Fourth & Goal

Mike Prisuta has a pretty good idea of what it will take for the Steelers to beat the Denver Broncos on Monday night.

I'll give 'em Champ Bailey but I'm still not buying Kyle Orton.

And that's pretty much what you need to know about the Denver Broncos.

The Dallas Cowboys tried Bailey not once but twice on Oct. 4, on third-and-goal and again on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line, in search of the touchdown that would have necessitated overtime. In each instance Tony Romo's pass for Sam Hurd was swatted away by Bailey, Denver's All-World corner.

Miles Austin was open on the other side of the field both times.

Last Sunday in Baltimore the Ravens took a different approach. Leading 13-7 in the third quarter and facing a third-and-5 from the Denver 16, Joe Flacco threw for Ray Rice, who was being covered by linebacker D.J. Williams. The pass was completed but short of the sticks and the Ravens settled for three. Still, they were onto something.

On their next possession, ahead now by a count of 16-7, the Ravens faced third-and-5 at the Baltimore 32. Flacco looked for Kelley Washington, who was being covered by nickel back Jack Williams. A gain of 18 yards resulted.

On a subsequent third-and-3 from the Denver 43 Flacco found Washington at Williams' expense for 21. And on third-and-8 from the Denver 20 Flacco once again resisted the urge to test Bailey and opted for Derrick Mason, who beat cornerback Andre Goodman for a touchdown.

Anyone else sensing a trend?

Against a defense that came in having not allowed a third-down conversion in the second half of its last four games, the Ravens circumvented Bailey and converted three in a row on the drive that produced the score that salted the game away. Overall, Baltimore was 11-for-18 on third downs, including six of eight in the second half. Bailey finished with three tackles, zero interceptions and zero passes defensed.

This bodes well for the Steelers, who are supposed to throw to who's open rather than to a specific target on a given pass play. If they stay away from Bailey, they'll move those chains.

As for Orton, he was described this week as "efficient" by Mike Tomlin, who also characterized the Broncos' offense as "a lot like New England, of course, other than they don't have Tom Brady playing quarterback."

Isn't that a lot like being a lot like the E Street Band, other than not having Bruce Springsteen?

Despite the repeated down-the-field success of the Chargers, Patriots, Bengals and Vikings against a suspect Baltimore secondary, the Broncos were either unwilling or unable to consistently get the ball deep.

Apparently "Thunder Road" isn't in Orton's repertoire.

As for the rest of the 6-1 Broncos' offense, the line is uncharacteristically suspect by Denver standards. And the oncoming onslaught of dinks and dunks the Broncos are destined to rely upon shouldn't be as effective as those employed by the Bears and Bengals to score just enough points to beat the Steelers.

The Steelers' blitz game is much more in sync than it was in September. They're better prepared and positioned to either get there, even when the ball is coming out quickly, or to surrounded the anticipated dump-off or slant and tackle the catch.

So this should be doable, even without Travis Kirschke and/or Ryan Clark.


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