2009 NFL Season: Steelers Smother Broncos, 28-10

Like I said when they were 2-0, 3-0, 4-0, and 5-0, and 6-0…” I’m not buyin!”

The Broncos deserve a great deal of credit for beginning the season at 5-0.  In the past two weeks, this solid team of newly-acquainted veterans has lost to the two teams that battled in the conference championship game in 2008.  There is no shame in that, but it is clear that Denver has some work to do.  The offense is mediocre and we know its not because of Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal.  They have played in a high-powered explosive offense before.  The problem may not be Josh McDaniels either.  He knows something about “matriculating the ball up and down the field.”  Even Brandon Stokely has been part of an elite offensive unit.  So who hasn’t been there and done that?

The man who threw 3 interceptions tonite against a team that refused to allow any men in orange jerseys to run the ball: Kyle Orton.

Frankly, I think the Broncos are on the verge of a collapse until they do some things differently.  I thought they were fortunate to beat the Chargers in San Diego.  For all of their success on defense, that game boiled down to a couple of returns by Eddie Royal.  Only the 2007 Bears and Devin Hester can live that way.  This Broncos team simply isn’t cut that way.  The offense managed 3 points tonite — and that was due to Troy Polamalu’s defense on teammate William Gay.  APTOPIX Steelers Broncos Football

Denver has to score more.  They have to get Tony Scheffler involved in the offense.  They have to get their running game untracked.  If they don’t, that undersized defense will be forced to stay on the field as much as they did tonite.  That defense can’t do it.  The success of the defense is predicated on the speed of the front 7 and the savvy of the secondary.  That formula was inverted tonite.  The demise of the Broncos was due to the fatigue of the front 7 and the “experience” of the secondary.  The Steelers made Champ Bailey look older than Ty Law.  Did you see the hurdle?

The Broncos don’t have to collapse, they just have to adjust.  I like the Chargers to find a way to win this division.

As for the Steelers, the offense is powerful but sloppy.  Roethlisberger plays like he knows he is playing with house money.  He plays as if he is unconcerned with the consequences of his actions.  The Steelers defense is so ferocious that he is seldom taxed the way another passer might be by miscues.  The Steelers could have scored 40 points if they did not turn the ball over.  Rashard Mendenhall was spared the disgrace of a goal line fumble in the 4th quarter.  And it wasn’t because he didn’t actually fumble — he did.  The referees were probably still trying to make up for that blown call when Jerome Bettis called the coin toss in overtime vs. the Lions.  Ben Roethlisberger had two turnovers: a blind-side fumble and a goal line interception.  Both turnovers were committed when the Steelers were moving the ball with ease.  The second half was a relative walk in the park.  Bruce Arians appeared to have surrendered the play-calling to Ben as the team ran effortlessly without huddling.

Note 1:  It was interesting to hear the announcers talk at the beginning of the 2nd half about how Denver’s frequent movement on defense was causing the Steelers to run the clock down to the final seconds.  That was not the case.  The Steelers were entirely in control based on the change in tempo.  Roethlisberger took his time looking over the defense to maximize the quality of his pre-snap reads.  There was no need to rush.  The no-huddle limited defensive substitutions.  Roethlisberger took his time.  Game over.

Note 2:  When Troy Polamalu is healthy, he makes plays all over the field.  In the 4th quarter of this game (with about 9 minutes remaining), Polamalu stuffed a first down in the backfield with the Broncos pinned down in the own end.  On the very next play, Kyle Orton tried to get some breathing room and the ball was intercepted by Polamalu about 20 yards downfield.

Note 3:  The only guy who really gets open down field against Ike Taylor is Randy Moss (and he needs Tom Brady on the field).  If you don’t have Randy Moss, don’t bother.

If Rashard Mendenhall can secure the ball, this team is going back to where they came from.  Right now, the Colts, Bengals and Steelers (in that order) look to be the class of the AFC.  I don’t know where to put the Patriots.  It’s been so long since they played a quality opponent with a two-dimensional offense.

Closing Note:  Last season, in Week 9, the Steelers played on the road against a team with a new “genius” coach that was oaded with veterans in the secondary, a young quarterback who had yet to throw an interception, a dynamic running game, apass-catching tight end, .  Ben Roethlisberger was knocked out of that game by the Washington Redskins, but Jason Campbell threw his first interceptions of the season.  The Redskins, like the Broncos, struggled mightily to score and lost 23-6.


