10 punters in the NFL.
Between Perrish Cox and Syd'Quan Thompson, we may have some really exciting returns to enjoy. Plus it allows Eddie Royal to focus on playing WR, which should improve his game there.
No Major Injuries!
An empty training room after a game is a beautiful sight.
Denver escaped the injury bug and are gaining back key players for last night's game as well as hopefully more returning over the next week or so.
My major concerns are the ongoing issue with Knowshon Moreno and DeMarius Thomas and his glass foot.
If we can get past the next pre-season game in the same kind of shape, we will be good to go for the first real one in JAX.