Three weeks, three losses. The game has not been kind to the Pittsburgh Steelers of late. In fact, they have lost each of their past three games by multiple possessions, nine or more points. That is the first time this has happened to them since 1988, during the post-Bradshaw nadir of Chuck Noll’s final seasons with the team.
How do they right the ship? Can they do it against the Denver Broncos, back at home after a short trip up to Green Bay? Denver is a good team this year, but they don’t have the sort of generational quarterback talent of an Aaron Rodgers.
They do have to worry about Denver’s running game, which is quite solid this year with the combination of Melvin Gordan and rookie Javonte Williams. Both of them have run the ball well so far, and the offensive line has been making strides under Mike Munchak.
But this needs to be a particularly good game for the men in the middle, Devin Bush and Joe Schobert at linebacker, as they have the tall task of defending tight end Noah Fant, though they are also throwing the ball to Albert Okwuegbunam, with nine receptions and a touchdown already. Fant has scored twice, with 18 catches on the back of his card so far.
Importantly, the Broncos have also done a good job of taking care of the ball this season, which just three giveaways through four games. The Steelers defensively only have three takeaways this season, so this doesn’t feel like the best time for them to make a marked turnaround in the splash play department.
And then there’s the Denver defense, helmed by Von Miller, who is still playing at a Pro Bowl level into his 30s. The Steelers have instability at the right tackle position. One suspects that they are going to be giving a lot of help to whatever side of the field Miller’s on, usually the defensive left.
But rookie center Kendrick Green is going to have his hands full with Shelby Harris and Mike Purcell as it is. You want to talk about linemen getting their hands on you quickly? Unfortunately, he may be getting some good looks at the clouds today.
Another interesting facet of this contest is the return game for both teams, and not just because the Broncos’ Diontae Spencer first caught the Broncos’ eye while playing in the preseason for the Steelers in 2019.
He’s gone on to have a good career in his own right, but Pittsburgh has since found Ray-Ray McCloud, whom they’re also happy with. The difference is the Broncos don’t allow many of their punts to be returned, with good averages. Rookie punter Pressley Harvin III has been very up and down, so that could provide Spencer with some quality return opportunities, even if the coverage has been solid so far this season.