Let's see....How can I start this off?? I know. Let me start by saying I will never, ever apologize for a win. They are too damn hard to come by in the NFL to weigh the validity. The Pittsburgh Steelers are a good football team and the Broncos are trying to get back to the business of being a good football team. Both teams were able to do some things, and both teams made their fair share of mistakes. You really got the feeling, at least I did, that whoever had the ball last was going to win and fortunately for us it was the Broncos.
After re-watching the game a few things really stood out to me. Some good, some, well, not so good.
Steelers Game Plan Was Just Plain Stupid -- It is easy to say in hindsight, and some of you out there will look at the numbers and say the Steelers actually moved the ball very well and their "pass-first" attack was working. On the Steelers first possession of the game, a possession assisted greatly by a kick-off that sailed out-of-bounds, the Steelers threw the ball 6 times in 8 plays. The possession ended in a TD, but it would be the only points the Steelers scored in the first half. The rest of the half, the Steelers threw the ball, or dropped back to pass, 66% of the time(16 pass attempts in 24 offensive snaps). Sure, it is alot of fun when it is working, but the Broncos game-plan on defense was to throw 8 in the box and attack the Steelers in hopes of stopping the run. What happened, almost by accident, on many occasions was the Steelers sent 4 receivers on pass routes leaving at least 1 defender unblocked on many occasions.
After the TD, the Steelers possessions looked a little like this -- Punt, Int, Punt, Fumble(TD for Denver), Missed FG -- hardly the proficiency we have come to expect from the smash-mouth Steelers. Only one possession during the first half did the Steelers run the ball more than they threw it, and to the Broncos' credit they forced the Steelers to punt.
I credit the Broncos again for taking advantage. Forcing turnovers and scoring a defensive touchdown really put the Steelers behind the eight ball and it is exactly what the Broncos have to do on a weekly basis to win consistently.
Young Offensive Line Proves Itself -- The Broncos have not played one down this season, exhibition or regular season, with the planned group of Lepsis, Hamilton, Nalen, Holland and Pears. It got even worse when Tom Nalen went down for the year with a biceps injury. Despite it all, the Broncos O-Line is still getting it done and played extremely well on Sunday Night against a Steelers defense that came into the game ranked #1 in the NFL. It was slow-going on the ground, especially after Travis Henry went out, but the pass protection more than made up for it. Jay Cutler was sacked only twice on the night, both during the same drive in the third quarter, but with the help of two separate 3rd and 14 conversions the Broncos scored a TD anyway. Especially impressive to me was the play of Chris Myers at center. Casey Hampton is a load, and the Steelers employ a rather intricate 3-4 scheme. The Broncos offense had little problem throwing the ball and most of that credit has to go to the big-nasties up front.
Finally! Some Aggression From The Defense -- I commented on it during the game. How nice was it to see multiple defenders flying around the ball on every play? After having their manhood questioned after the Charger debacle, the broncos defense played with alot of fire and passion, using youth and athletic ability to make up for shortcomings in fundamentals. After trying to feature the linebackers for 5 games, the Broncos brain-trust unleashed their young defensive line and the results were very rewarding. 4 sacks, numerous QB pressures and most importantly a fumble recovery run back 50 yards by rookie Tim Crowder. Crowder looks to be completely healthy for the first time this season and looked much more like the guy we watched at Texas. Elvis Dumervil is proving weekly that he can be an every down linemen and is sure to get more playing time. Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Dre Bly who played a solid corner. Even without Champ Bailey the Broncos DB's held their own.
If We Are Gonna Bash Him, We Have To Give Credit -- Everywhere I looked the past two weeks there were "fans" bashing Mike Shanahan. Some of it was warranted, some not. If you are going to be a basher when things aren't going so well then we must point out when the "Mastermind" gets it right. His game plan against the Steelers was solid and used the Steelers aggressive nature against them. A lot of slants, and looks down the seam forced the Steelers DB's to stay honest and kept the Steelers from blitzing. When the Steelers did try and bring extra rushers the Broncos were ready for it, and able to take advantage.
There is alot of youth on this team, and any questions about whether the message is still getting through, were resoundingly answered.
At the end of the night the Broncos needed this game alot more than the Steelers and played like it. I won't apologize for it and it was great to celebrate a win for the first time in about 40 days. The toughest part of the schedule is now behind us and we can focus on picking up some more wins, starting this Monday Night against the Packers. If the defense plays with the same intensity against Brett Favre we should be looking at similar results.