The Steelers come off of a well needed bye week, while Denver comes off of their first loss of the season versus Baltimore last Sunday. The Steelers will be without defensive end Travis Kirschke and linebacker Lawrence Timmons as well as likely being without free safety Ryan Clark who in all likelihood will sit out with his medical condition caused by the high altitude. Nick Eason will rotate with rookie Ziggy Hood at Keisel\’s spot and veteran safety Tyrone Carter will start in place of Clark for the Steelers. The Steelers haven\’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in their last 25 regular-season contests and lead the league in run defense at 76.6 yards per game.
The Broncos will attempt to attack Eason and Hood on the ground with running backs Correll Buckhalter and rookie Knowshon Moreno and chip on Steelers linebacker James Harrison to slow down his pass rush. The only way the Broncos can give quarterback Kyle Orton protection in the passing game is by establishing the run game early to slow down the Steelers pass rush. The Broncos will also be without starting right tackle Ryan Harris, so Tyler Polumbus will likely make his first NFL start in Harris\’ place.
The Steelers will look to pound the ball early on offense with second year running back Rashard Mendenhall while mixing in more no -huddle to keep the Broncos off balance. The Broncos have done a great job this year on getting their defense off the field on 3rd downs up until the game last week versus Baltimore. The Steelers will look to keep them on the field longer much like the Ravens did. The Broncos defense will be vulnerable in the short middle of the field and the Steelers will look to make the linebackers make plays in not only the running game, but the passing game.
The Steelers will look to jump on top quick and then dictate what Denver does on offense. The Broncos are not a quick strike team and are not built to come from behind. They are however opportunistic, so turnovers in the Steelers end could be lethal. The Steelers want to keep Denver driving a long field all night.
This game looks good from a record stand point, but the Broncos stats have been misleading this season. The Steelers will lead from start to finish in this game and capitalize on a few Orton mistakes. Look for solid games from tight end Heath Miller and wide receiver Santonio Holmes in this one.
Prediction: Steelers 27 Broncos 17