Key Matchup: Steelers RT Marcus Gilbert vs. Broncos OLB Von Miller
January 17, 2016 12:00 AM
Ben Roethlisberger breaks away from the grasp of Broncos' Von Miller during a 2012 game in Denver.
By Gerry Dulac / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
To get ready for the high altitude and rarefied air in Denver, Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert wears an elevation mask when he trains and sleeps in a hyperbaric chamber at night.
The mask creates breathing resistance and simulates low oxygen at high altitudes. The chamber increases air pressure three times higher than the normal level and allows a person to gather more oxygen in his or her lungs.
To get ready for outside linebacker Von Miller, maybe all he should do is go watch game film from the most recent meeting with the Broncos.
Now that was some rarified air.
"I noticed it in warmups, man," Gilbert said, referring to his first game in Denver after the 2011 season, which also happened to be the previous time the Steelers played a postseason game in the Mile High City. "I said this is the real deal. Now that I know that, I can come in better prepared. I wasn't game-ready against that type of climate, so I have to do a better job this time. I feel I'm a smarter player, especially with taking care of my body to get myself prepared to go to the stadium."
It's not like he wasn't prepared last month when the Broncos came to Heinz Field.
Miller came into the game with at least one sack in each of his previous five games, the longest current streak in the league. It was his fifth time since entering the league in 2011 he had a five-game sack streak.
But when he left Heinz Field, Miller not only had his sack streak ended by Gilbert, he did not have a tackle, not even an assist. Gilbert has done that all season. He has allowed only one sack all year -- to Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap Dec. 13 in Cincinnati.
"I'm sure it's going to be a lot different," Gilbert said. "Between him and Carlos, they're probably the best two [pass rushers] I've faced since I've been in the league."
Gilbert's task today is among the difficult, and most important, facing the Steelers.
He has to stop Miller, a four-time Pro Bowler who was second among outside linebacker with 11 sacks in the regular season -- the fourth time in five seasons he has reached double-digit sacks. And he has to protect the right side of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, in particular his separated right shoulder, from enduring any more pain or discomfort.
"That's the key every week -- to protect him," Gilbert said. "A lot's at stake. We've just got to do a better job of protecting him."
Roethlisberger was sacked three times last week against the Bengals, the most damaging coming on the final play of the third quarter when linebacker Vontaze Burfict landed on his right shoulder. But the Broncos, who led the league with 52 sacks, could bring more pressure, especially off the edge with Miller and nine-time Pro Bowl linebacker DeMarcus Ware.
That's where Gilbert comes in.
"You've got to slow him down in the run and pass game," Gilbert said of Miller, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 draft. "He's very underrated in the run game. He can get off blocks. He's the type of dude that can apply pressure on the quarterback and make the quarterback make quicker decisions. His stats don't reflect his work or play. He's been getting after the quarterback with a lot of pressure all year and having them make bad decisions with the ball."
Gerry Dulac: email@example.com and Twitter @gerrydulac.
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