Categorized | 2012 Schedule, Article, News

Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 Schedule Preview: Week 1 Analysis Versus Denver Broncos


By Christopher DiMarino

This is the first article in what will be a series analyzing the Pittsburgh Steelers competition on the schedule for the 2012-2013 season. As Zack de la Roacha of Rage Against the Machine sang, Know Your Enemy. I\'m very particular about knowing who the Steelers are squaring off against. It gives me insight to what I can expect from the Steelers that week. In week one, the Steelers have the pleasure of playing the team that ended their 2011 season. However, this is a very different team and the game will likely play out very differently.

Who: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Denver Broncos

What: Week 1 Regular Season Matchup

Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High

When: 6:20 MDT (8:20 EST) Sunday September 9th, 2012

How: NBC

Key Free Agent Additions and Losses:

                Key Free Agent Additions and Losses

Position

Name

2011 Team

2012 Team

QB

Peyton Manning

Indianapolis Colts

Denver Broncos

QB

Tim Tebow

Denver Broncos

New York Jets

QB

Brady Quinn

Denver Broncos

Kansas City Chiefs

QB

Caleb Hainey

Chicago Bears

Denver Broncos

TE

Jacob Tamme

Indianapolis Colts

Denver Broncos

TE

Joel Dreessen

Houston Texans

Denver Broncos

TE

Daniel Fells

Denver Broncos

New England Patriots

TE

Dante Rosario

Denver Broncos

San Diego Chargers

WR

Eddie Royal

Denver Broncos

San Diego Chargers

WR

Andre Caldwell

Cincinnati Bengals

Denver Broncos

WR

Brandon Stokley

New York Giants

Denver Broncos

CB

Andre Goodman

Denver Broncos

FA (Cut)

SS

Brian Dawkins

Denver Broncos

Retired

CB

Drayton Florence

Buffalo Bills

Denver Broncos

CB

Tracy Porter

New Orleans Saints

Denver Broncos

DT

Brodrick Bunkley

Denver Broncos

New Orleans Saints

DT

Ryan McBean

Denver Broncos

Baltimore Ravens

DT

Justin Bannan

St Louis Rams

Denver Broncos

DT

Marcus Thomas

Denver Broncos

UFA

 

Hands down, the biggest story for the Denver Broncos, and even the NFL this offseason, was the signing of Peyton Manning. While there are recovery concerns and age questions, the Broncos added one of the best quarterbacks in history to their roster. The biggest loss that the media has buzzed about for the Broncos was Tim Tebow (New York Jets). While his heroics last season are undeniable, I wonder what his real future was with the Broncos?

Almost every player the Broncos lost they replaced. I think they got slightly better at cornerback and slightly worse at defensive Tackle. The tight end changes are interesting, but they ended up with the same level of talent. The Broncos did the best job they could at providing Peyton with familiar faces to throw to. You can bet that these players (Jacob Tamme and Brandon Stokley) will be coaching the rest of the offense on how to effectively run routes for Manning.

A few big losses for the Broncos are as a result of suspensions. Ryan McBean was offered a tender by the Broncos, but it was revoked. The reason the Broncos gave was that he became expendable after Justin Bannan was signed, but I think that failing a drug test had more to do with it. McBean is starting over in Baltimore as a result and was handed a 3 game suspension. While he will try to make the roster as a Raven, it must be bittersweet for a former Steeler.

The other player who was suspended, has grabbed a lot more media attention. D.J. Williams was suspended 6 games for failing a drug test. He made headlines with McBean for filing a lawsuit against the NFL for these suspensions. They believe that the drug tests were not part of an accepted timetable; I guess random drug tests are too hard to pass. He is also due in court in August after pleading not guilty to DUI charges. Too add to his legal battles, he received a lot of flak for posting pictures of defensive formations on his Twitter account. Williams will be a big loss for the Broncos; he lead the team in solo tackles, had 5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles.

