The Broncos will again be without Brian Dawkins on Sunday, which means Denver is likely to again have Quinton Carter and David Bruton manning the starting safety spots. In slightly better news, FB Spencer Larsen is listed as doubtful after it was said earlier in the week that he would definitely miss the game due to his knee sprain. Bruton and dime corner Jonathan Wilhite are questionable, while Von Miller and Eddie Royal are probable for Sunday.
For Pittsburgh, CB Cortez Allen and RB Mewelde Moore are out as expected (S Ryan Clark is out as well but not on the injury report, presumably because his absence is a coaching decision), while C Maurkice Pouncey is listed as questionable after being limited in practice, despite earlier reports that he will miss the game. Several key Steelers are probable, including QB Ben Roethlisberger, G Doug Legursky (who would start at center if Pouncey cannot), LB James Harrison, LB LaMarr Woodley, DE Brett Keisel, S Troy Polamalu and T Jonathan Scott.
It looks like Josh McDaniels will be interviewing to get his old job back. No, not that one. With Patriots OC Bill O'Brien reportedly heading to Penn State to take over their HC gig, McDaniels received permission from the Rams (who fired HC Steve Spagnuolo earlier in the week) to seek out a new position for himself, and the Pats have subsequently sought the Rams' approval to chat with their former assistant. It'll be interesting to see which way McDaniels goes should he have a choice between going back to New England and joining Scott Pioli and possibly Romeo Crennel in KC.
Steelers Pouncey won't play Sunday
Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, who aggravated his injured left ankle against the Cleveland Browns last Sunday and again in practice on Wednesday, will not play in Sunday’s wild-card playoff game in Denver, the Post-Gazette has learned.
Guard Doug Legursky, who is returning after missing the previous game with a left shoulder separation, will start at center. Former starter Chris Kemoeatu will replace Legursky at left guard.
Obviously, the absence of Pouncey has the potential to be a boon to Denver. Meanwhile, our thoughts go out to Steelers RB coach Kirby Wilson, who was seriously injured in a fire at his home early this morning.
Tebow playing for more than his playoff life
As of right now, Broncos executive vice president John Elway and head coach John Fox regard Tebow as their presumed starter for 2012 and plan to proceed accordingly. Yet in the wake of last Sunday’s 7-3 defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs, they’re starting to get a little squeamish. And you can be sure that if Sunday’s season-defining performance against the NFL’s top-ranked defense is an unmitigated disaster, their first order of the offseason will be formulating a viable backup plan – whether it’s drafting a promising passer, acquiring a proven veteran or both…
...If this Sunday is anything like last Sunday, I suspect that plenty of Broncos fans will re-evaluate their conviction on this issue and start imploring the team to explore other alternatives. And Elway and his fellow decision-makers – the people whose opinions do matter – will certainly oblige.
For all Tebow has accomplished this season, the only guarantee it has earned him is that he’ll get another chance to shine on Sunday. It’s showtime, and the magnitude of the stakes should not be underestimated. For should this story take a dark turn, nothing that anyone puts on a billboard will keep his bosses from seeing him in a different light.
There are plenty of quotes to choose from in Silver's piece. I could have gone with the more inflammatory ones, but I picked these for a reason. Mike Silver, despite what a lot of Broncos fans might believe, is close with John Elway. He always has been, going back to Elway's days at Stanford. In fact, interestingly enough, his current Twitter pic is a shot of he and Elway being BFFs. So the context with which he covers the Broncos is not simply that of a hack or a guy with an agenda. To a large extent, I think Silver's got real insight into the mind of John Elway.
Happy Friday, friends. I’ve been sick lately with a cold for the last few days, so I decided that going a little light today was better than nothing, since I wasn’t able to go heavy. On Sunday afternoon, the Broncos play the Pittsburgh Steelers. I respectfully dislike the Steelers, but I disrespectfully hate their idiot fans. You probably know a few, but I know a lot of them, living two hours from Pittsburgh, and they’re just insufferable. The Steelers fan knows nothing about football, and all they can say is “Six rings.” Unfortunately, it looks like a lot of the yahoos will be at the game on Sunday, due to some piker Broncos fans selling off their tickets (to a playoff game!!!!!!!)
I don’t really love the Broncos’ chances in this game, but making the playoffs is an accomplishment worthy of using your tickets on. I don’t know, I’m the guy that says you should support your team even if you don’t like a specific player or a coach, and around here, I feel like that makes me old-fashioned sometimes. In fantasy football, we can all pick which players to like! <vomits/>
Film Room: Broncos vs. Steelers wild-card preview
Whatever LeBeau chooses will work; we’re talking about the league’s top-ranked pass defense against the league’s most inept passing quarterback…The first idea is to just throw deep and hope luck tilts your way (a cornerback falls down, a ref calls pass interference, two Steelers collide while going after the same easy interception, etc.)...Another idea is to draw up trick plays. Lots of trick plays.
