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After dropping their third straight game, the latest against the Green Bay Packers, the Pittsburgh Steelers return home to Heinz Field to take on the Denver Broncos in Week 5. In Green Bay, the Steelers’ offense started hot on their opening drive, but then sputtered as the game dragged on. The defense had key members return, but Aaron Rodgers was still able to move the ball downfield and capitalize on big third down opportunities. The Broncos are coming off their first loss of the season in the form of a 23-7 beatdown at the hand of the Baltimore Ravens. Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was knocked out of the game due to a concussion and their offense wasn’t able to be productive beyond that.
With both teams looking to bounce back in big ways, let’s take a look at some things we can look forward to.
MATCHUPS AT A GLANCE
Offense: The Broncos have one of the best defenses in all of football. Through the first four weeks, they’ve only allowed an average of 12.3 points per game to opposing offenses, under 200 yards through the air to opposing quarterbacks, and about 70 rushing yards per game to opposing running backs. Needless to say, this doesn’t bode well for the struggling Steelers offense. A large part of this is due to the effective pass rush of Von Miller and Malik Reed. However, a weak spot for the Broncos defense has been their inside linebacker play. Therefore on offense, Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada has to call plays to get the ball down the middle of the field, specifically looking at Pat Freiermuth and JuJu Smith-Schuster in the slot. This has not been an offensive trend so far for the Steelers, and this will need to change this week. For the offense to move the ball, the offensive line needs to account for the Broncos pass rush and Ben Roethlisberger has to go back to basics with his mechanics and decision making.
Defense: With Bridgewater under center, the Broncos’ offense hasn’t necessarily been “bad”, as they’re averaging just over 20 points per game. The Steelers’ defense seems to have fallen slightly short of preseason expectations, with a lot of that being due to injuries at every level. The defense will be without Carlos Davis and Cam Sutton this week, but will maintain their linebacker corps with TJ Watt, Alex Highsmith, Melvin Ingram III, Devin Bush, and Joe Schobert. Naturally, the linebackers are going to need to control the game on defense. The Broncos’ offense features a “mighty mouse” running back in rookie Javonte Williams, a savvy veteran playmaker in Melvin Gordon (currently listed as questionable), a mobile quarterback in Bridgewater, and an elite tight end in Noah Fant. The Steelers linebackers can’t let Williams get to the second level and bust big plays. Further, they also need to account for Fant, where I also anticipate Terrell Edmunds being a factor in that scheme. If the linebackers can maintain pressure on the offensive tackles and keep plays in front of them, this will be the key to a Week 5 victory.
There is no doubt this is going to be a close and low scoring affair this go-around. If you are like me, you’ve already accepted the fact that the Steelers won’t be able to put up over 20 points on offense and will need the help of a defensive or special teams splash play to win the game. I see the Steelers being able to regroup this week and get back in the “win” column. Prediction 20-17, Steelers.
As strange as this is to believe, the Steelers have not performed well against the Broncos in the past several seasons. Going back to 2003, the Steelers are 4-7 versus the Broncos. However, the last time the Broncos beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh was in 2006. Looking at the average point differential between the two teams going back to 2003, this matchup was separated by an average of 8.73 points, with the largest being 18 points (in 2009, 28-10, Steelers) and the narrowest being 3 points (one in 2003 and one in 2007). There have been 9 games in that time span that were separated by over 3 points. What I am saying through all of this is that this may be the closest game these teams have played against each other in 18 years, but this also has a good chance of not being as close as what some may think.
What are you watching for tomorrow? What do you think the final outcome will be? Let us know in the comments below!