2012 Draft Analysis:

                2012 Draft Recap

Position

Name

Round

College

Height

Weight

DT

Derek Wolfe

2.4 (36th)

Cincinnati

6\'5

295

QB

Brock Osweiler

2.25 (57th)

Arizona State

6\'7

242

RB

Ronnie Hillman

3.4 (67th)

San Diego St.

5\'9

200

CB

Omar Bolden

4.6 (101st)

Arizona State

5\'10

202

C

Philip Blake

4.13 (108th)

Baylor

6\'2

311

DT

Malik Jackson

5.2 (137th)

Tennessee

6\'4

284

OLB

Danny Trevathan

6.18 (188th)

Kentucky

6\'0

237

 

Denver had a very peculiar draft in 2012 because of all the trades that affected it. Denver traded their 1st round, 25th overall pick (1.25) to the New England Patriots for their 1st (1.31) pick and a 4th (126th) rounder. They traded those two picks from the Patriots (1.31 and 4.31) for the Tampa Bay Buccaneer\'s 36th (2.05) and 101st (4.06) overall picks. Denver then traded up in the 3rd round from 87th to 67th pick by adding in their original 4th round pick (120th).

Denver had a few picks from previous trades and received a 4th (108th) and 6th (188th) round pick from the New York Jets in exchange for Tebow and their 7th rounder (232nd). The St Louis Rams had to send their 5th (137th) round pick to Denver because Brandon Lloyd caught over 30 passes for the Rams in 2011. Denver was without their original 5th (160th) round pick because of a trade with the Cleveland Browns for Brady Quinn that also included a 6th round pick from the previous draft. Denver also lost their 6th (194th) round pick in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles.

With all the trades out of the way, let\'s look at who they drafted. They traded down twice and took Derek Wolfe. He was scouted as a strong candidate for defensive end in the Steelers 3-4 defense. He was a late 2nd round talent that will likely be used as a defensive tackle in the Broncos 4-3 scheme. He has a lot of the tools to be aggressive against the run and consistent for the length of a game, but has an underwhelming skill set. With their other 2nd round pick they reached on quarterback Brock Osweiler. While his size and arm strength are impressive, he needs a lot of time to learn and be brought up to a professional level. A good three years behind Manning could turn this kid into something special.

Ronnie Hillman will be a change of pace back for the Broncos. He will play primarily on passing downs and will challenge Lance Ball for a roster spot. Omar Bolden was a gamble because he missed the past season with an ACL injury but he has upside. None of their other picks seem important at this time. Overall I would rate their draft slightly below average. They were constantly trading which to me indicates that they had a clear idea of who they wanted to draft and set themselves up accordingly. The only player that might affect the game against the Steelers will be Hillman, and truthfully it would take a huge preseason for the rookie to earn reps in Week 1.

Coaching Staff:

The coaching staff for the Broncos doesn’t have many new faces this season. The only new addition is Jack Del Rio as the defensive coordinator. Del Rio was fired from the Jacksonville Jaguars last season and was their Head Coach since 2003. He was 73-63 during his tenure and led the Jaguars to the playoffs twice. Jacksonville was noted for their defensive strength under Del Rio and they averaged 12th in overall defense from 2003-2011.  Del Rio was the defensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers in 2002 which was John Fox’s first season as a head coach. That connection might have lead to this hire.

2011 was a much bigger year for the Broncos in terms of coaching changes. Owner Pat Bowlen fired Josh McDaniels near the end of the 2010 season. The vacated head coaching position was given to Fox, who was dismissed by Panthers owner Jerry Richardson around the same time. In Carolina, Fox amassed a 78-73 record but his teams never had consecutive winning seasons. David Magazu (Offensive Line), Ron Milus (Secondary), Jeff Rodgers (Special Teams), Richard Smith (Linebackers) and Tyke Tolbert (Wide Receivers) were all added to the staff in 2011 as well.

