Get the Tim Tebow counter ready, because his name will be mentioned a countless number of times before tomorrow’s game against the Steelers. He has led the Broncos to an AFC West championship, and a home playoff game.
The only problem is that they are taking on the 12-4 Pittsburgh Steelers, who do not care for the buzz around Tebow.
The Steelers started the season 2-2, and many thought that this may just not be their year. They went on to finish 12-4 and missed out on the #2 seed by one game. They have gone 5-1 in their last six games and have allowed a combine total of 28 points in the five wins.
The main problem that the Steelers face is dealing with their losses due to injury. Rashard Mendenhall has been placed on IR after injuring his ACL last week in Cleveland, safety Ryan Clark is out due to a sickle-cell trait that is dangerous to play with at high elevations, center Maurkice Pounkey is out due to an ankle injury, and Ben Roethlisberger is hobbled with a sprained ankle.
Mendenhall’s injury puts Isaac Redmond in the starting role. He has primarily been the third down back this year and has 479 yards and three touchdowns. He had two fumbles against Cleveland last week, which must be fixed for this game. He cannot be giving the Broncos free possessions to stay in the game.
Getting the run game going will help ease the stress that Roethlisberger has to put on his ankle. Third and long situations are not the same when Big Ben is hurt, because he does not have the ability to scramble as he usually does. He will need to be protected in the pocket, as he can easily be knocked out of the game if the ankle gets too bad.
The defense should have no trouble shutting down Denver’s offense, barring some Tebow magic. The Steelers have the top ranked pass defense in the league, along with the eighth ranked rush defense at just under 100 yards a game. The Broncos have the top ranked rushing offense in the NFL, so it should provide a great matchup.
Say what you want about the Broncos style of offense, but they are in the playoffs. They are, however, losers of three straight, which followed a six-game winning streak. The offense fits Tim Tebow’s style of play, but it will need to be altered in order to have a chance at beating the Steelers.
John Elway has called on Tebow to “cut it loose” in the passing game, and that will need to be done in order to win. If the option-style offense is being shutdown early, Tebow will need to try and get something going in the passing game. It will not be easy against the league’s best pass defense, but he must at least try.
What the Broncos lack in the passing game, which is ranked 31st in the NFL, they make up for in the running game. They average 164.5 rushing yards a game, which puts them first in the NFL. Willis McGahee finished with 1,199 yards on the year, while Tebow added 660 of his own. Both average right around five yards a carry, which will need to be kept up against Pittsburgh.
The x-factors in the game will be Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas. They are Tim Tebow’s two most popular targets and are the Broncos two leading receivers. If they can get some separation from the Steelers’ secondary, it will give Tebow a chance to “cut it loose” and get some momentum going in the passing game.
For Denver’s defense, it will be important to get pressure on Roethlisberger early. He is playing on that injured ankle, and getting a few hits on him early could make throwing the ball that much more difficult. It could also lead to him having less strength on his passes, which could lead to some interceptions.
The optimist in me would love to pick Tim Tebow and the Broncos to defeat the mighty Steelers, but that it defying logic. The Steelers are Super Bowl favorites and have not done anything to foreshadow a possible slip-up in Denver.
Sure, their offense struggled against a weak team in Cleveland, but the defense more than made up for the lack of offensive production.
Steelers 34 | Broncos 17
Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos
- Steelers-Broncos Date, Time, and TV: Sunday, January 8th at 4:30 ET on CBS
- Steelers-Broncos Announcers: Jim Nantz and Phil Simms
- Steelers-Broncos Point Spread: Steelers -9
- Steelers-Broncos Over-Under: 34.5