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ESPN Insider Breakdown: Pittsburgh at Denver

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  • ESPN Insider Breakdown: Pittsburgh at Denver

    Why To Watch
    Before the Steelers upset the Colts in the divisional round, a No. 6 had never beaten a No. 1 seed in the playoffs. They did it with excellent game plans on offense and defense, and much like the San Diego Chargers in December, Pittsburgh was more physical than the Colts. Denver played a physical game of its own in a over New England and capitalized on five key turnovers.

    Both of these teams take a lot of pride in running the football, and both believe in controlling the clock and playing great defense, especially versus the run. This is not a game for the faint-hearted. It will be physical, there will be some trash talking and both defenses will be creative in their blitz packages. Can the Steelers win three tough games on the road to get to Detroit?


    When the Steelers have the ball
    Rushing: Although the Steelers came out throwing more than anticipated early versus Indianapolis, they finally settled in to their normal game plan, finishing with 42 rushes and only 24 passes. Jerome Bettis and Willie Parker had 17 carries each, and Pittsburgh threw only five times in the second half.

    There is no mystery to what the Steelers want to do: control the clock with the run and pick their spots in the passing game. However, Denver has a very solid run defense and an effective front seven. The Broncos play good gap-control defense up front and have athletic linebackers who can step up and fill. On top of that, SS John Lynch comes into the box and basically plays like a linebacker. That leaves eight defenders to stop Pittsburgh's run game. It will also be difficult for Parker to get outside because Denver's linebackers have outstanding range and are excellent open-field tacklers.

    This is a defense that doesn't give up many big plays in the run game and allowed only three 100 yard-rushing days all season. FB Dan Kreider may play a key role. He is one of the most underrated "iso" blockers in the NFL, and if he can get to Denver MLB Al Wilson, it might create some creases in the run game.

    Passing: Pittsburgh uncharacteristically came out aggressively against the Colts' Cover 2, throwing 19 times in the first half. Ben Roethlisberger did a great job of attacking the middle of the field with TE Heath Miller and exploiting the Colts' safeties in coverage. Pittsburgh might do the same thing versus Broncos safeties Nick Ferguson and Lynch, who struggle in coverage. The Broncos use them on a variety of blitzes, which could open up the middle of the field.

    Denver will play mostly man-to-man schemes and use all-world cover corner Champ Bailey and two rookies, Domonique Foxworth and Darrent Williams, in their nickel package. Roethlisberger will likely target the rookies and safeties The Broncos do not have a great sack attack (last in the NFL in sacks), but their read-and-react defensive front seven makes them less vulnerable versus gadget plays, screen passes and draw plays.

    Roethlisberger has become very efficient with this passing game, having now gone 21 quarters without throwing an interception. He throws a lot of short and safe passes, but the Broncos have a very athletic linebacker trio and can get outside and control the short Steelers' passing game. Look for Pittsburgh to throw a little more on first and second downs than usual to create an element of surprise.

    When the Broncos have the ball
    Rushing: Although the Broncos ran the ball a respectable 32 times versus the Patriots, it wasn't the same dominating running game we are used to seeing from Denver. New England seemed to use its size and physicality up front to overpower the athletic but smaller Denver offensive line. The Broncos are a run-first, pass-second offense and led the AFC in time of possession, so it will be a huge challenge for the Steelers' defense to try to control this game in the trenches.

    Pittsburgh will give Denver's offense a lot of pre-snap movement and make it difficult to adjust the run-blocking schemes. However, Denver has a zone-blocking offensive line, and that simplifies the blocking assignments. It basically means that Denver's offensive linemen will hit anything that comes into their area, rather than chasing defenders, which is the case in man-blocking schemes. Pittsburgh plays a two-gap, read-and-react scheme up front, and the defensive line trio of Kimo von Oelhoffen, Casey Hampton and Aaron Smith is very physical at the point of attack and tough to run against.

    SS Troy Polamalu is basically another linebacker in the box in run situations, and Denver must figure out a way to block him when he attacks. Because Pittsburgh's defense has the ability to negate the inside power running of Mike Anderson, the Broncos will likely counter with a wider running game and give more carries to the speedy Tatum Bell.

    Passing: The Steelers had a magnificent game plan versus the Colts' offense last week as they mixed their blitzes up extremely well and never let Peyton Manning get comfortable. The pass rush started with an excellent inside push from Pittsburgh's two-gap power defensive line of Von Oelhoffen, Hampton and Smith. It collapsed the pocket and forced Manning to slide from side to side, which is not his comfort level. That same pressure game plan will be used in Denver. NT Hampton will be a load for Denver OC Tom Nalen, and an athletic, but undersized, offensive line will have its hands full keeping this defensive front off QB Jake Plummer.

    One of Plummer's biggest challenges will be to locate Polamalu before every play. He is the key to identifying what the Steelers are doing defensively. If he is up in the box or blitzing, it leaves FS Chris Hope in the deep middle of the field in a Cover 3 look, which means he can help out only one of the corners on the perimeter -- and that's when Plummer can take some deep outside shots to his wide receivers.

    It is also imperative that the Broncos establish the run early to set up play-action. This Steelers defense is aggressive and loves to attack, and it is more susceptible to play fakes than most AFC defenses. The Steelers do not have a good cover secondary and because of it, they will play mostly zone schemes behind their blitz. If Plummer gets pass protection and if his offense picks up the blitz, there are plays to be made.
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    DROY

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  • #2
    lol does anyone like these anymore?
    sigpic
    DROY

    Mile High Manning Fivehead Bandwagon #98

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    • #3
      Originally posted by bronc_fan23
      lol does anyone like these anymore?
      I do, actually... even though most of the time they're no more insightful than trolls... but I appreciate it nonetheless.
      Thanks, Reid!
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      • #4
        thanks for the read!

        This is going to be a heck of a game. So many good match-ups and play makers on both sides of the ball.

        This will be no "pretty boy prince of media" football game. Complete with grunting, swearing,grass-in-helmut, bloodstained uniform, dominating football game.
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        "You find ways to win and certainly you can find ways to lose...it's not just dumb luck."
        -Sean Payton

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        • #5
          I do to. thanks for posting it... I have had similar things happen planty of time when posting info, a lot of looks, few replies. But it was a good read.

          Thanks
          The Game Day Thread: Year 16 in progress!!! sigpic

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          • #6
            yeah

            i read them everytime.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by bronc_fan23
              lol does anyone like these anymore?

              i do, i read 'em everytime you post them. thanks for doing that. i tend to agree with lordtrychon that it's pretty much what we've already heard, but i'd rather read what an analyst has to say as opposed to the opinions of steeler trolls and over confident denver fans.


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              • #8
                Originally posted by bronc_fan23
                lol does anyone like these anymore?
                Yea thanks for the post bro

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by lordtrychon
                  I do, actually... even though most of the time they're no more insightful than trolls... but I appreciate it nonetheless.
                  lol, I consider myself a strategy expert, and I have a hard time picking up what he's saying. No explanation on these terms or schemes at all.

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