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Suitanim
01-20-2006, 01:52 PM
By the same guy that smacked the nail on the head concerning the Cots game. This is his take on Sunday's game...

Broncos Offense VS Steelers Defense

The Broncos really like to run the football. They run the ball to set up the pass, and that is when they are at their best. Now, that does not mean we should sell out against the run, especially on first down, because the Broncos like to throw on first down and it is when Plummer is his most effective. This team wants to throw in the first half, get a lead, and salt it away with the run. Plummer completes at a 67.2% clip on first down. That number drops to 61.9% on second down and plummets to a paltry 50.4% on third down. They had 183 passing attempts on first down and completed 123 of them. On third down, they threw it 123 times and completed 62. Of those 62 completions, only 41 went for first downs. Of those 41 first downs, only 8 were greater than 7 yards. Down and distance is the key to getting Plummer off track. And, here is another interesting coincidence; Plummer likes to throw between the numbers on the field. He does not do as well when he pushes the sidelines. He completes at better than 64% when he stays around the hash marks and really makes hay when he stays on the hash marks (he does not really like the middle either). When he pushes the sidelines, his completion percentage drops to the low 50s. And, he prefers to stay out of the middle, only attempting 56 passes in the middle of the field all season. To keep that in perspective, he attempted 456 passes.

Now, the Broncos are a running team and have two backs that can get it done, but the Patriots showed how to slow their running game, by beating the scheme, not the players. The Patriots defensive line closed the cutback lanes forcing the running backs to string it wide and allowing the pursuit to close the holes. They did this by playing on the other side of the line of scrimmage, which is something I think the Steelers defensive line can do as well. Hampton, Kimo, and Smith are all solid at re-establishing the line of scrimmage. The Broncos have one lineman over 300 pounds, and that is George Foster. They attempt to hold the line, not drive it, and allow the running back to pick his hole. The Steelers defensive line will penetrate and by place bodies in the backfield. By doing this, it forces the back to chose. Once the decision is made, the pursuit bottles the run. This is why Casey Hampton sits in the Pro Bowl. His ability to hold that point, push the center, and force that decision allows the Steeler linebackers to be decisive. This does not change. The front seven will close this run.

In addition, when the Steelers defensive line re-establishes the line of scrimmage, even on passing downs, it will force Plummer to be more decisive. The blitz forces faster reads. It breaks down things. Our defense will force Plummer to move, and the speed will force faster decisions. That will cause Plummer to make mistakes. The key, in my opinion, is winning on first down. If the Steelers win first down early in this game, they take control.


Broncos Defense VS Steelers Offense

The Steelers offense has really come alive as of late. They took huge strides last week against the Colts, because in my opinion, the Colts defense is the type to give us problems. The line is very fast off the ball, which is a weakness of ours. The Colts do not blitz because they do not have to blitz. The line gets off so fast and the linebackers run so well, even when they do not blitz, it seems like one. The Broncos have a bigger line. They want to push you around. That bigger line that wants to play power football fits right into what we like. Another problem I have, the Broncos line basically came from Cleveland, where the Steelers offensive lineman, to a man, handled them. I know they have a rotation and that will keep them fresher, but that only matters if the rotation is a good one. If that rotation is effective early, then being fresh helps. But in past encounters, the Steelers offensive line has beaten these former Browns from kickoff to kneel down. If they start beating up on the starters, the backups will get beaten on as well because the backups are not better players than the starters. While passing appears to be the way to go, the Broncos have stated we pass to set up the run and their defense has a 4-yard per carry average, which is just too inviting. This is a game where our line has to physically take the hearts from that defense, and I think they will. The Steelers will establish the run on the first 5-10 plays, only passing if the situation dictates it. They have to pull Lynch in to stop the run, make the secondary understand that the game plan this week is to cram the football down their throats. Then, after this point is made, the Steelers will use play action and attack the young corners, probably with a hard pump fake and a double move. Expect Randle El on the left side for a big play. Also, I expect play action to freeze Lynch and allow Miller to attack the deep middle, hitting behind the secondary. When the Steelers take the air, it will be flights that need a stewardess. The early passes will again change the field, put the Steelers on the positive side of the field where the running game will take over. This is a game where the Steelers will pound the Broncos. They are going to run early and often. They will dictate tempo.



