Posted by ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson
DENVER -- Here are five keys to Monday night’s game for Denver (6-1) against visiting Pittsburgh (5-2):
Start fast: If Denver has had a problem this season, it is starting slowly. It has had to rely on great second-half play. The second-half luck ran out in Baltimore in Week 8, but the Broncos must take pressure off of themselves and jump to a lead. It will be interesting to see how this team would react to not have to scramble back into games. Plus, there’s bound to be a lot of Pittsburgh fans at the game (the streets of Denver were teeming with folks in Steelers’ gear Sunday), so the Broncos must take the Steelers fans out of the game early. In the 2005 AFC Championship Game, the Steelers took early control of the game and their fans took over the stadium in a 34-17 Pittsburgh win. Denver can’t allow that to happen again.
Control the no-huddle offense: There has been talk that the Steelers will try to use more no-huddle to keep the Broncos off balance. The Ravens had great success using the no-huddle in Week 8. Denver has responded well to everything thrown at them this season, so if the Steelers come with the no-huddle, the Broncos have to be ready.
Take advantage of the Steelers' injury issues on defense: The Steelers may be without three key defensive starters because of health issues. Defensive end Travis Kirschke, inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons and safety Ryan Clark are all unlikely to play. The Broncos must take advantage and get their offense going against the limping Steelers. This is a great opportunity for the Broncos.
Run the ball: The Broncos must keep Pittsburgh’s defense honest by running the ball. Correll Buckhalter and rookie Knowshon Moreno have been a good tandem for most of the season. But the pair struggled at Baltimore. These two must establish the run to create an offensive rhythm. That will allow Denver quarterback Kyle Orton to play his game and be more effective than he was against the Ravens.
Tighten the special-teams coverage unit: Denver allowed a punt return for a touchdown against San Diego and a kick return for a score last week against Baltimore. It can’t surrender a special-teams touchdown for the third straight game. This game probably will be closely contested. Denver can’t give an excellent team such as Pittsburgh a freebie as it did the past two games.