Steelers notebook: Shutting down Broncos run game No. 1 goal for defense
January 15, 2016 12:00 AM
David Zalubowski/Associated Press
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, front, warms up as backup quarterback Brock Osweiler looks on during an NFL football practice at the team's headquarters Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016, in Englewood, Colo. The Broncos will host the Steelers in a second-round AFC playoff game Sunday in Denver.
By Ray Fittipaldo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
You might have heard Peyton Manning is going to play quarterback for the Denver Broncos Sunday afternoon against the Steelers. But the Manning who now operates the Broncos offense is more likely to hand the ball off than throw it.
Just two years ago, the Broncos set the NFL record for most points in a single season, mostly by relying on Manning’s right arm. Now with an injured and aging Manning, they’re built around the running game and the league’s top defense.
Not even the prospect of facing the Steelers and their 30th-ranked pass defense is going to tempt coach Gary Kubiak to change his mind.
“We’re at our best when we protect the ball and find a way to run the football,” Kubiak said. “That’s what’s good for our football team. I don’t think this week is going to be any different. We’re not going to line up this Sunday and turn the ball over like we did two weeks ago [in the regular-season finale against the San Diego Chargers]. We’ll just stay focused on what we do best.”
The Broncos are a far cry from what they used to be on offense. They finished 19th in the league in scoring two years after their record-setting season. They were middle-of-the-pack in rushing (17th) and passing (14th), but Kubiak liked the formula that worked against the Chargers.
The Broncos rushed for 210 yards and were able to overcome two interceptions from Brock Osweiler to win the AFC West and the conference’s top seed in the playoffs. They’ll test one of the league’s top rushing defenses.
The Steelers had the league’s fifth-ranked rush defense in the regular season and held the Bengals to 91 rushing yards in the 18-16 victory in the wild-card game last week.
“We went in the game with the game plan of shutting down the run and we did a good job of making their quarterback pass,” second-year defensive end Stephon Tuitt said. “Going into Denver, that’s what we’re going to try to do, too.
“We clearly want to come in this game and be dominant. That’s by forcing this team to be one-dimensional and passing the ball. We’re going to be physical and do what we have to do to stop the run.”
No fine for Shazier
It does not appear inside linebacker Ryan Shazier will be fined for his hit that knocked Bengals running back Gio Bernard out of the AFC wild-card game.
“Not yet,” Shazier said. “I hope not. I felt like it was a clean hit. I’m not out here trying to hurt anyone. I’m just out here trying to play football.”
The NFL usually sends fines to players via FedEx by Wednesday.
“Every time I walk in here I check to see if there’s one, and I’m happy there’s not,” he said. “On social media, you hear people say ‘Fine him.’ I’m just happy how everything worked out. I’m glad he’s OK.”
Receiver Antonio Brown (concussion) and running back DeAngelo Williams (foot) did not practice. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (shoulder), safety Robert Golden (shoulder), tight end Will Johnson (hamstring) and linebacker Vince Williams (hamstring) were limited.
For the Broncos, backup quarterback Brock Osweiler (knee) and offensive lineman Robert Myers Jr. (illness) did not practice. Outside linebacker Von Miller and defensive lineman Malik Jackson returned to practice after missing Wednesday with an illness. Cornerback Chris Harris (shoulder), outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware (knee), safety Darian Stewart (hamstring) and offensive lineman Max Garcia were limited.
Ray Fittipaldo: email@example.com and Twitter @rayfitt1.
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