PITTSBURGH — The Broncos can lay waste to a Steel City on the verge of a meltdown.
Win here to start the season 3-0 on the road for the first time since the last time they went to the Super Bowl and I’ll guarantee you the Broncos make the playoffs.
If the fog of a concussion has fully lifted, leaving quarterback Teddy Bridgewater with clear eyes, and his teammates have strong hearts, Denver can’t lose.
Not to get overly technical on you, but the Steelers stink.
“We all know how serious this win is for us. We all know the kind of situation that we’re in,” Broncos linebacker Von Miller said. “We need to go ahead and win these games now, instead of waiting until the end of the season and praying and hoping for wins to get in the playoffs. All these wins count, and we need as many as we can get to start the season off.”
No fan base in America loves the NFL, or takes as much pride in winning football, than the good people of Pittsburgh. But there’s something in the air here. It smells like the frustration of championship dreams gone up in smoke. Or maybe that was just a whiff of medicinal marijuana I detected during a morning stroll along the Allegheny River.
After touching down in this remade rust-belt town, I barely had a chance to say hello to the fine gentleman giving me a lift in his taxi before he blurted: “Big Ben has got to go! I don’t know why the Steelers are giving him so much respect. If his name wasn’t Roethlisberger, he’d already be on the bench.”
In a game that oddsmakers rate a toss-up, maybe the No. 1 reason to believe the Broncos will beat Pittsburgh? Right now, Bridgewater is a better quarterback than Roethlisberger. And who would’ve thunk anybody could ever say that?
After starting last season with 11 consecutive victories, the fall of the Steelers has been dramatically and extreme, as they’ve lost eight of their past 10 games, causing a legion of die-hard fans to cry in their Terrible Towels.
Down in the Strip District, a mix of traditional groceries and hip dive bars that is this Pennsylvania river town’s answer to LoDo in Denver, an ailing Steelers fan can buy a T-shirt in which the yellow, red and blue diamonds on the team’s logo have been replaced with cannabis plants in tribute to the Pittsburgh Stoners.
At age 39, Big Ben is crumbling, his body ravaged by the cumulative effects of playing nearly 250 regular-season NFL games. With a quarterback rating of 78.9, which ranks 27th in the league, Roethlisberger is in danger of leading the Steelers to their first losing record since 2003, when some stiff named Tommy Maddox was their dominant QB.
This is a road game that a authentic playoff team wins. Good teams prey on the ineffective. How hungry is Denver? This is a game the Broncos will win if the hangover from a poor performance during a loss against Baltimore doesn’t linger.
“Honestly, we got the taste of winning. After winning all of our preseason games — already though it’s preseason — and winning our first three games, everybody forgot that feeling of losing, and nobody liked it,” said receiver Tim Patrick, who has become the team’s most reliable weapon in the passing game.
While Denver offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has caught grief about an offense that lumbers down the field, at a modest 20.8 points per game, the Broncos are an offensive juggernaut compared to the 16.8 scoring average of the Steelers.
The fan base in Pittsburgh, capable of providing a mighty home-field advantage, is beyond restless. The Steelers faithful is downright grumpy.
Fearless prediction: If Denver can get an early rule, the booing will rain from the sky at Heinz Field and angry, awkward demands to bench a future Hall of Fame quarterback will commence.
Roethlisberger and his Steelers are a team in thorough … ketchup. The Broncos have picked one of the best times in this century to come to Pittsburgh and get out of town with a victory.
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