Sunday's AFC Playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Denver Broncos is the type of matchup the Steelers need to start their run towards the Super Bowl. And the only thing Pittsburgh needs to do to secure a win is play Steelers' football.
The key matchup in Sunday's tilt is between Denver's offense and Pittsburgh's defense.
Tim Tebow's inability to throw the ball has been well documented this season. And because of Denver's lack of a pass game, the Broncos and coach John Fox have heavily relied on the run, and they led the NFL in rushing this season.
The Broncos have built their offense around Tim Tebow. It's more of a college-type offense than a pro-style. And yet somehow, it worked well enough for Denver to land in the playoffs. However, in the last three games, the offense has struggled and the Broncos found themselves stumbling into the playoffs. And those three games were against three middle-of-the-pack defenses.
Expect the Steelers to stuff the box with eight men and force Tebow to put the ball in the air.
But the key is for Pittsburgh to stop the run. The secondary is the most reliable part of the defense this season, and finished the season ranked No. 1 against the pass. So it basically comes down to if the Steelers can't stop the run, then their season will end, no matter what the offense does.
Offensively, the Steelers are battling a number of injuries. Ben Roethlisberger is still battling his high ankle sprain, but will play. Maurkice Pouncey is in doubt battling the same injury and Rashard Mendenhall is on injured reserve.
However, Roethlisberger proved that he can still get the job done with a bad wheel. As far as the running game, Isaac Redman will get the bulk of the carries and has already shown that he is hard to bring down. In fact, he has looked better than Mendenhall this season and has proved to be the spark to the backfield.
So the biggest concern offensively is going to be the offensive line. If the line can keep Roethlisberger on his feet, then the offense should have no problem moving the ball and scoring. But if Roethlisberger is sacked more than twice, it could definitely throw a wrench into the Steelers' game plan.
The X factor for a Pittsburgh win is wide receiver team MVP Antonio Brown.
Brown has emerged as the Steelers' go-to guy this season, and he hasn't disappointed. He eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark this season. But the most important aspect of his game is going to be his returns.
If Brown can use his speed on special teams to setup the Steelers in good field position, chances are Roethlisberger will reward him with a shot at a deep endzone pass. And Brown has the speed to get behind the defensive backs and do damage.
While many believe the Steelers can easily leave Denver with a win, it only takes one downfall to spoil another championship run. If the defense fails, so will the team. If the offense struggles, the defense has to play near perfect.
Pittsburgh's experience will prove key, and expect the Steelers coming ready to play.