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Cheat Sheet: Steelers vs. Broncos

How to Watch/Listen

  • TV coverage: Broadcast locally in Pittsburgh on FOX (WPGH-TV)
  • Steelers Radio Network - Game coverage begins at 1:00 p.m. ET; Pregame programming begins at 9:00 a.m.; Postgame coverage starts immediately following the game.
  • Don't miss a minute of the action... check out all of the ways that you can watch, listen and follow along as the Steelers on gameday. Click Here>>>

Injury Update

The Steelers continued their preparation for Sunday's game against the Denver Broncos, and had some players return to the practice field after either missing Wednesday's practice or being limited.

Check out the most updated Injury Report: Click here >>>

Series History

This series began in 1970 and including eight postseason contests, Denver and the Steelers have met 33 times. Denver won the first three meetings and over the first seven times these teams met, the Broncos lost just once-although Denver and Pittsburgh did play to a tie in 1974. Denver has had the edge of late as well. From 1985 to the present, the Broncos have won 14 of the 21 battles, including four of the five playoff matchups during that time. Most recently, the Broncos did come to Pittsburgh last year, losing 26-21.

Game action photos from the Steelers' Week 2 game against the Denver Broncos at Heinz Field

The Steelers So Far

Offensive Overview

  • Najee Harris has run 148 pass routes through four games. That is most in the league and 38 more than D'Andre Swift, who is currently second.
  • In terms of run/pass percentage, the Steelers offense is the most pass-focused in the league. When Pittsburgh is trailing, they rank seventh most heavy passing team. When the Steelers have the lead, they rank the third most.
  • Diontae Johnson has now received double digit targets in 11 of his last 13 games. He received 34% of Pittsburgh's target share last week.
  • Pittsburgh has only connected on seven passes of 25 yards or longer. Two of those completions went for touchdowns.
  • Ben Roethlisberger is getting rid of the football in 2.33 seconds on average. That is the quickest in the NFL. In contrast, Teddy Bridgewater's time to throw is 2.97. Only Zach Wilson, Jameis Winston and Lamar Jackson are holding the ball longer.
  • JuJu Smith's Schuster's 197 snaps played are 39 more than any other Pittsburgh wide receiver. But his 6.7 average depth of target is the lowest amongst Chase Claypool (12.4), Diontae Johnson (9.4), and James Washington (9.3).

Defensive Overview

  • Through four games vs. the opponent's traditional slot receivers, Cole Beasley, Hunter Renfro, Tyler Boyd and most recently Randall Cobb, the Steelers defense have allowed a total of 22 catches for 222 yards.
  • Minkah Fitzpatrick is the only Steelers defensive player that has never left the field yet in 2021.

Snap Counts

  • The Jets rookie class has played 1198 snaps this year. That is the most in the NFL. Pittsburgh is second, having 1050 snaps played by rookies in 2021. These are the only two teams that have more than 826 total snaps played by rookies this year.
  • Four Steelers have played 70 or more special teams snaps. Ulysees Gilbert, Derek Watt and Miles Killebrew have all played 71 while Benny Snell has played 70. The next on the list is Marcus Allen with 61. In all, Pittsburgh has nine players that have contributed at least 48 special teams snaps this year.
  • Other than Roethlisberger, Dan Moore is the only other Steelers offensive player to play every snap this season.
  • Through four games, Eric Ebron has been on the field for 126 snaps compared to 124 for Pat Freiermuth. Zach Gentry has played 52. Ebron and Freiermuth are both running routes on 52% of their snaps, but Freiermuth is being targeted on 14% of his snaps compared to 8% for Ebron.

Broncos News, Notes, and Stats

Matchups so Far

  • The Steelers first four opponents are collectively 12-4 and are +106 in point differential.
  • The Broncos first four opponents are collectively 5-11 and are -87 in point differential.
  • Denver games have averaged 33 combined points. That is the lowest in the league this year for any team.

Offensive Overview

  • Bridgewater's 9.1 average depth of target is the sixth highest in the league.
  • Denver's quarterbacks have been sacked a dozen times so far this year. Only the Dolphins, Bears, Jets and Titans have been sacked more often.
  • Bridgewater has yet to throw an interception in a Broncos uniform.
  • With the Broncos playing from behind last week, Noah Fant's usage really spiked. He ran a route on a massive 86% of Denver's pass plays and saw 28% of the targets against the Ravens. Only four tight ends in football currently have more targets than Fant.
  • The Broncos running back situation is almost an exact 50/50 split. Last week, Javonte Williams played 29 snaps and Melvin Gordon was on the field for 30 snaps. Both runners averaged over 6.0 yards per carry against Baltimore last week.

