Following the end of their perfect season, the banged up Denver Broncos head to Heinz field to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers. With questions about the starting quarterback and a litany of injuries looming over the matchup, this week five tilt is far more important than it appears at first glance. It comes right before the Broncos have to face the Raiders and Browns in a four day span as the entirety of the AFC West has fought their way back to .500. Lose to Pittsburgh, and the Broncos could quickly find themselves passed over in the division.
To better understand the task in front of Fangio and the Broncos, I reached out to Pittsburgh Sports Now’s Nick Farabaugh on this week’s Cover 2 Broncos. Below you’ll find a quick look at the topics we discussed:
We can’t talk about this game without discussing the injury list.
- Teddy Bridgewater’s in concussion protocol, so while he was permitted to watch film and lift on Wednesday he may not receive clearance to play.
- Patrick Surtain II, Diontae Spencer, and Melvin Gordon didn’t practice Wednesday.
- Broncos officially activated Ronald Darby off IR. He now has 21 days to return to the active roster or be placed on IR once again. He may play against the Steelers, but it isn’t a certainty.
- Mike Boone could also be activated, but hasn’t been yet.
- It’s easy to get so caught up in Denver’s woes that we overlook Pittsburgh’s, but they’re really banged up too.
- Ben Roethlisberger didn’t practice Wednesday because of pectoral and hip injuries.
- Chukwuma Okorafor and Chase Claypool returned to practice after missing the Packer game in week four.
- Cameron Sutton, Carlos Davis, and Kevin Dotson didn’t practice Wednesday.
- The Steelers are battered on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
The Steelers entered the season with a bad line and they now have:— Zach Segars (@Zach_Segars) October 6, 2021
1 tackle on IR
2 tackles on the injury report
A guard on the injury report
Leaving them with:
LT Dan Moore Jr. (4th rd 2021)
LG B.J. Finney
C Kendrick Green (3rd rd 2021)
RG Trae Turner
RT Joe Haeg https://t.co/2tp9CuEaBk
When Pittsburgh has the ball
- Pittsburgh hired a new OC since the last time Denver faced Pittsburgh. How has Matt Canada been a departure from Randy Fichtner so far and what has remained?
- Roethlisberger’s issues with play action.
- I was critical of the Steelers drafting Najee Harris. Not because I had a problem with him as a player, but because rather than lift up a declining Roethlisberger, he’d be dragged down by the issues at QB and along the OL. So far that looks to be the case, but it doesn’t mean he isn’t dangerous. What are your thoughts on Najee Harris?
- The Steelers have a dangerous receiving corps.
- Will the tight ends be a problem?
- Mason Rudolph - how do you think he fits what Matt Canada is trying to run? How will the game plan change if he’s playing?
- Where are the issues along the OL? Are there any matchups that concern you?
Put the respect he deserves on Diontae Johnson’s name https://t.co/2zK2pkFoU7— Nick Farabaugh (@Nick_Farabaugh) October 5, 2021
When the Broncos have the ball
- Joe’s soap box complaints about Pat Shurmur
- What matchups favor Pittsburgh?
- Which matchups favor Denver?
- Keith Butler is an interesting coordinator. He runs one of the better pressure schemes in the league and Pittsbugh’s routinely one of the best defenses in the NFL and yet he’s not someone you hear about at the top of the list of coordinators. What do you expect him to do in this one?
- What kind of coverages do the Steelers typically run?
- What do you expect the Steelers to do to attack the Broncos protections?
- Will players like T.J. Watt and Melvin Ingram move around or do they tend to stay static vs matchups?
- Would you rather face Bridgewater or Lock?
- How would you attack this Steelers defense?
Not sure what Shurmur thought was going to happen here. pic.twitter.com/9XbUfk9C17— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) October 5, 2021
So far this season, the Broncos have allowed a return touchdown, a partially blocked punt, and a long return. The coverage units are struggling as they have for almost all of Tom McMahon’s tenure as the special teams coordinator and they’ve had a couple of other almost-blocks. They’re running up against a good special teams unit, how do you expect the Steelers to press this advantage?
Quietly Ray-Ray McCloud is 3rd in the NFL in both yards per kick return and yards punt return.— Nick Farabaugh (@Nick_Farabaugh) October 6, 2021
Need to see him break one soon.