Special Teams

The Broncos have a decided advantage at field goal kicker. Elam knows the field and is very accurate. Other than that, the Steelers special teams are monsters. They cover well and Denver does not have an imposing return game. Taylor and Colclough are solid for the Steelers and Taylor seems to be on the verge of breaking something. Randle El is always a threat to put points on the board and the Broncos special teams coverage is not imposing. This is another area where the Steelers will change field position, keeping the Broncos backed up and creating short fields for the Steelers offense. Special teams will continue to be a decided advantage for the Steelers.

This will be a closer game than many think. It will be close because of the nature of the game. Both teams want to run, get a lead, and then salt it away. The Steelers offense just seems to have the ability to get out on any defense. The Steelers have turned the blitz loose on defenses and moved Porter?s responsibilities from coverage to blitzing. They have walked other blitzers to his side which takes away the double team and we have saw more pressure from the backside, including sacks from Kimo, Farrior, and Porter. This will continue to pay dividends this weekend and the Steelers will walk the score out as the game drags on.

tony hipchest
01-20-2006, 04:06 PM
great stuff. better analysis than you hear from some "experts" who only look at each team for a few minutes (prisco) rather than a fan who focuses on one team.

i agree (along with everything else) to run early even with bettis just to get a good hit on lynch. i think miller better keep his head on a swivel cause lynch will be looking to treat the rookie how polamalu did gates and get him out of the game (physically or mentally) this hurts the steelers in the run or pass game. id like to see it go 50-50 run pass in the 1st quarter and try to catch the broncos guessing wrong for a big play early.

the young cornerbacks need to be just as wary and cautious with the denver wr core as they were with wayne and harrison, and chad and housh. rod and lelie will think they can lull the youngsters asleep, especially if theyre overthinking on run support.

nothing else even concerns me. especially if they play how they have for 6 weeks. and even if the steelers get down by 2 td's i think they can easilly come back on denver like against detroit or cincinatti. i think they have the same offensive capabilities to pull off playoff game comebacks like against the browns in 02

clevestinks
01-20-2006, 04:18 PM
Keep Plummer in the pocket where he barely completes 50% of his passes.

Let Ben throw. We are two dimensional now. we can run to set up the pass, or pass to set up the run.

Bottom line Steelers by 11

Go Steelers

Bronco Billy
01-20-2006, 07:50 PM
An excellent analysis. It's impossible to find a good football analysis on TV or even on the major websites. Sometimes I think that they think we don't know anything about football.

And finally, someone that wants to talk football gameplans. Frankly, I haven't found much of that on the Denver forums, but aside from you, not much here either. A pleasure to make your accquaintance.

Good observations of the Denver line, but I think you have oversimplified how that line operates. They do use LOS gap blocking and allow the back to pick the hole. For that type of blocking scheme, size is less important than speed. The Denver o-line is set up for speed. They also use cut blocks extensively (I don't really like any technique that has a good possibility of injury, but it's still legal until the league outlaws it). Using LOS blocking, the linemen do not need to cross the LOS, thus, it still can become a pass play (no ineligible downfield). The linebackers need to respect that because Denver will often use a run LOS blocking look on a naked bootleg. Someone has to cover the TE and RB out of the backfield. You'll also probably have one linebacker held back as a QB shadow just for those bootlegs. I don't know why Denver didn't do it early and often in the Pats game as it has been working fine all year. With the correct play-calling sequence, the Steeler defense could be stymied trying to cover too many possibilities at once. They'll also use it on a moving pocket pass, a draw, and on run plays. That's a Denver strength: executing almost any play out of any formation. A second point on the o-line play is how to deal with your nose tackle; he's a big boy. In this scheme, a nose tackle doesn't really need to be dealt with other than to keep him from crossing the LOS. As the line moves along the LOS, it takes the d-line with it in a single file line as well. Casey will have to move around his own players to get to the RB if the RB doesn't pick Casey's hole. In examining your idea of putting d-line players in the backfield to force a decision, I would think Denver would use screens to discourage over-penetrating.

