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Broncos vs Steelers preview: Can Denver flex its road muscles and get a big win?

If the Broncos are going to make a push for the playoffs, this is a key game to making that happen.

If you were looking for answers after Week 4, there are now more questions.

The Denver Broncos 23-7 flogging at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens will have that effect. The key now for the Broncos (3-1) is to put this loss behind them and move onto the Pittsburgh Steelers (1-3).

Can Denver regroup and get back on track?

If the Broncos are going to make a push for the playoffs, this is a key game to making that happen. And now there’s doubt as to whether Ben Roethlisberger will play on Sunday with a hip injury. If that happens, that could make this game even more winnable for Denver.

Offensive Rankings

Denver: Seventeenth in overall offense (353.8 yards per game), 11th in rushing (122.8), 21st in passing (232.0), tied 21st in scoring offense (20.8 points per game).

Pittsburgh: Twenty-seventh in overall offense (301.8 yards per game), 32nd in rushing (55.3), 16th in passing (246.5), 28th in scoring offense (16.8 points per game).

Defensive Rankings

Denver: Fourth in overall defense (267.8 yards per game), fifth in rushing defense (70.0), sixth in passing defense (197.8.3), second in scoring defense (12.3 points per game).

Pittsburgh: Sixteenth in overall defense (357.8 yards per game), 11th in rushing defense (99.0), 19th in passing defense (258.8), 13th in scoring defense (23.3 points per game).

Here are the MHR staff’s keys to Sunday’s game.

Take away Pittsburgh’s running game

The Broncos defense has to make the Pittsburgh offense one dimensional. Whomever the Steelers quarterback is on Sunday, if Denver takes away the running game that will help make life even more miserable for said QB. Coming into the game, Pittsburgh is dead last in rushing yards per game and the Broncos defense is fifth in yards allowed. That needs to remain the case after Sunday if Denver wants to win. — Ian St. Clair

Who is starting at QB?

With Teddy Bridgewater in concussion protocol, there’s a decent chance Drew Lock makes his 2021 starting debut against the Steelers. If that’s the case I expect plenty of mistakes, missed passes, and turnovers. — Joe Rowles

Mimick the game plan of the three wins

If Bridgewater is good to go, the game plan should look similar to what the Broncos did against the New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets. The offense needs to be able to put points on the scoreboard and control the clock. Let Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams set the pace, but give Bridgewater the opportunity to stretch the field with Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick. If Lock is the QB, limit the playbook and focus on not turning the ball over. Play the field position game and let the defense win it. — Adam Malnati

Commit to the run

I would like to see the Broncos commit more to a run-heavy scheme. I know they have used the short passing game as part of their “run game” to pick up yards on early downs, but there are some pass protection issues cropping up with all of the injuries inside. It feels like the run game is working pretty well when used and the Broncos seem to have two capable backs. Turn ‘em loose! — Tim Lynch

Break Big Ben

Roethlisberger has these passer ratings in the first four games: 83.9, 87.0, 73.9 and 78.3. All four are below average for last season and this season where the league average so far has been 95.9. He has also turned the ball over five times and only accounted for four touchdowns. The Broncos defense needs to keep him on his decline and make life miserable for him (if he plays). — Joe Mahoney

What are your keys to Sunday’s game?