Several will be revolving around Bronco quarterback Peyton Manning.
The Denver Broncos will be hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football, and one of the storylines that will be followed by NFL experts will be the critiquing of every movement of Manning. Everyone will want to see if this is the old Manning or the Manning that is still trying to regain form post neck surgery.
Another storyline in this game will be how well the Steelers can adjust to the Broncos offense. This is not the same Bronco offense that they lost to in the Wild Wildcard game in Denver back in January where former Bronco QB Tim Tebow exploited the Steeler secondary where he was able to hit WR Demaryius Thomas on a slant route that turned into the 80 yard catch-and-run for a TD and the win in overtime.
Now enter Manning, although he does boast a .500 winning record against the Steelers, Manning has had his way with the Steelers including his last contest against Pittsburgh in 2008. Manning was on the road in that game at Heinz Field in early November where he torched the Steelers for 240 yards, three TD’s and no interceptions.
The Steelers defense will be somewhat short-handed in this game against this well mixed offense of youth and experience. Pitt will be without LB James Harrison and S Ryan Clark. Clark is essentially the quarterback of the defense and primarily the secondary. With him out, the secondary will be with Ryan Mundy in as his replacement, the same safety that was in the game for the Steelers in the loss to the Broncos. It will be a test for this defense to see how they prepare for the Broncos. The Steelers let Tebow torch their secondary, and now with Manning at the helm, it will be interesting to see how the Steelers can prepare and see what creativity they can come up with to make Manning think before he snaps the ball.
Last is the Bronco offense, which didn’t have lots of time this preseason to get actual game time to prepare for the regular season. They can prepare all they want in practice for the real deal, but all that practice can mean nothing if they don’t get to actually execute their offense in realtime like actual game play. The Broncos got a game worth the time during the preseason to work on the new look Bronco offense.
Manning and the Broncos have been preparing for this game against the Steelers for a couple of weeks, but sitting out that last game against the Arizona Cardinals can prove to be crucial. In most cases, teams don’t play their starters in the last preseason game, in the Broncos case, it could have proved to be beneficial. What the Broncos need to worry about in this game is whether the offense is on the same page and in a rhythm from the first snap.
The Steelers as well are dealing with adversity on the offensive side of the ball. How well has Ben Roethlisberger adjusted to new Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley’s run first offense. There was questions this offseason that the two did not get along and it could cause problems as the season moves along. The Steelers will not have Rashard Mendenhall in this game, so can the Steelers stable of backup running backs bring a level of consistency and production to keep the opposing defense honest and from dropping more players back and giving Big Ben problems with the passing game.
-Joshua Ryan Reising
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