After a thrilling Packers/Cardinals playoff showdown that ended late last evening, I don’t know about you but I can’t wait for more playoff action on Divisional Round Sunday. Yesterday it was pretty clear that injuries had definitely taken their toll on all four of the teams involved, but perhaps no team will be more devastated by injuries than the Pittsburgh Steelers when they take to the field today in Denver. Already they’ll be without their best wide receiver in Antonio Brown – a huge loss. The Steelers will also be without running back DeAngelo Williams, and even though Big Ben Roethlisberger is going to play and will have the full playbook at his disposal, you have to wonder just how healthy he is. He’s been carted off the field three separate times this season! He’s a warrior, but whether or not a banged-up Steelers squad can do enough to get by the NFL’s best defense in Denver remains to be seen. This Pittsburgh/Denver game promises to be an intriguing one, especially with the return of Peyton Manning. So read on below for further analysis, a game breakdown, and an official wager for this AFC clash!
Steelers vs. Broncos Betting Odds:
Pittsburgh Steelers +7.5 (-120)
@ Denver Broncos -7.5 (+100)
Over 41 (-110)
Under 41 (-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Steelers vs. Broncos Pick:
Despite the horrid rash of injuries the Steelers will have to endure in their preparations for the Broncos, saying they’ve got no hope in this contest would be flat-out wrong. This is still an offense that can do damage, and Big Ben is as tough as they come. It’s also worth noting that Peyton Manning hasn’t exactly been all that great this season. Add in the fact that he’s 0-4 in his playoff career when the temperature is below 41 degrees Fahrenheit (which it should be Sunday afternoon), and Pittsburgh is a very live dog in this contest.
In the past, we all know Roethlisberger has led some people on about the severity of his injuries. Whether he’s doing that again this week remains to be seen, but I think he’ll be fine to attack this Denver defense. He’s had success vs. the Broncos earlier this season, and he’s still blessed with an array of talented receivers at his disposal, even without Antonio Brown. Denver does possess an excellent run defense, so don’t expect the duo of Justin Todman and Fitzgerald Toussaint to do much in that area. Toussaint however is a great pass-catcher, so expect many quick dump-offs and short throws to try and move the chains that way. It’s definitely not going to be easy for the Steelers on offense, but Big Ben will do enough to keep his team in the game, and have a shot to win late.
One thing Roethlisberger won’t do, is cost his team or make egregious errors in a game of this magnitude. The same unfortunately cannot be said for Peyton Manning, who truly has become a shell of his former self. He had an awful year with offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak and is frankly a liability for his team today. Manning threw 17 picks in 10 games this season, and it’s that kind of thing that should have Denver fans and backers worried headed into this match-up. And even though the Steelers have struggled of late in getting to the quarterback, the Broncos’ O-Line is nothing special and that’s a match-up that can be won. Pittsburgh does have weaknesses within their secondary, but Manning won’t be able to exploit that. For Denver to move the chains consistently, they’re going to have to run the ball effectively. However this will be difficult going toe-to-toe with the league’s 10th-ranked run defense.
Peyton Manning isn’t very good anymore and will do the Broncos a disservice on Sunday afternoon. The Steelers are a dangerous football team that does a lot of things very well, and if Big Ben is able to play close to his ability, Pittsburgh has a legitimate shot at escaping the Mile High City with a big upset victory. The Broncos were 10-3 in close games this season, and routinely allowed inferior opponents to hang around. The Steelers will do enough on both sides of the ball to keep this a very close and competitive game throughout. I see Denver squeaking it out, but if Pittsburgh holds a decisive edge in the turnover battle, don’t be surprised to see the black and yellow in Foxboro next Sunday.
PICK = Steelers +7.5 (-120)