Opponents on Steelers

Broncos are talking about AB, JuJu, Ben & more

The Steelers are back on the road this week, taking on the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

The team is on a hot streak on the road, with a 15-1-1 record in their last 17 games, dating back to the 2016 season.

Broncos Coach Vance Joseph isn’t surprised by that record based on the way the Steelers do business.

“I think it’s a combination of how that team is built,” said Joseph. “That hasn’t changed in over 12 years, their systems—how they draft players and how they play Sundays. It’s a combination of who they are and it’s the mentality they play with. It’s a tough, physical group, so when you’re playing these guys, you have to first match the physicality. If you don’t you have no chance of beating them. Once you match that, all games are on. If you don’t match that part of it, you can’t beat them. If you don’t match the intensity and the physicality, you have no chance of beating this team. That’s why they’re so good.”

Joseph, as well as several Broncos players, also weighed in on some of the Steelers, including JuJu Smith-Schuster, Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, T.J. Watt and more.

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Von Miller on the challenge facing Ben Roethlisberger:
“He’s big, he’s Big Ben. Not only is he a great quarterback, he’s hard to get down. He’s like a defensive tackle out there. He’s hard to bring down and he has great targets. Him and AB (Antonio Brown), their chemistry is probably second to none. No other quarterback receiver duo in the league. They have that type of chemistry and connections. Him and JuJu re starting to work on that same connection as well. Extremely deadly on offense. They have a great offensive line. Beat up at the right tackle a little bit, but still. Those other four guys are All-Pro guys. It’s going to be another tough challenge. (James) Conner, he’s coming in and he’s done a phenomenal job in there. They have great tight ends with Vance McDonald. I think everybody saw that stiff arm that he had on that guy from Tampa Bay.

“They have a great team. Their defense is playing lights out right now. T.J. Watt is looking just like his brother (J.J. Watt). Bud Dupree is coming along as well. He’s a great rusher as well. Great at the corner, great inside with the inside linebackers and the defensive line as well.”

Emmanuel Sanders on what he’s seen from Roethlisberger since he left the Steelers:
“Ben is still doing the same thing he was doing when I was there. He’s still making plays with his legs and with his arm. He loves to go no-huddle every now and then to speed up the tempo and throw the ball all over the field.

“The Steelers are the Steelers. They love to play smash-mouth football and AFC North football. They’re a physical team offensively and defensively, so we’ve got to match their intensity and they’re going to have to match ours.”

Joseph on Roethlisberger’s ability to get off passes in distress:
“We have to first contain Ben. Most of the plays they’ve made down the field are busted plays, so I think your first duty is to contain him with the pass-rush plan. The second, how you tackle Ben, is tackle the arms. If you don’t tackle the arms, he’s getting the ball off. I’ve seen guys on his legs and he’s throwing the ball 50 yards in the air. The key is to have a great rush plan, and once we get there, to tackle his arms where he can’t throw the football.”

Miller on the Steelers protecting the quarterback well:
“Honestly, I think it’s 50/50. I think it’s the offensive line doing a great job. I think it’s Big Ben doing a great job of getting rid of the ball, avoiding guys and pushing guys off of him. Traditionally they’ve always done a great job of protecting Big Ben and doing a great job of passing the ball quick.”

Joseph on Smith-Schuster’s run blocking ability:
“JuJu is a special player because he is a good football player. You can’t just say he is a receiver. When you watch him play he plays with the physicality of a tight end, a defensive back. When you watch him, it’s so fun to watch a young player do everything, block, catch the ball over the middle, run the reverses. It’s fun as a coach to watch a complete player that young, that unselfish, and that tough. He has a bright future.”

Miller on Smith-Schuster’s run blocking ability:
“I follow JuJu on Instagram. He is everything and more. He is as advertised. They have a certified one-two punch with him and AB.”

Joseph on Conner:
“He’s a big back. He’s 6-1, 230 and he’s a hard runner. He’s a straight-line pusher of the football, so we’ll see. He’s had five 100-yard games and that’s the best in the league. The last two weeks he’s been a little slowed-down. I think he had 25 last week and 64 against Carolina, but we have to get him stopped also. Most of the good teams can run the football and can throw it. Stopping the run and stopping ‘84’ and ‘19’ is going to be a chore. We’ll see how it pans out.”

Miller on Conner:
“He’s great. He’s running the ball great and he’s doing great. On film, he looks about 5-5. He looks 5-5 on film and probably like 160 pounds, but when you look at him on the depth chart, he’s 6-1 and he’s pretty heavy too. He’s a great player, he’s able to hit the holes the right way and take screens and catch the ball. Whatever it is, he’s a complete running back 100 percent.”

Chris Harris Jr. on why Brown is so tough to cover:
“He has great route running and they let him play. They let him play a little bit at the top of the routes. Also, what he does, ‘Big Ben’ extends a lot of time for him and then he can kind of freelance and get deep. A lot of his big plays have come from freelancing, so I’ve got to do a great job of plastering and knowing that Big Ben is going to extend time and be able to stay on him.”

Joseph on where Antonio Brown and Smith-Schuster rank among the wide receiver duos they’ve faced this season:
“I’m not sure where they rank, but they’re pretty good. Just having two guys is hard on defenses because you can’t really game plan for two guys. You can take away one guy. Obviously ‘84’ is special, so we have to have a plan for ‘84’ and we have to sometimes cover both guys one-on-one. That’s part of the challenge. I think where they stand, it’s a special group—especially with the RAC (run after catch) yardage. Those two guys combined, I think, are first in the league in RAC yardage. The toughest thing with AB is if he catches the ball and there’s space between you and ‘84,’ he’s going to probably make you miss. The coverage is obviously tight, even when you’re in man and zone, to get close to the guy so if he catches the ball, you can tackle him immediately. If you don’t, it’s a problem.”

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