Steelers Must Turn Up the Heat Against Brock Osweiler
The Steelers have improved their pass rush this season and rank fifth in the NFL with 38 sacks after 13 games. After watching Denver play Oakland last week, many Steelers defenders likely are licking their chops in anticipation of the matchup against the Broncos and backup quarterback Brock Osweiler.
Khalil Mack sacked Osweiler five times in the Raiders’ 15-12 victory in Denver. Since becoming the Broncos starter a month ago, Osweiler has been sacked 17 times in four starts. By comparison, Peyton Manning was sacked just 15 times in the nine games he played.
Some of that is on a shaky offensive line, but some of it falls on Osweiler for holding the ball too long.
“A little bit of both,” Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler said. “Pulling the ball down and not being sure of where he goes with it. Obviously, Peyton knows where he’s going with it all the time. This guy, sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn’t.
“But he does make some good throws. He does have a good arm and he’s done a good job for them. I know he’s given up more sacks. That’s not all his fault all the time. We have to try to do as much as we can to take advantage of him and get to the quarterback.”
The Broncos are coming off a performance against the Raiders in which they failed to score a touchdown. They haven’t scored a touchdown on 23 consecutive offensive possessions.
The Broncos running game against the Raiders nearly was non-existent. They had 34 yards on 21 carries against a defense that ranks 12th in the league.
The running game is the lifeblood of coach Gary Kubiak’s offense. It’s true he coached Hall of Famers Steve Young and John Elway early in his coaching career, but he also had successful offenses in Denver and Houston with Jake Plummer, Matt Schaub and T.J. Yates.
Kubiak was the offensive coordinator for the Broncos in 2005 when Plummer lost to the Steelers in the AFC championship. He also won playoff games with Schaub and Yates in 2011 and 2012. The common thread to those successful teams was strong running games.
Osweiler might not be the next Manning or Elway, but he is 3-1 as a starter in spite of Denver’s recent problems on offense. Before the loss to the Raiders, he beat Chicago, New England and San Diego.
Kubiak’s offenses can be successful as long as the running game is churning out yardage.
“If their running game is effective, their play-action pass game is going to be effective, too,” Butler said. “We have to stop the run and limit what they’re doing. They do a lot of misdirection passing. They do a lot of boots, but they’ve done that since I’ve played them [as a player] way back when.
“Kubiak and John Elway, they threw those boots all the time. They ran the outside zone all the time. It’s been around for a long time. They’ve done it well for a while, and that’s the reason they’ve survived all this time. They’ve been successful with it.”