Another week, another “Biggest Game of the Season” for the Pittsburgh Steelers. And another picture of the opposing team’s QB surrounded by hot chicks. The odd-looking fellow passed out on the bed is current Denver Broncos signal caller Kyle Orton. Sadly, it appears even a stumbling drunk with a neckbeard has better luck with the ladies than our Super Bowl winning quarterback.
Neckbeard is behind center for the the Broncos due to a tumultuous off-season where the team parted ways with longtime coach Mike Shanahan leading his replacement, Josh McDaniels, to eventually part ways with Jay Cutler. Despite not making the playoffs last season, the offense wasn’t really the problem as only New Orleans scored more points in 2008. Thus, even with the switch at QB, the Broncos are still in possession of an excellent O line while being deep and talented at wide receiver. Knowshon Moreno, the 12th overall pick in the draft, splits rushing duties with Correll Buckholter to bring some balance to the offense.
Offensively, the Steelers go into the game with the usual cast of characters. LT Max Starks will have his hands full blocking LB Elvis Dumervil, who currently leads the AFC in sacks. If he and the rest of the O-line can keep Ben Roethlisberger upright, there should be some plays for the making. The Broncos defense is stout against the run but vulnerable against the pass so expect Bruce Arians’ Flying Circus to come out firing on Monday Night.
How weak is the Denver secondary? This past week, they signed 95-year-old Ty Law to help shore it up. Of course, they also have one of the best DBs in the game, Champ Bailey, so staying away from him is a must. Despite some hiccups in pass coverage, the Broncos have had the overall top ranked defensive unit for much of this season. Former San Francisco 49ers head man Mike Nolan has worked magic as defensive coordinator, switching to a 3-4 scheme which seems to be getting the most out of castoffs like Andra Davis and former Steeler Ryan McBean.
The Steelers will be fielding a defense missing no less than three starters. Travis Kirschke sprained his calf toward the end of the Minnesota game and is expected to miss two or three more weeks. Too bad, because he was doing a surprisingly solid job replacing Aaron Smith against the run. Lawrence Timmons, who has been fighting a high ankle sprain all year, loses the battle again this week. Even though LT was starting to come on, I’m not really too worried about missing him. Keyaron Fox, he of the 77 yard INT-TD against the Vikes, has played extremely well when given the chance. In fact, if you subtract the fact Timmons was a Steelers 1st round pick while Fox was a 3rd rounder who couldn’t stick with the hapless Chiefs, I’d argue Fox should be starting based on his play alone.
And then we have Ryan Clark. I’ve already dedicated an entire post to Clark’s unique situation. Regardless of whether it’s been made official or not, Clark isn’t going to play. A three headed monster of Tyrone Carter, Keiwan Raliff, and Ryan Mundy will endeavor to fill his shoes. On the plus side, Clark isn’t Troy Polamalu. On the minus side, Clark is one of our better tacklers. This is important because Orton is a weak-armed quarterback who is mostly limited to short and intermediate routes which depend on his talented WRs getting yards after the catch.
The Ravens exposed this flaw last week when they stifled the Broncos running game and their dink and dunk passing game couldn’t generate enough offense. I’m sure McDaniels will try to change things up but there’s only so much you can do with Kyle Orton. One thing to keep in mind, the Broncos have a fantastic kick returner by the name of Eddie Royal. I’d hate for the Steelers to put on another defensive clinic only to be undone by yet another breakdown in the special teams.
The Bengals skunked the Baltimore Ravens yesterday, continuing their dream season. On the one hand, I’m pleased because failure in Baltimore always brings a smile to my face. On the other hand, Cincy is now 6-2 with a head-to-head victory over us so we really need to keep pace. Victories have been hard to come by in the Mile High City so let’s hope history doesn’t repeat itself.