As lopsided as this matchup seems, the final score could be tight given that Pittsburgh’s offense might have trouble against John Fox’s and Dennis Allen’s defense…As much as the Broncos might like their secondary, they can’t expect it to be the league’s first unit that sustains coverage against the Steelers’ prolonged improvisational plays. Thus, when the Broncos do blitz, don’t be surprised if they bring the kitchen sink to ensure that Roethlisberger goes down or throws hot.
Playoff Preview: Steelers at Broncos
The Steelers might not have beaten a tougher team on the road this year than the one they’ll face this Sunday…If the Steelers get out to a double-digit lead early, the Broncos basically have no hopes of coming back. But there are reasons to believe that this will be a close game.
...the Steelers will need to hit on a big play or two downfield to score points. Mike Wallace is certainly up to the task, but if Roethlisberger is inaccurate and the Broncos pass rush comes to play, we might see a lot of punts.
Tebow went from offering up two turnovers in five weeks to two turnovers per week. If he arrests that trend, the Broncos might be able to turn this game into a field-position war…There’s no reason to think the Steelers will be totally unable to create turnovers because of what happened in the first half, but there’s also not any strong evidence suggesting they’re the ballhawks from 2010, either.
None of this is unreasonable - the Broncos definitely have more than an anything's possible chance.
Happy Friday, Broncos fans! Dave Krieger decided to
debunk dig into this ridiculous notion that the play calling is completely* to blame for Denver's recent offensive struggles. So, he asked John Fox why the team hasn't utilized more screens and quick slants. Here's what the coach said:
Everybody's mush-rushing us because of Tim's ability to scramble. They're not really rushing. Really, the screen pass and the draw play are typically for a very aggressive, penetrating, up-the-field style of defense, and because of the style of run game we have, we're not getting that.
Krieger also checked in with Brian Griese, asking him about the so-called "conservativeness" of the offensive game plan:
I don't agree that the play calling was too conservative. We talked at halftime about coming out and throwing the ball, play-action, specifically on first down, and Mike McCoy did that on three successive downs in the third quarter, called those passes. And the thing that happened was Tim Tebow didn't feel comfortable letting that ball fly and brought the football down and either took a sack or got a minimal gain.
So, the plays were called and Tim, for whatever reason, whether it was confidence, whether he wasn't able to see well enough, or whether he just got nervous, I'm not sure what it was, but he did not look like the same player that he was during the six-game winning streak.
* I just realized that I didn't quite express my point clearly this morning, thanks to a comment from BRASO (Thanks for that). I don't mean to suggest the play calling is completely blameless, but I find calls for Mike McCoy's head to be ludicrous.
Expect a lot of Steelers fans in Denver Sunday
So come Sunday at 4:30 p.m. ET, expect Sports Authority Field to be littered with Steelers fans and Terrible Towels. Never mind that this is the Broncos’ first postseason appearance since 2005 (the Steelers knocked them out of the AFC Championship game that year), or that Tebowmania is still alive. As of Thursday morning, there were 3,900 seats available on StubHub and 5,700 ready for purchase on Ticketexchange. Even if those tickets remain unsold, history suggests that it’s fair to expect Steelers fans to number in the tens of thousands.
Part of the problem? Maybe Tebowmania isn’t quite so much alive as on life support. After winning six in a row and getting the Broncos to 8-5, Denver backed into the playoffs after three uninspiring losses. The last, a 7-3 effort against the Chiefs that saw the Broncos punt three times for each point they scored, was the last straw for some fans.
“That game was one step above watching paint dry,” said longtime season holder Todd Tenenbaum (via the Associated Press). “To watch the running back and quarterback bump into each other to see who can get up the middle first is just boring. I’d rather stay home and watch ‘Wizards of Waverly Place’ with my kids.”
Astute IAOFM readers know that the formal version of the 4-3 defense was created when Giants DC Tom Landry [Lombardi, Landry and the invention of modern football] slid rookie draftee Sam Huff back from the middle guard position to the area a couple of yards back, giving him a better view of the QB in an increasingly pass-oriented game, and creating the position of the middle linebacker. Huff was a hickory-tough man who defined the middle linebacker of the day. On one play, he was knocked flat and unconscious. With several teeth broken and blood pouring down his face, he picked up his helmet, got oriented and headed back onto the field. He was that tough a player. It was no surprise that he has made the Hall of Fame - he also had a defensive line that was the original, if less famous, Fearsome Foursome.