The Steeler blitz is the best in the league, IMHO. You are absolutely correct in saying the game may depend on first down yardage to keep Plummer from 3rd and long situations. It depends on how Shanahan decides to handle the blitz. The Colts line was completely confused by the packages LeBeau dreamed up (that guy is a genius!) and seemed to leave a man untouched in almost every passing situation. Denver needs to learn from that. Typical blitz responses are quick slants, draws, sweeps and screens. The Colts didn't use any of them effectively. If Denver establishes a consistent 5 yard response to blitzes using the above play classes, thus neutralizing the Steeler blitz, Denver will score repeatedly.

As far as the Steeler offense, there's a lot of weapons that need to be addressed. I think you're mistaken about the Cleveland linemen. It is the gameplan that is the most important aspect of the play of the personnel, and not the personnel themselves. This is why Denver has league-leading rushing numbers every year regardless of who the RB is. In fact, Denver gets a lot of their better players by trading a RB that appears to be a real talent when it is really the scheme that makes them look good. The same is true for the d-line. The rotation is not so important in the first half as it is in the second half. Fair or unfair, the altitude is a factor, especially in the final quarter. It's how the "Bronco magic" works the come-from-behind victories. Oxygen on the sidelines helps, but if doesn't fully negate the altitude issue. A line rotation at home is a big plus for Denver. Without a Bettis to pound yardage out the entire game through the middle, the Denver line can stop the run. The LB are the key to the Denver defense. They have to read the play and support the short passes to the flat for the CBs and allow the CBs to stay deep. Watch Bailey. He covers like Bonds bats. You'll beat him a few times, but he's watching you, gauging your timing, and spotting your tells. Then he'll pick one off (This is not something to write into a gameplan). If you review the Pats game, you'll see that on the long balls, its Bailey that often gets beat. (Bonds is great on the 0-2 fastball, too.) I've seen stats that show he gets thrown at more than the younger CBs. The younger ones are fast, strong, and have improved throught intensive coaching (they had to be. they're rookies, for crying out loud!) Even so, your idea of burning the CBs after establishing the run is a tried and true gameplan. So is throwing the long ball first and then start running, like you did in the Colts game.

Truth be told, this is a tough game to call. As a Broncos fan, I want them to win. As a football fan, I can't wait to see how this one plays out. Regardless of who wins, I'm rooting for them in the XL. I've been an AFC guy since Madden was a coach.

Bronco Billy

tony hipchest
01-20-2006, 08:05 PM
bronco billiy that is one of the best posts ive read from an opposing fan visiting this board (although the bronco fans seem real knowledgeble and complimentary). nice analogy between bonds and bailey. it would be hard not to root for jake and the broncos if they make it too the sb' even though i really like the seahawks and panthers as far as nfc teams go. much easier just to root for the steelers! plus im still pissed about the "97 afc champ game. i agree what the browns players did in the past really has no bearing on how well theyre playing now. steelers need to beat the broncos not the browns. welcome to sf

Suitanim
01-20-2006, 08:10 PM
Nice counter-analysis. First off, I didn't write the original, but I espouse it.

I have a couple retorts.

A) Casey Hampton is like a tornado or hurricane. Finesse may help move around this force, but when he suddenly places your center and/or guard 3 feet behind the lind and only one foot ahead of the football, strange things may happen to your QB and/or RB.

B) The blitz you saw last week will not be the blitz you see this week. If you, just some guy, think that a slant can beat it, don't you think that LeBeau has considered it? If it was so easy to beat our blitz with standard blitz beating plays, teams would have done it all year long, and we'd be dead last against the pass. I can assure you we are not.

C) Gerard Warren is the guy that most of us think of..."Big Money". Big money hasn't exactly tore it up in Denver this year. 14 tackles, 3 of them sacks? I think that sounds more like a good GAME from some great DL player, not a seasons worth of stats from one dude.

D) Altitude has been addressed numerous times...having O2 on the sideline is nothing but psychological, as is the whole phenomenon of "Mile High-ness".

Mr. Clean
01-20-2006, 08:42 PM
Nice job, bronco billy. I visited Denver several years ago and found it to be a very pleasant city. I would like to visit again.

I look for the Steelers to rotate their wide receivers and defensive linemen, and for Haynes to have more than a few carries, in order to alleviate the effect of the altitude. Since the Steelers are arriving sometime Saturday afternoon, it won't have that much of an effect. Those guys are well-conditioned athletes anyway.

