Archive for January, 2012
Posted on January 8, 2012 - by ChuckFinder
Happy Birthday, Elvis.
Presley, that is.
Not Dumervil. His birthday is another 11 days away. But today the Steelers hope this 5-foot-11, hip-gyrating, pass-rushing Elvis doesn’t hold a candle to them, let alone 28 of them.
This Pittsburgh-Denver matchup isn’t as easy as it looks for the Steelers. And it should be easy on the surface: Tim Tebow can’t throw; the Steelers have 9 of their best 11 defensive players on the field (except for Ryan Clark and Aaron Smith) so they should be able to stop Willis McGahee; and the Broncos’ defense allows 126 yards rushing per game, opponents to possess the ball 32 minutes on average and create takeaways almost as rarely as the suddenly turnover-parched Steelers defense.
So this AFC Wild Card playoff in the Mile High City Sunday evening comes down to two parts: The Steelers being able to run the ball, and the Steelers being able to stymie the Broncos completely — not even allow field goals.
Because, in final seconds the Steelers don’t want a on- possession game and the ball in the hands of backup Brady Quinn, who played at Notre Dame remember, or his eminence Tim Tebow, who in Denver is playing one mile closer to the Lord remember. Miracles happen.
After all, Joe Flacco beat them that way once.
Dumervil and rookie rusher extraordinaire Von Miller will present problems for Max Starks and Marcus Gilbert, which shows you there will be other former Florida Gators on the Sports Authority (Higher Authority?) Field to watch Sunday. Expect to see Heath Miller, David Johnson (bad elbow and all) plus rookie Weslye Saunders play a role as blockers/receivers/bunches around those girthsome ex-Gators offensive tackles.
On the defensive side, keep an eye on LaMarr Woodley, trying to keep his NFL playoff record seven-game sack streak alive (11 overall), and James Harrison. Not only do the Steelers get them back together for only the second full or three-quarters game since Houston in Week 4, but their play is vital Sunday. Woodley and Harrison on the edges must deal with Tebow running, rolling out, scrambling and, on rare occasion, standing int he pocket. Sacks are luxuries, but keeping Tebow penned/hemmed in remains their most important contribution du jour.
What must happen for the Steelers to win I: The offensive line and tight ends must keep Ben Roethlisberger clean and create running room for Isaac Redman, John Clay, Mike Wallace-Antonio Brown reverses, whatever. The Steelers must possess the ball to limit the defense battling Tebow and the option offense. All it takes is one breakdown in that defense. . . .
What must happen for the Steelers to win II: Roethlisberger must throw accurately and lead the offense to two touchdowns — the same amount he’s compiled TOTAL over the past 13 quarters. In short, he hasn’t been good enough lately. Nor has he been good enough in the San Francisco, Houston and pair of Baltimore losses — his passer rating was in Tebow territory, around the low 70s.
What must happen for the Steelers to win III: The defense — which has yielded as many 100-yard rushers in the first 15 games this season as its previous 95 games — must shut down the Broncos run. They can’t afford to allow the Broncos beyond midfield and kicking field goals, because that Steelers offense hasn’t produced many points the past month. Casey Hampton needs to regularly blocked the middle, and he will be playing his most snaps in perhaps years. . . and in high altitude. (Yeah, Steve McLendon should be ready for a busy backup day, too.) James Farrior and Larry Foote likely will see lots of action. Both defensive edges must play near-pefect, but Woodley plus Ziggy Hood figure to be tested on the option run more often than Harrison and Brett Keisel. If Troy Polamalu doesn’t spend the entire game camped near the line of scrimmage, it could prove costly to the Steelers.
Some numbers of note:
+ Three of the past four NFL playoff teams with 8-8 or 7-9 records have won their opening postseason game since 2002. Best as I can figure, they have a 5-4 overall record since the advent of the 16-game season.
+ Four of the past six Super Bowl winners came from the Wild Card weekend
+ Denver has won two of the past three playoff meetings with the Steelers and, overall, the Broncos have beaten the Steelers four of their past six games, six of nine and 10 of 15. The only AFC teams against whom the Steelers are sub.-500 all-time are the Raiders, Jaguars and Broncos.
+ The past three times the Broncos and Steelers collided in the playoffs, they produced a Super Bowl participant.
+ Tebow’s Yonkos are 0-3 when Phil Simms works their CBS games, as he is Sunday.
By the way, the King turns 77 today. If you see that Elvis — and we know he’s still around — wish him a happy natal day.