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Denver Broncos' Keys to Victory: Week 15 at Pittsburgh Steelers

Ken Pomponio Avatar
December 19, 2015


Keys-to-Victory-Who: Denver Broncos (10-3) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5)

What: 2015 Week 15

When: 2:25 p.m. MST, Sunday, Dec. 20

Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh


Announcers: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms

Radio: KOA (850 AM), The Fox (103.5 FM)

Odds: Steelers -6.5; O/U 44.5

Notable: The overall series advantage goes to the Broncos at 18-10-1, including a 4-3 mark in the postseason. … This will only be the second meeting in Pittsburgh since the 1997 AFC Championship Game. … The Steelers are 5-2 at home while the Orange & Blue are tied for the NFL’s second-best road record at 6-1, and a victory Sunday would set a Denver franchise record for single-season road wins. … The Broncos are underdogs of more than six points for the first time since the 2011 divisional playoffs (plus-13.5) against the Patriots. In the 22 games Denver has been an underdog of at least 6.5 points over the last 10 seasons, it is 7-15 straight up and 10-12 against the spread. … QB Ben Roethlisberger is 2-4 all-time against the Broncos, including a 1-1 postseason mark, throwing for 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

The Keys

  • Don’t forget about Miller and Williams: The marquee matchup, of course, is the Steelers’ wide receivers against the Broncos’ cornerbacks. Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton have combined for 11 100-yard receiving games and 16 TD catches this season while the Denver trio of Chris Harris Jr., Aqib Talib and Bradley Roby have allowed only two 100-yard games (Travis Benjamin, Marquess Wilson) and two receiving scores (Mike Wallace, Seth Roberts) to opposing wide receivers. The Denver D has, though, surrendered six TD catches to tight ends and five to running backs, making TE Heath Miller and RB DeAngelo Williams the Pittsburgh weapons to watch for. Miller, in particular, has been active lately, accounting for 42 of his 66 targets, 32 of his 49 receptions and 288 of his 456 yards over his last five games.
  • Offensive TDs needed ASAP: As Broncos Country is painfully aware, the Orange & Blue only have mustered one offensive touchdown over the last two games and have all of 23 offensive TDs on the season – putting them ahead of only the Vikings (22), Cowboys (20) and 49ers (18). Denver also continues to be one of the league’s least-efficient red-zone teams, finding the end zone on only 44.4 percent of their possessions inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. Only the 49ers (43.3 percent), Browns (43.2) and Giants (43.1) are slightly worse. Suffice to say, those numbers aren’t going to cut it with the league’s fifth (Steelers) and fourth (Bengals) highest-scoring teams on tap the next two games.
  • Protect the passer: The Broncos have surrendered the 11th most sacks (32) this season, and it’s only gotten worse since Brock Osweiler has taken over. With the first-year starter holding the ball longer at times behind the same leaky offensive line which was in front of Peyton Manning, Osweiler has been dropped a frightening 17 times in 18 quarters – including five times in Sunday’s how-the-hell-did-that-happen loss to the Raiders – for a 9.09 sack percentage. Only the 49ers’ benched and injured Colin Kaepernick (10.29) and the Chiefs’ Alex Smith (9.11) have been sacked on a higher percentage of their dropbacks. Roethlisberger, meanwhile, has only been brought down on 3.91 percent of his dropbacks but will be facing the Broncos’ lead-leading sack attack (44 sacks, 8.94 sack percentage), and Denver needs to win – or at least be close – in the sack battle come Sunday afternoon in the Steel City.

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