Everyone on the Denver Broncos' defense is aware that the rough and tough Pittsburgh Steelers are capable of pulling a few trick plays out of their hat.
The Broncos are already preparing to see a few gadget plays from the Steelers. Pittsburgh has two receivers, Antwaan Randle El and Hines Ward, who played some quarterback in college and the Steelers utilize those skills.
"You figure when you have shifty guys like Hines Ward, and Randle El and those guys, they'll do a lot of reverses, double passes, throwbacks and screens," Broncos defensive tackle Gerard Warren said. "We got to prepare for them."
The Broncos saw one trick play against the Patriots. New England ran a flea flicker and got a decent gain out of it, but Denver wasn't totally out of position and didn't allow a touchdown.
This week Denver is in a tough spot, because the Steelers like to run the ball and that occupies the safeties. But at any time Pittsburgh can be setting up a trick play, even with running back Jerome Bettis who has three career touchdown passes.
"You hear about how physically tough football team they are and they're going to pound you, and they are, but they're also going to come up with a lot of gadgets," Broncos safety John Lynch said. "You can expect two or three a game."
--QB Jake Plummer has never played in a game as big as the AFC Championship Game in his pro career. However, Plummer has had a very good season and responded well when he was given more responsibility against New England. Against the Patriots, the Broncos' running game wasn't effective so Denver had to pass the ball more often. The Broncos might face the same situation against a tough Pittsburgh run defense this week.
--QB Bradlee Van Pelt did not play against the Patriots last week.
--RB Mike Anderson's last 100-yard game was on Nov. 20 against the New York Jets. But Anderson picked up some tough yards against New England, including a pair of one-yard touchdowns. Anderson is very good near the goal-line and in short-yardage situations.
--RB Tatum Bell is one of Denver's big-play threats but he hasn't broken loose much in the second half of the season. Since the beginning of November, Bell has only two runs longer than 20 yards. Bell won't have an easy time breaking a long run against Pittsburgh's front seven.
--WR Rod Smith was often double teamed by New England. He still got open and had 96 yards receiving. Smith has had a fantastic year. Not counting a meaningless regular-season finale in which he sat out the second half, Smith hasn't caught fewer than five passes in a game since Oct. 23.
--WR Ashley Lelie's production has increased late in the season. He had a season-high six catches in Denver's second-to-last regular-season game. Then he had five catches against New England in Denver's first playoff game. Lelie is becoming a more consistent option on underneath routes.
--WR Charlie Adams returned punts and kickoffs against New England but was cautious. He made two fair catches when he had some room to run on punts. On kickoffs Adams averaged 18 yards per return.
--K Jason Elam hit both field-goal attempts against New England, including a 50-yarder near the end of the first half. Elam is one of the best pressure kickers in the NFL.
--DT Gerard Warren had a good game against New England. He'll have to be at his best against Pittsburgh. The Steelers' guards are strong and key their powerful running game.
--LB D.J. Williams had his playing time cut this season because of the addition of Ian Gold, but he had a productive game against New England. He is fast and physical and because the Broncos probably won't see a lot of multiple-receiver sets against Pittsburgh, Williams should see a lot of playing time this week.
--LB Ian Gold is known for his speed at outside linebacker. He showed it against New England when he ran down Corey Dillon on a screen pass. But Gold is also not easy to run over, and is one of Denver's best all-around defenders.
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