(247 SPORTS) – The Denver Broncos released their inactives prior to Sunday’s home matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
As expected, inside linebacker Brandon Marshall and safety Dymonte Thomas will not play. Neither will defensive end DeMarcus Walker, safety Shamarko Thomas, offensive linemen Sam Jones and Nico Falah and inside linebacker Alexander Johnson.
Cornerback Bradley Roby, fresh off a concussion, is active and will start, having cleared the league-mandated protocol on Friday. Second-year CB Brendan Langley, promoted from the practice squad this week, is making his 2018 debut after Denver released Adam Jones.
“He’s been working,” head coach Vance Joseph said Wednesday. “He’s been working and he has a skillset that we need. He has speed. He’s a big corner, he’s physical, he’s tough and he can really run. We’ll see how it pans out on Sunday for them.”
Marshall misses his third contest with a bone bruise in his knee. He didn’t practice all week and was ruled out on Friday. Josey Jewell will replace Marshall in the starting lineup, working opposite Todd Davis. The duo “played well” against the Melvin Gordon-led Chargers, according to Joseph.
“That team came in averaging 7.6 yards a clip on first downs and we kind of squashed that, hitting the run game and hitting the pass game also,” he said.
Their next test is rising Pittsburgh stud James Conner, the league’s fourth-leading rusher who’s rendered holdout Le’Veon Bell obsolete. This is where Jewell’s athleticism and Davis’ tenacity will be highlighted.
“He’s a physical back and you can tell he’s playing with a lot of energy,” Broncos defensive coordinator Joe Woods said. “It seems like he’s playing with a chip on his shoulder and like he has something to prove. He’s doing an outstanding job in the run game and he’s also a good outlet for them at receiver. I think he has 45 catches or something like that.”
The combination of Su’a Cravens and Will Parks will split reps in Thomas’ stead behind Justin Simmons and Darian Stewart.
Newly-signed center Gino Gradkowski is active as the direct backup to Connor McGovern, who took over for Matt Paradis (IR) at the pivot. Cyrus Kouandjio, brought back Tuesday, is the swing lineman for the guards (Billy Turner, Elijah Wilkinson) and tackles (Garett Bolles, Jared Veldheer).
Denver’s reshuffled offensive line, which has lost three starters this season, was exceptional in the team’s upset win over the Los Angeles Chargers, failing to yield a sack. They aim to keep Case Keenum clean while fending off a fierce Steelers pass rush.
“The more they play together, the better they’re going to be on Sunday,” Joseph said. “I was really pleased with both of those guys, with [G/T] Billy [Turner] at left guard and [G/T] Eli [Wilkinson] at right guard. They both played good football. I thought ‘Bollesy’ (T Garett Bolles) played his best game of the year as far as technique and blocking those two Pro Bowl rushers. With time, they should play better, but I’ve been really pleased with that whole room the whole year, and the depth that’s come out of that room. It’s been really good all year as far as o-line.”