(CBS4)- The Denver Broncos home opener didn’t exactly go as the team hoped falling 16-14 to the Tennessee Titans on Monday Night Football. The schedule doesn’t get any easier as now the team makes a trip to Pittsburgh on a short week to face the Steelers and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
The Steelers earned a win earlier on Monday night, taking down the Giants 26-16 largely on the back of a strong defense that allowed the offense to take its time finding a rhythm. Once it did, Roethlisberger and company looked impressive with Big Ben tossing three touchdowns with no interceptions. The defense harassed Giants quarterback Daniel Jones into a pair of interceptions which the Steelers turned into 10 points.
The key for the Broncos this Sunday? Avoid long yardage situations on 2nd and 3rd downs.
“They are going to have to be able to stay out of long yardage down and distance. Because, otherwise, here comes Blitz-burgh,” said NFL on CBS analyst Charles Davis. “T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, Stefon Tuitt, Cam Heyward, they just have monsters that come at you with speed and power. The long down and yardages, they have to keep Drew Lock and this crew out of to help these youngsters play.”
The Broncos, for the most part, did that well on Monday night with only four of their nine third down attempts coming with longer than three yards to go. But, when they did find themselves in third and long, it was a problem, converting on just one of their four chances in that spot.
Davis sees that as a key because it will allow for the Broncos to be more unpredictable and potentially take the edge off of the Steelers pass rush in keeping them off balance.
“If you get the chance to throw in times where you expect them to run, maybe you can hit some of those plays to Jerry Jeudy and crew downfield. KJ Hamler and Courtland Sutton,” said Davis. “All those tight ends they have now. You can use those tight ends to play a little ball control and if you’re able to run it, that’s what you’re looking for. It’s a tall order for them, this is a tough Pittsburgh team. To me, that’s going to be how they have to play.”
The Pittsburgh defense is no slouch, one of their interceptions came at the end of a 19-play drive by the Giants which to Davis just shows the kind of fortitude the unit plays with. On Sunday, the Broncos will need to match that in order to avoid an 0-2 hole to start the year.
The Broncos head into Sunday’s matchup listed as 7.5 point underdogs against the Steelers. Kick-off is slated for 11 a.m. MT.