In this week's matchup, we will see two outstanding defenses. To me, however, the Steelers clearly have the best one in the league. They have been together for a while, both players and coaches, and that familiarity produces great team defense. The Steelers have playmakers and role players, excellent schemes, and outstanding football talent.
The Steelers have top players at every level of the defense. Nose tackle Casey Hampton is the classic huge run-stuffer you need to run a good 3-4 defense. James Harrison is the most explosive linebacker I've ever seen. And safety Troy Polamalu, though injured, is simply a playmaker who uses his size and speed effectively.
To get anything done against the Steelers, Denver's offense will have to take some shots down the field. So far, Denver has not played that style. They have only 17 pass plays of 20 yards or more, and that ranks 19th in the league. They have the talent to play more explosively with wide receivers like Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal and Jabar Gaffney. Even TE Tony Scheffler can get down the field and make plays.
The Broncos simply have to try to manufacture a touchdown. They have to come out in a max-protect set, send two wide receivers down the field and see what happens. I don't see them going 80 yards in 12 plays too often against the Steelers. So far this year, the Steelers' defense has faced 73 drives by opponents, and only 11 have gone for more than 10 plays. The Steelers know how to get off the field, plain and simple. If the Broncos try to grind it out with the kind of short passes they've favored this season, it could be a long night.