Week 1: Denver Broncos Vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
- QuarterbackPeyton Manning is a Hall of Fame quarterback who gets a chance to write a new chapter in his career with the Broncos. While he must show he can take the abuse that comes with playing the position in regular season games, he is a huge upgrade for the Broncos over Tim Tebow.Ben Roethlisberger is one of the most unique quarterbacks in the league. He has the size and strength to shake off a big hit, slide to the outside and buy time and then make a big play. He can take a lot of punishment and throw an accurate pass, giving the Steelers a chance to win most weeks.
- OffenseThe Broncos have some workable tools on offense. Start with hard-working Willis McGahee, who no longer is a breakaway threat but can punish a defense when he lowers his shoulder. Demaryius Thomas is the Broncos big-play receiver while Eric Decker can make the possession catch.The Steelers want to run the ball with Rashard Mendenhall, but he won’t be recovered from his torn ACL until midseason. That means Isaac Redman will be asked to run the ball. Mike Wallace is a big-play wideout who can break the long one at any time while Antonio Brown is quick, agile and knows how to get open.
- DefenseWhile Tim Tebow got the bulk of the publicity in Denver last year, the play of the Bronco defense was a surprise. Elvis Dumervil can pressure the quarterback from the defensive end slot and outside linebacker Von Miller can do the same. Champ Bailey is still one of the best cover men in the league.It’s almost like clockwork. You can count on the Steelers to have one of the best defensive units in the league under defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. This year is no different. The Steelers have Troy Polamalu to run the secondary and underrated Ziggy Hood on the defensive line. Outside linebacker James Harrison (knee) probably won’t be ready for the start of the season.
- Special TeamsMatt Prater was the best kickoff man in the league last year, but he gets a boost because he kicks in Denver. His field goal kicking was ordinary and so was the Broncos’ return game.The Steelers got a big boost from Antonio Brown in the return game as he averaged 27.3 yards per kickoff return and 10.3 yards per punt return. Shaun Suisham has a strong leg for kickoffs but struggles on field goals.
Circumstances have changed dramatically since the Steelers’ season ended in Denver in the wild-card playoff game, but this game is still important. The Steelers want revenge while the Broncos want to see that Manning can play a regular-season game without getting hurt.