By Christina Rivers

As the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5) prepare to host the Denver Broncos (10-3) at Heinz Field on Sunday, players from both teams are talking about what the other provides in the way of competition. As the AFC battle heats up, the Steelers and Broncos are both pursuing a post-season bid making the Week 15 game all the more important to win. Broncos coach Gary Kubiak made the announcement that Brock Osweiler will get the start against the Steelers, giving Pittsburgh the opportunity to game-plan with a little more focus. Denver will pit its number-one defense against the Steelers’ high-octane offense in what should be a great show. The Steelers hope to have some defensive fireworks of their own.

Roethlisberger on the Broncos defense

As the leader of the Steelers offense, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger did not hold back in expressing what he understands about the Broncos defense. “They do everything,” said Roethlisberger this week. “They get out, they press, they are physical and they can play zone. They are fundamentally sound. When the ball is in the air they make plays on it.” The Broncos are only allowing opponents 272.5 offensive yards per game, 188.2 passing yards, 4.3 yards per play and 17.3 points per game; all top marks in the NFL this season through Week 14.

“Their pass rush in unbelievable,” Roethlisberger added. “Whether it’s edge rushers getting around the outside, inside guys…the secondary guys getting physical and making plays.” Linebacker Von Miller leads that attack for Denver and Roethlisberger expressed that he felt the Steelers offense will be able to counter Miller’s barrage by being quicker in the release to his receivers. “You get the ball out quick it slows down a lot of rush.” Roethlisberger admitted that he felt that last week was a real test against the Steelers’ offense, but that Denver provides a bigger one.

Osweiler will lead the Broncos offense

On Monday, Kubiak stated that Peyton Manning would return to practice this week, but would not make any official decision about his ability to play against the Steelers until he had met with the veteran quarterback and team medical staff. On Tuesday, it was announced the Osweiler will start against Pittsburgh. Manning was to practice for the first time since suffering a left foot injury against the Kansas City Chiefs in November on Wednesday. Osweiler has gone 3-1 in the four games he has played in place of Manning, coming off of a loss to the Oakland Raiders in large part due to a lack of rushing attack by the Broncos running backs and several dropped passes. The Raiders also threw Khalil Mack at Denver’s offensive line, creating pressure that kept Osweiler on his toes the whole game.

Moats says the Steelers are getting “hot,” Allen talks execution against Broncos

December is always a great month for teams that had struggles to come together cohesively. On Tuesday, Steelers linebacker Arthur Moats said, “At this point of the year, we are getting hot at the right time.” Moats complimented several of his teammates for their performances being key to the Steelers’ success, especially on defense. “When you see (James Harrison) coming in at 37 years old, he is drenched in sweat every morning before some guys are even out of bed,” said Moats. “You can see the kind of desire he has to be great. I feel like it shows up. I work out with him, so I am not surprised…others that don’t see it might not understand it.” It wasn’t just veteran teammates Moats felt were playing well, but also the younger guys who’ve stepped up to make plays. “That shows the caliber of team we have, the depth, and once you get your opportunity you are going to capitalize on it.”

Safety Will Allen appeared on “The Fan Morning Show” Tuesday and said that the Steelers are putting all of their focus squarely on Denver.  “We concentrate on details and execution,” Allen said. “You do that in practice. You do that one game at a time. That’s going to get us where we need to go. We can’t look ahead. Denver’s next on the schedule, and that’s all I see, that’s all I know. Executing at a high level…that’s what kind of hurt us early in the year.”  Allen added that he felt the Steelers have been able to improve in that are.  “(We’re) winning as a result, instead of having an average game.  And I think the more consistent [we get], the more we can build on that, it’ll take us where we need to be.”

Christina Rivers has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers and National Football League professionally as a journalist and photographer for over a decade. Rivers studied Exercise Physiology and Sports Psychology at Brigham Young University as a student-athlete. Christina is a freelance writer covering all things NFL as well as a published author. Her work can be found on
Examiner.com.