The Steelers will attempt to get revenge on the Broncos’ for last year’s playoff defeat this week. While a lot of the focus will be on Peyton Manning as he attempts to return from injury, the Steelers have some injuries of their own. Right guard David DeCastro could be out for the season with a torn MCL. Running back Isaac Redman is expected to be limited, possibly all year, by groin, hip, and ankle injuries. Safety Ryan Clark will miss this game, as he does all games in Denver, because of a genetic disorder that makes it unsafe for him to do extreme physical activities in high altitude (he had to have his spleen and gall bladder removed following a game in Denver several years ago and hasn’t played there since).
Along with Clark, two other players will miss this game. Rashard Mendenhall was surprisingly activated off the active/PUP list a couple of weeks ago, even though everyone, even GM Kevin Colbert, believed he’d begin the season on that list and miss the first 6 weeks. Though he practiced in limited bits this week, he won’t play this week and still might not play until after their week 4 bye, which was the team’s prognosis after activating him. This week, Redman will start, but, even though he has just 22 career carries, Jonathan Dwyer, now finally in shape, might be their best option.
James Harrison, meanwhile, was expected to play this week after having knee surgery last month, but apparently had a setback so he won’t go. Jason Worilds will start in his absence. Worilds did his best Harrison impression, at least as a pass rusher, with 3 sacks, 7 quarterback hits, and 20 quarterback pressures on 204 pass rush snaps last year with Harrison missing some time, a very impressive rate of 14.7%.
The Steelers have had a top-3 scoring defense 6 times since 2004 an had the league’s #1 scoring defense last year despite just 15 turnovers and a bunch of injuries. They should have better health defensively this season (although this isn’t a great start) and they should have more turnovers. Since 2002, 38 teams have had 20 or fewer takeaways in a season. Those teams had, on average, 7.53 more takeaways and won 1.41 more games the following season. They’ll still prove to be a very tough test for Peyton Manning in his first start back from injury. They won’t let him ease back into regular season action.