Technically, it isn’t a “must-win” game but in my book, the Pittsburgh Steelers need to keep their fate in their own hands as they host the AFC-leading Denver Broncos.
What: Denver Broncos (10-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5)
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
When: Sunday December 20, 2015 425pm Eastern
Weather: 43 degrees and mostly sunny
Line: Steelers -6
TV: CBS Jim Nantz, Phil Simms and Tracy Wolfson on the sidelines.
Radio: Steelers Nation Radio/WDVE Bill Hillgrove, Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley on the sidelines.
Rabble TV: SCB will be calling the game live and interacting with you the fans. Join in right here!
Key Injuries: DEN Safeties Omar Bolden, T.J. Ward both are out. PIT All players are probable or better.
NFL Ranks : Broncos 24th total offense ( 17th Rushing/ 18th Passing)/ 1st total defense ( 3rd Rushing/ 1st Passing)… Steelers 2nd total offense (9th Rushing/5th Passing)/23rd total defense (6th Rushing/31st Passing)
What You Need to Know: The Steelers’ William Gay played in his 140th straight game which is the best among all active cornerbacks… Gay also tied Steelers’ Hall of Famer Rod Woodson with his 5th career pick-six… Antonio Brown has at least one reception in 81 straight games…
AFC North: Kansas City (8-5) at Baltimore (4-9), Cleveland (3-10) at Seattle (8-5), Cincinnati (10-3) at San Francisco (4-9)
What’s at Stake: The Broncos come to Heinz Field needing a win to secure the AFC West title. A win would also keep them in play for a first round bye in the playoffs. The Steelers hold slim hopes of winning the AFC North so they need to focus on maintaining an edge for the Wild-Card.
All-Time Series: Broncos lead the all-time series 14-7-1 and are 6-4 in Pittsburgh.
Series Highs Passing: DEN John Elway 276 yards 1993, PIT Ben Roethlisberger 433 yards 2006 Rushing: DEN Otis Armstrong 131 yards 1973, PIT Rashard Mendenhall 155 yards 2009 Receiving: DEN Javon Walker 135 yards 2006, PIT Yancey Thigpen 175 yards 1997
Three Things We Need to See for a Steelers’ Win
You Must Protect This House (and the quarterback). The Steelers have dropped two games this season at home and I guarantee you that doesn’t sit well with Mike Tomlin. The last home game versus Indianapolis saw roughly 10,000 no-shows and I’m sorry but that’s unacceptable. I need to see a full house of crazy, towel-twirling fans in order to fluster Brock Osweiler. Since we are talking about protection, the Steelers’ offensive line is facing a daunting challenge in the Broncos’ number-ranked defense. Being able to handle them with the front five means Heath Miller can run pass routes rather than having to stay in to block. If the Denver pass rush is getting to Big Ben then we have ourselves a serious problem.
Make Brock Osweiler Beat You. Make no mistake about it, Osweiler has been very good in relief of Peyton Manning but he’s also had more three and outs than any other QB since he took over. Gary Kubiak’s game plan is not a secret, he wants to establish the run and then work the passing game off of that. Steelers Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler must impress upon his defense to stop the run and it won’t be easy. But… If they can make the Broncos one-dimensional then I believe that will force Osweiler to make big throws and I haven’t seen enough to believe he can do that.
Win Special Teams All Day Long. From Jordan Berry being able to flip the field to Chris Boswell banging kickoffs into the stands the Steelers’ special teams units must be better than they normally are. All of Antonio Brown’s career punt return TDs have come at home and another one would go a long way towards a victory. All that said, the Steelers’ coverage units must excel. They cannot give up big returns in any way, shape or form. Forcing the Broncos to have long fields all day can be frustrating for them. They can’t have a ‘push’ here though. They must win on every special teams play which means eliminating penalties and committing zero turnovers.