  1. Yep….you can add me to the list of those who were saying “I’m not buyin” in regards to the Broncos. And just as I suspected, they proved me correct. I totally agree with this piece; the Broncos don’t have a QB who can throw the ball downfield and keep defenses honest. And as we know, if you can pressure the QB, good things will happen on defense. The Steelers exploited the Broncos weaknesses on offense and won the game in a route.

    Troy Polamalu appears to be to his old self. That’s bad news for the rest of the league. Mike Wallace is probably “ROY” as of right now. This kid is going to be special. I really like Keyaron Fox playing the inside middle position. He seems pretty comfortable with his play. Now, we can continue to wait to see if Lamarr Woodley can wake up and perform as he did from last year.

  2. You can also count me on that list for not buying the Broncos. They beat the Bengals by luck. (But, I’m still glad that they did beat them, setting up this showdown for first in the AFC North on Sunday.) Orton has had a fine season, but he’s no threat down the field. The Ravens and now the Steelers have shown that Orton doesn’t have the ability to get the ball down the field when pressured. It also doesn’t help his cause that the Broncos can’t run against elite defenses. Without the threat of a run, the defense knows that they can just T off on Orton.

    Santonio Holmes made Champ Bailey look bad on Monday night. Champ is still a top cornerback, but Holmes was better. Mike Wallace continues to look good every game. There was a Limas Sweed sighting on Monday night. He hasn’t played much since the beginning of the season because of Mike Wallace’s emergence. If Sweed doesn’t get to work soon on catching and finishing off the play, he probably won’t be on the team after this year. Mendenhall still needs to learn to hold on to the ball better. If he can do that, he will have a long career in the Steel City. I’m not buying that Willie Parker not playing is all the result of him being hurt. Watching him and Mendenhall is like night & day. Parker sees a hole, and hesitates, and dances a bit before trying to hit it. Mendenhall sees a hole, and accelerates through it. I believe Parker would be better if he still had a fullback running in front of him full time. Arians likes to use the tight end or an offensive lineman as a de facto fullback at times. Parker has trouble using them like he does a true fullback.

  3. kos,

    Good commentary. Yeah, Santonio got the best of Champ in that game.

    I still think that FWP is hurt because of what you said about him being timid in hitting the holes. “Turf Toe” will do that to you. He cannot plant and move at full speed like he’s used to doing. He hasn’t really been the same since early last season. But I do agree with Parker being better served with a FB. But try telling that to Bruce Arians, right? 🙂

    The Broncos came into Monday night w/ the #1 ranked defense against the run(if i’m not mistaken). The Steelers racked up 173 yards on that defense. Does this say more about the Broncos run defense or the Steelers running game w/ Mendenhall/Moore/Parker?

  4. GN –
    The Steelers came into the game #1 against the run, and only improved on it. The Broncos were top 10 against the run, though. I think they may have been #1 overall defense coming into the game, but the Steelers gashed their defense.

    Looking at the previous teams the Broncos beat, they got lucky against the Bengals with that deflection, catch and run by Brandon Stokely; then destroyed the Browns and Raiders; had tough games against the Cowboys and Patriots, that they could have lost; and won a shootout against a schitzophrenic Chargers team. They could have easily been 3-3, instead of 6-0. I do think that the Patriots are a good team, still don’t know how good though, because of their schedule. I don’t trust any team with Romo as its quarterback. The Chargers can beat any team, but they can also lose to any team. Almost remind me of Eagles-West. When it came time to play the Ravens and the Steelers, two teams known for big time pressure on opposing team’s QBs however, the Broncos wilted big time.

    What does the Steelers offensive performance say about the Broncos defense? Only that in the games that the Broncos won in, they played severely flawed teams that wouldn’t/didn’t have a commitment to the run. The teams that they won against also didn’t have WR’s who exploited the Broncos db’s the way that the Steelers WR’s did. Also, their teams probably didn’t block for their QB’s the way that Ben’s offensive line did for him.

    You’re right about FWP. I forgot that turf toe is pretty much a nagging, recurring injury. I just hope that it doesn’t put him out of the game like it did Deion.

  5. That’s very cool. I wouldn’t expect him to have that kind if success vs. Cutler or Palmer — and that’s why the team is 6-2, not 8-0.

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