Steelers plan against Broncos' defense is simple: run
By The Associated Press
Sunday, October 21, 2007
DENVER -- Ben Roethlisberger wasn't tipping Pittsburgh's hand, just stating the obvious.
The Steelers quarterback said he expects to give his right arm a bit of a rest Sunday when the Steelers (4-1) play the Denver Broncos (2-3).
The Broncos are dead last in the league in stopping the run and the Steelers own the NFL's second-best rushing offense.
"I told the wide receivers I'll get my throws in before practice," Roethlisberger said. "It might be the last throwing I do all week."
The Broncos brought in new defensive boss Jim Bates to help revamp the defense, but it hasn't worked so far. The defense has struggled to pick up his system. Denver is giving up 188 yards a game on the ground.
It's the perfect recipe for a big night from Willie Parker, whose career high is 223 yards against Cleveland last season. Parker can't believe the difference in Denver's run defense this season. He was held to 70 yards in a 31-20 loss at Heinz Field last November.
"I'm really surprised because they smashed the run in the previous games we played them," Parker said.
The Broncos' run defense has only smashed into itself. Denver gave up 214 yards to San Diego two weeks ago, a team struggling until then with its run game.
Oakland's LaMont Jordan gained 159 yards on the Broncos and Indy's Joseph Addai had 136.
Parker's explosiveness around the outside could give the Broncos fits. He's sixth in the league in rushing.
"He's a good back," Broncos safety Nick Ferguson said. "Sometimes, when you play in this league, you may not get the recognition you deserve. I think he should."
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin isn't ready to lump Parker in with the league's elite just yet.
"I know he's the right man for us," Tomlin said. "He's a complete back. He's a tough back."
Although Denver hasn't been tough against the run, the Broncos do possess the best pass defense, allowing just 146 yards. No wonder Roethlisberger expects a lot of running plays.
"They're susceptible to the run and we run the ball well, so I'm sure that's kind of what we want to feature," he said.
Broncos coach Mike Shanahan isn't buying it, not with Roethlisberger at the helm. He's thrown nine touchdown passes and three just interceptions so far.
"He's been playing extremely well this year," Shanahan said.
Denver and Pittsburgh, both coming off bye weeks, are traveling in opposite directions. The Steelers are a contender in the AFC, while the Broncos remain in a tailspin, dropping three in a row, although in the weak AFC West, they're only a half-game behind the leaders, Kansas City and San Diego.
Roethlisberger's wary of the Broncos.
"A lot of people ... make a big deal that this team is no good," he said. "Well, actually, they're pretty good. Just because they've given up a lot of rushing yards doesn't make them not a good defense. They've got a lot of big-name guys, especially in the secondary."
But one of those big names in the secondary is banged up. Champ Bailey has a thigh injury.
"It's going to be a challenge for us," Roethlisberger said. "They're a wounded dog."
More than just wounded. Denver has lost offensive linemen Tom Nalen (torn biceps) and Ben Hamilton (concussion) for the season. Tight end Stephen Alexander is also out for the year with a calf injury. Receiver Javon Walker required surgery on his right knee and is out "for a few weeks," Shanahan said.
Walker tore through Pittsburgh last season, catching six passes for 134 yards. He also had a 72-yard touchdown run.
The Broncos' offense was already reeling, especially in the red zone. On 16 trips inside the opponents' 20-yard line, Denver has scored just seven touchdowns.
It won't get any easier this week against a Steelers defense that has yet to give up a touchdown in the first half.
"They got a good defense," said Denver running back Travis Henry, who has 498 yards this season. "It's going to be a hard four quarters, that's what they do."
Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler isn't worried about his team's offensive woes. He said the team hasn't lost its confidence.
"Anytime you are losing, it's tough," Cutler said. "A lot of things are working against us right now, but we have stayed positive as a group and have positive attitudes. We know we are a good offensive team."