We’ve all seen the replay a gajillion times by now. First play of overtime and Tebow hits Demaryius Thomas on a slant that turned into an 80 yard touchdown catch and the end of the Steelers 2011 season. Personally, I was still picking my jaw up off of the floor a week later. Unfortunately now, to avenge that loss, it’s going to take two weeks. First, this Sunday night the Steelers have some demons to exercise in Denver and then next week at home there is a score to settle with Tebow. The Broncos have vastly improved at quarterback since last January and now a whole different game plan is needed to handle the now Manning-lead Broncos. Steelers DC Dick LeBeau has taken full responsibility for the defensive scheme that failed the last time the Steelers traveled to Denver. The biggest question is; can they get it right this time?
Coach LeBeau spoke to the media Thursday afternoon following practice and took much of the onus on the loss last year in Denver. While the defensive players like Larry Foote and Ike Taylor have said time and time again that they don’t keep the loss fresh in their minds and have moved on, particularly because this Broncos team is an entirely new offense than the one they faced before; Coach LeBeau admitted to watching and rewatching the playoff game film to learn from the mistakes. The biggest mistake, obviously, was that last play of the game. The Steelers lined up expecting a run, as they had done the whole night never expecting Tebow to successfully throw the ball, and left the secondary primarily uncovered. LeBeau took the responsibility completely by saying,
“Let me tell you something. Over the years I’ve made a lot of bad calls and I’m man enough to step up and say it when a play ends the game, ends your season, that can’t be a very good call.”
We’re not likely to see that exact play again, but the likelihood of passing plays over running plays has a much higher probability with Manning under center than with Tebow. The Steelers secondary, particularly Ike Taylor, had an outstanding season last year and picked the wrong day to have a bad game. The Steelers secondary faces the same challenges without the services of Ryan Clark, who is held out of the game due to his Sickle Cell trait which causes a health risk playing in the high altitude. The Steelers, in preparation, have been watching lots of Colts game film rather than last year’s Broncos film.
All eyes will be on this game Sunday night to see Peyton Manning’s return to the NFL in a brand new uniform. Although the Steelers aren’t getting a whole lot of respect in the area of predictions across the NFL media, they are still referred to as the NFL’s top defense. Sunday will be Coach LeBeau’s 75th birthday and what could be a better present to him than the defense shutting down a superior offense than the one that sent them home 8 months ago? Not only will the secondary need to return to the form that led them to be the #1 ranked defense against the pass, but the pass rushers Woodley and Carter/Harrison need to get pressure on Manning unlike the zero pressure Tebow received. It was pretty clear that last season’s first and last games were the Steelers worst performances, no time like the present to right those wrongs and start the season off the right way. Here we go Steelers!
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