By: Keith Richards
It’s hard to believe we made it to Broncos Week 2 of the NFL season, but here we are! With the only team in the AFC West with a loss, it does not get easier for the Broncos in Week 2. Their next opponent is a renewed and reinvigorated Pittsburgh Steelers team. Ben Roethlisberger was shaky to start the game, but he found his groove in the end. So, let’s skip the small talk and discuss the keys of the game for a Broncos Week 2 victory!
Containing JuJu Smith-Schuster
No one was more delighted with the return of their Super Bowl-winning quarterback than Smith-Schuster. While his numbers do not seem significant, JuJu caught six passes for 69 yards and two touchdowns on six targets. In the 12 games last season, Smith-Schuster only averaged 5.83 targets a game. Also, the receiver only had three touchdown receptions for the entire season. So, the chemistry with Big Ben is clearly something JuJu missed last season. Denver will have to find a way to limit that in Week 2.
Containing the Steeler Defensive Line
Last week, the Steelers faced another young quarterback in Daniel Jones. As expected, Pittsburgh feasted on the youngster and his inadequate offensive line. For a Bronco Week 2 victory, Denver cannot allow the Steelers to feast again. In Week 1, the Broncos limited the Titans, who have a monster in Clowney, to five QB hits, zero sacks, and only four tackles for loss. The Steelers had three sacks, 11 tackles for loss, and eight QB hits in their Week 1 victory. The Broncos must repeat what they did in Week 1 against the Titans.
Avoiding the Unavoidable
In sports, injuries are things that you can’t always avoid, but you try to anyone. One of the most important keys to a Broncos Week 2 victory is avoiding the unavoidable. Already, Denver will be without Phillip Lindsay. Lindsay is still dealing with the toe injury he sustained in the Week 1 loss. Courtland Sutton, who did not play in Week 1, will be a game-time decision. All signs point to K.J. Hamler making his regular-season debut, which will be a massive boost to the offense. The more weapons available to Drew Lock, the better.
In the Week 1 loss to Tennessee, Lock was rarely flustered. The Broncos will need the same Drew for a chance at a Broncos Week 2 victory. Indeed, the young quarterback did make some mistakes, but that is expected of him. The goal is that, with each passing week, Lock can limit more and more of his mistakes. I’m not sure if he’s reached that point yet, but he’s making progress.
The ESPN Football Power Index only gives the Broncos a 32.9% chance to win. Certainly, Pittsburgh is a much more formidable opponent, but I feel good about this one. Even if Sutton can’t go, I think the Broncos will have enough weapons returning to the offense to take down the Steelers 27-21. Now, be sure to check back in a few days to see my reaction and see if I’m right!