Defensive Overview

  • Denver's opponents are only running the ball 34% of the time. Only four defenses are seeing a lower percentage of running plays than the Broncos.
  • Lamar Jackson's average depth of target last week against the Broncos was 12.7 yards downfield, an extremely high number. The Ravens obviously game planned to attack Denver's defense deep downfield.
  • The Broncos opponents have only reached the red zone six times this season. That is the fewest in the league. Denver's opponents have only converted 33% of their red zone opportunities into touchdowns. That too is the best in the NFL.
  • Denver's defense hasn't allowed a touchdown reception by a tight end yet in 2021.

Snap Counts

  • With Bridgewater leaving last week's game with a concussion, Denver now only has three offensive players, Lloyd Cushenberry, Garrett Bolles and Bobbie Massie, that participated in every offensive snap this year.
  • The Broncos are using a true rotation with their interior defensive line. Dre'Mont Jones led the group by playing 47 snaps, but Jones was just one of six big men for Denver that played at least 17 defensive snaps last week. This has been a trend for the Broncos all year.
  • With Josey Jewell sidelined, only two Broncos off the ball linebackers, Alexander Johnson and Justin Strnad, saw the field in Week 4. Johnson played all 72 defensive snaps and Strnad was on the field for 58, which is a little over 80% of the time.
  • Denver has used 12% of their snaps in 13 Personnel (1 RB, 3 TE). The league average of this personnel grouping is just 4%. Only the Browns utilize it more than Denver.

The Advanced Scout Podcast

Check out Matt's podcast preview on the Broncos: Listen Here >>>

Matt's Most Memorable Moment: January 8, 2012, Broncos 29, Steelers 23 (OT)

The "Tim Tebow Game" was a tough one to swallow for Steelers Nation. The 12-4 Steelers were the fifth seed and Denver at 8-8, yet finishing atop the AFC West, was the fourth seed. As a result, in the Wild Card round, the Steelers had to travel to Denver. After two Scott Suisham field goals, the Steelers got out to an early advantage. But Denver roared back at took a 20-6 lead into the locker room at halftime. The second half belonged to Pittsburgh, with the Steelers outscoring Denver 17-3 during that stretch-which sent this game to overtime. It took just 11 seconds of the overtime period for Tebow to find Demaryius Thomas for an 80-yard catch and run to quickly seal the game for the home team. Before the overtime period, Tebow had completed just nine passes. The Broncos went to New England the following week and were destroyed by the Patriots 45-10.

Facts from NFL Research

  • According to Pro Football Focus, Cameron Heyward is the NFL's top graded defender so far this season with a 91.9 grade.
  • Ben Roethlisberger is 3-4 in his regular season career vs. the Broncos but has averaged 336.3 passing yards per game, his most against any team.
  • Najee Harris & the Broncos Javonte Williams lead all rookies in rushing yards this season.
  • Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool each recorded 80+ receiving yards and 1 receiving touchdown in Week 2, 2020 vs. The Broncos(11 receptions, 180 receiving yds, 2 receiving touchdowns combined)
  • The Broncos have faced 3 teams with losing records this season.
  • In these games, the Broncos allowed just 8.7 points per game and held both the Jaguars and the Jets to under 200 total yards in the game.

Key Matchups

  • Broncos LT Garrett Bolles vs. Steelers EDGE Alex Highsmith and Melvin Ingram-With TJ Watt coming from the other side, Denver is very likely to give their right tackle, Bobbie Massie, help in pass protection. That sets up for a lot of one-on-one battles between Bolles and either Highsmith or Ingram. Bolles was recently given a large contract by the Broncos and he has really improved his game since Mike Munchak took over as Denver's offensive line coach. Bolles' performance against Highsmith and Ingram should go a very long way in determining how much pressure Denver's quarterback is under at Heinz Field this weekend.
  • Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger vs. Broncos Head Coach Vic Fangio-Fangio is a masterful defensive mind that was instrumental in creating the new concepts we are now seeing from the Rams and Chargers. This system dares the offense to run the ball and does a great job disguising coverages, often from a Cover 4 shell. No one uses their safeties better than Fangio. Not only is Denver's defense extremely well coached, but Fangio has Von Miller back in the fold playing at his usual Hall of Fame level. Miller has four and a half sacks already in 2021. Denver also has a very deep defensive line rotation, great safeties, and an incredible group of cornerbacks. All of this gives Fangio a wealth of options. Roethlisberger and the Steelers offensive coaching staff will be greatly challenged by Fangio's stingy and deceptive defense.