While this is a team with a host of relatively new coaches, a brand new defensive coordinator and new veteran quarterback, they have the capacity to dominate this season. I think that all of these new changes will take another season or two before they reach their full potential. While I’ve never been particularly fond of Fox, what he was able to do with Tebow last season immensely increased my respect for his abilities as a coach.

Last Year\'s Stats:

2011 Team Stats

Stat

Denver Broncos

Rank

Pittsburgh Steelers

Rank

NFL Average

OFFENSE

Yards/Game

316.6

23

372.3

12

346.8

Points/Game

19.3

25

20.3

21

22.2

Pass Yards/Game

152.1

31

253.4

10

229.7

Rush Yards/Game

164.5

1

118.9

14

117.1

First Downs/Game

17.9

20

21.3

9

19.5

Interceptions  (2011)

13

8

15

17

16

Interception Rate

3.03%

19

2.78%

18

2.91%

Fumbles Lost (2011)

17

32

13

26

10

Sacks Allowed (2011)

42

23

42

23

37

Sack Rate

9.79%

27

7.79%

23

6.82%

Avg Time of Possession

28:51

25

32:33

2

30:00

DEFENSE

Yards/Game

357.8

20

271.8

1

346.8

Points/Game

24.4

24

14.2

1

22.2

Pass Yards/Game

231.5

18

171.9

1

229.7

Rush Yards/Game

126.3

22

99.8

8

117.1

First Downs/Game

19.7

19

16.5

1

19.5

Interceptions  (2011)

9

28

11

24

16

Interception Rate

1.69%

29

2.08%

24

2.91%

Fumbles Recovered (2011)

9

19

4

30

10

Sacks  (2011)

41

10

35

17

37

Sack Rate

7.68%

10

6.60%

18

6.82%

SPECIAL TEAMS

Punt Return Avg For

12.7

3

10.5

13

9.9

Punt Return Avg Against

11.5

20

8.4

12

9.9

Kick Return Avg For

24.5

11

25.1

8

23.8

Kick Return Avg Against

24.6

20

23.7

16

23.8

Field Goals Made

76.00%

27

74.19%

31

82.89%

EFFICIENCY

Turnover Differential

-12

26

-13

28

0

3rd Down % Offense

30.84%

30

45.92%

4

38.00%

3rd Down % Defense

33.49%

6

38.91%

19

38.00%

4th Down % Offense

23.08%

32

37.50%

19

43.26%

4th Down % Defense

33.33%

6

61.54%

28

43.26%

Red Zone % Offense

47.22%

23

50.94%

18

52.18%

Red Zone % Defense

51.92%

15

54.84%

17

52.18%

 

I have to admit that every time I see the Steelers 2011 total defense stats a smile creeps up on my face. That being said, last year is in the past and those numbers hold very little importance to this game. The Steelers have a new offense, and a completely revamped offensive line. Defensively, the Steelers will feature a few players who had much smaller roles last year. Denver will be even more different. They will have a Del Rio run the defense with a new set of defensive backs and defensive tackles. They changed from a run oriented quarterback in Tebow to a pass happy slinger in Manning. Special teams will also be very different. Antonio Brown has likely seen the last of his return days. While Chris Rainey looks promising, we will likely get a good dose of Emmanuel Sanders in the return game. Denver lost Eddie Royal to free agency but still has Matt Willis on the roster for special teams duties.

Turnovers will be another changing theme. Last year the Steelers had a big issue with ball security (15 interceptions, 13 fumbles lost). Their defense did not pick up the slack (11 interceptions, 4 fumbles recovered) and thus they were a paltry -13 on the season. We will see how much Todd Haley emphasizes ball possession to this young stable of backs. The new offensive lineman and protection centered scheme that Haley institutes should help Ben Roethlisberger reduce the amount of interceptions. Denver will be a new team concerning turnovers. Manning has always been a great quarterback, but he will throw interceptions. Del Rio defenses succeed by focusing on stopping the run and punishing receivers. You can bet they will look to improve from the -12 turnover differential they posted a year ago.

