Steelers solve the spread

Here are a sleep-deprived sports writers thoughts from a Mile High massacre.

Denver's gameplan against the Pittsburgh Steelers Monday night looked an awful lot like what the New England Patriots have attempted against them in previous meetings.

The idea is to spread the Steelers out and beat them with a lot of short passes.

Denver's first-year head coach Josh McDaniels brought the gameplan with him over from the Patriots, where he was the offensive coordinator.

The Patriots had success in previous years with that approach against the Steelers. But that was with Tom Brady at quarterback.

McDaniels should have gotten the hint that it wouldn't work when the Steelers whipped the Matt Cassell-led Patriots, 33-10, in 2008.

He didn't and attempted to do the same thing Kyle Orton Monday night and the result was pretty much the same as it was last season, with the Steelers winning, 28-10.

The bottom line is that Orton is no Tom Brady.

In fact, Orton makes Cassell look like the second coming of Slinging Sammy Baugh.

© I particularly liked how the Steelers attacked Denver All-Pro cornerback Champ Bailey.

Bailey was pretty much following Santonio Holmes around the field and the Steelers didn't shy away from the matchup.

Holmes finished the game with six receptions for 93 yards.

Bailey led the Broncos with 12 tackles, which should give you an indication of what kind of day he had.

It was the perfect "show me" kind of game. Bailey has the reputation for being a shut-down corner, so much so that many teams don't even challenge him.

But the Steelers made Bailey work Monday night and it paid off.

© Rookie wide receiver Mike Wallace is only going to continue to become a bigger part of this offense.

He told me in the locker room after the game that his original route on his fourth-quarter touchdown catch that put the game away was a curl.

But Wallace saw Ben Roethlisberger step up in the pocket and roll to his right. He also saw several Denver defensive backs - including Andre Goodman who was supposed to be covering him – jump Hines Ward's route.

So Wallace took off across the field to the end zone and made an easy 25-yard TD catch.

That's football instincts and Wallace has them.

© There were smiles everywhere in that locker room after the game as the Steelers knew that they had just passed a big road test.

Denver's a fraud in terms of being a good team. In fact, the Broncos will be fortunate to finish 9-7.

But the Broncos had what was the NFL's No. 1 defense coming into this game. And the Steelers had 321 yards against it - in the second half.

Pittsburgh finished with over 370 total yards, about 100 more than Denver had been allowing. And they ran the ball seemingly at will in a hostile environment.

© Rashard Mendenhall is going to continue to get better as he continues to get more playing time.

Mendenhall is still missing some cuts and yet found a way to gouge the Broncos for 155 yards on just 22 carries.

He hit the 100-carry mark for the season on his final carry Monday night and has 573 yards. Even this mathematically challenged journalist can figure out that average per attempt.

© The Broncos threw a variety of blitzes and coverages at the Steelers in the first half, holding them to 54 yards.

The Steelers' went to their no-huddle offense to offset that and it worked wonders, limiting what the Broncos could do defensively.

The scary thing for future opponents is two-fold.

First, the Steelers were very effective running the ball out of that no-huddle with Mendenhall.

Second, the Steelers ran that no-huddle in Denver, where even though there was a large contingent of Pittsburgh fans, it was still very much a pro-Broncos crowd.

There aren't too many places where the Steelers will go heading down the stretch or in the playoffs that will be louder than Invesco Field was Monday night. And Pittsburgh ran its no-huddle nearly flawlessly.

© Mitch Berger was who we thought he was.

© All of the hype around the league this week will deal with the New England-Indianapolis game and the playoff ramifications in the AFC that it has.

But Cincinnati's game at Pittsburgh is equally as big. It just won't get the national lip service the other game will.

Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.


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