Wanna know where altitude is really bad? In the altiplano of the Andes Mountians in Peru, there are Indians who live in two miles of altitude.

Bronco Billy
01-20-2006, 08:53 PM
Still, Suitanim, a great original analysis. (Where'd you find it?).

Casey Hampton is a force to be reckoned with, no question. He's got size and strength, but not speed. You're right, in a static pocket like Indy sets up, he's a charging bull. But in a moving pocket, speed is a necessary attribute. Hampton has sacrificed speed for size. That's a good tradeoff in many situations, but there are certain situations where size is a liability. I'm expecting Denver to use speed to counteract the power inherent in the Steeler linemen.

LeBeau is an incredible X&O man. I wish we had him. I'm well aware that this week Denver will see things that have never been seen on a football field before. There is a reason that Pittsburgh has a top-notch defense year after year, and that's their coaching. However, a blitz is a blitz. It's extra men coming. The only questions are when, from where, and where did the people that stayed back go? It's not that a slant can't beat a blitz (it can), but it's can you see it coming in time to do something about it? That's where LeBeau excels. Like we saw in the Colts game, most of the sacks were because there was an unblocked rusher even thought there were enough men kept in to block. They coulnd't figure out who was coming and who wasn't. We've done it with Lynch this year - twice against Brees in the end zone, remember? The question boils down to this: Can Shanahan coach Plummer and the o-line well enough to to spot a Lebeau surprise blitz? The same question applies to Cowher picking up the Denver blitz. It's a good point you make and another fascinating key to this game.

Warren doesn't have great stats, but stats are only part of the story. Plummer has a lot of incomplete passes over the middle this year. It has to do with him learning that it is better to throw the ball away than to risk an interception. The stats show that as an incomplete, but it was the correct thing to do. Stats also can't show how one player can free up other players. If we have to triple team Hampton to keep him out, other players are going to rack up the sack numbers, not Hampton. But it would be Hampton that was ultimately responsible for the sack being made. It's the same with Warren. I don't pretend to have enough information to tell if Warren's numbers reflect reality, but Shanahan does. He's still playing and so I assume he's contributing.

I live in California in the Sierra Nevada mountains, about 2000 feet up. I flew to Denver for the game last week. The lack of air is not an illusion or a myth; I could feel it climbing stairs. There is a mountain outside of Denver with a road that goes up to the 14,000 foot summit. When I lived in Denver, I used to drive my friends, visiting from a sea level state, up to the top. We'd get out and have a snowball fight. They would collapse and I would pelt them until even I petered out. (God, that was fun!) The stadium is only 5280 feet up, but it makes a difference. Go there sometime and climb up into the nosebleed seats; you'll feel it.

I still want the Donkeys to win, but I'm really looking forward to a well-coached game. My only complaint is that the TV cameras zoom in on the ball and make it hard to really see what is going on. It's a cryin' shame...

Bronco Billy

Bronco Billy
01-20-2006, 09:06 PM
Denver is a nice city; pretty views from everywhere. The altitude is also bad in Mexico City - almost 2 miles (10,000 feet). The guys that played the exhibition last year must have been dying!

As far as altitude, I want to know how come Bailey ran out of air on his runback before the Pats TE did. Altitude is only one factor. At the level of sports we are playing at now, every little bit helps. I'm sure we'll see rotation from the Steelers. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Cowher has a new play in mind that showcases a backup player. It's easy to assume that backup players are only in the game because the starter needs a rest. Cowher is crafty and he might have a play for just such a situation. Shanahan does that, too. He lined up the backup QB as a QB and Plummer as a wideout. The obvious look was a pitch to Plummer who would then fire a pass into the end zone. It was actually a QB run up the middle (not a sneak, a run). Van Pelt is a huge kid and Shanahan took advantage of his speed, size, and surprise, and used a backup's strength as a designed play no one was expecting. I can see Cowher doing something like that.

Bronco Billy

Suitanim
01-20-2006, 09:18 PM
I've seen Casey chase down QB's from behind before.

The altitude thing has been beat to death...it's largely a myth, and I hope the Steelers don't buy into it.

Prosdo
01-21-2006, 01:23 AM
Very nice post Suit. That guy writes up some good stuff.