Matchup vs. the Steelers:

The Broncos ended the Steelers 2011 season even though very few predicted it. I knew it would be a close game, but even I underestimated Tebow’s passing ability. The matchup in 2012 will be very different. The key for the Broncos will be how comfortable Manning is. If he can play anything like he has in the past then this will be a battle. The Broncos are good at running the ball, and combining that with Manning\'s play action can be lethal. Defensively, they will aim to mimic last year’s playoff performance by staying aggressive on routes and pressuring the quarterback.

The Steelers, much like the Broncos will be different on offense. Like with Manning, the Steelers offensive success depends on Todd Haley. The Broncos know Isaac Redman from last year when he ran for over 100 yards against them. While Roethlisberger threw for almost 300 yards, he completed just over 50% of his passes (22/40). He also had only one touchdown to go along with his lone interception. Defensively, the Steelers want a mulligan. Everyone remembers the overtime play that ended last season for the Steelers. That play summed up the day for the Steeler defense. They allowed Tebow to throw for over 300 yards and score 3 times even though he only completed 10 passes (10/21). Willis McGahee and Tebow combined for over 100 yards rushing.

I think this will be a very slow moving game. Haley will take his time and run the ball to establish flow and rhythm. Denver will probably take the burden off of Manning by running often and using quick passes. Both defenses in this matchup will be focused on pressuring the other teams quarterbacks. Whoever is more successful might walk away with a victory.

The advantage that Pittsburgh has in this game is Roethlisberger. Unless Manning gels instantly with his new team, you can expect some errant passes and miscommunications. Roethlisberger has the weapons and experience to dominate defenses. While the Broncos defense is far from weak, they are at best a top 10 defense. With two new corners and weak safeties, the deep ball might be easy pickings. If the run game can draw up the safeties, this game is over. The key for Denver is Champ Bailey. He doesn\'t seem to age and might rip off Roethlisberger if he gets careless. If father time catches up with Champ, it will be a long day for this Broncos defense.

Key Fact:

Grudge match. Denver ended Pittsburgh\'s 2011-12 season much earlier than the Steelers are used to. While Peyton had nothing to do with that, you can bet it stuck with the Steelers. I think that they will come out with more intensity. If they can combine this intensity with their hard hitting reputation it could spell disaster for the Broncos.

Early Score Prediction:

Pittsburgh Steelers 20 - Denver Broncos 10

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  • Pete

    Nice article but I think it might have been better at the end of training camp or just before the last pre-season game when the positions are set. New (almost) O line, new O coordinator, new NT, new RB, (FB?). Will Wallace be playing? There are too many unknowns at this point to make a good assessment of the game. But based on your assumptions, good article.

  • SteelersDepot

    These are just preliminary looks at the games. We have much, much more in store closer to the season starting.

  • Danpio1217

    Nice article and breakdown of data. I look forward to this type of analysis throughout the season!

  • Jprankster2005

    I would love to see Percy Harvin be a steeler he wants to be traded…… Give them a future 3rd rounder or 4th rounder and If Wallace doesn’t pan out there we go, I’ve always liked Harvin…… I really wonder if the Steelers could be players to get him…… What do you guys think…..

  • Wdmason

    A stat that jumps out at me is 4 fumbles recovered all year. Besides Harrison and Palamalu, I dont think our players are putting in enough effort to dislodge the ball

    I would like to see a list of which players cause fumbles each year. Maybe our players are not recovering enough fumbles either?

  • RG

    Same stat that jumped out at me…….

  • Ahmad

    I kinda have to agree that this will be a slow paced game. Both teams have installed new offenses so you can expect some mistakes to happen. This game will come down to defense and since that is the Steelers forte, they will come away with the win. Final score 17-13.

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