The Denver Broncos (10-3) have a fairly pivotal game in Pittsburgh this Sunday. In fact, every game on the Broncos’ remaining schedule is pivotal, as they are neck-and-neck with Cincinnati (10-3) for the second playoff bye in the AFC.
The Steelers (8-5) have been red-hot as of late, winning four of their last five games, with the only loss coming at Seattle. Denver, meanwhile, has been shut out in the second half in each of its last two games, as Brock Osweiler has been reduced to a poor man’s Alex Smith. Osweiler is 51-of-77 (66.2 percent) for 474 yards, one touchdown and one interception in his last two games. He also took five sacks in Sunday’s 15-12 home loss to Oakland.
If Osweiler delivers another so-so performance this Sunday, might his future with the Broncos be in jeopardy?
“Well, not (his) future (with the team) – although I think there could be knee-jerk reactions regarding this season,” Denver Post Broncos writer Troy Renck said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “They have a defense that’s built to win a Super Bowl, and if they feel like a quarterback change again could create some more offense that could get this team back to the Super Bowl, then they could (go back to Peyton Manning).”
The Broncos, to be fair, have had a number of issues in recent weeks: they haven’t been able to run the ball, they’ve turned the ball over, they’ve missed field goals, they’ve had untimely dropped passes – it’s been a mess.
“Osweiler hasn’t been the problem,” Renck said. “If you go back to that Oakland game and there’s 10 problems, he’s tenth. He holds on to the ball too long, he doesn’t step into the pocket consistently, he’s been sacked 17 times in 18 quarters. Part of that is because he’s trying not to make a bad throw, and so he’s managing the game, he’s trying to play to the defense and at times he’s taken stupid sacks. But they’re encouraged by his future.”
Now Osweiler just needs to figure out a way to keep pace with Pittsburgh, which is averaging 35.2 points over its last five games. Denver, by comparison, is averaging 17.8 points over its last five games.
“If they come out of that Steelers game and they lose 28-10 and have one touchdown, obviously the conversation is going to be would they be better off with Manning in the playoffs?” Renck said. “Can Brock Osweiler, at this stage of his career, be the team that you would have to beat in the playoffs? That would be the new conversation on Monday morning if the offense doesn’t perform. But it’s complicated by the fact that their offense runs way better under center, which Manning’s not comfortable in. They run the ball under center, which he doesn’t operate under. So if he comes back, they’ll have to figure out a plan because it won’t be pistol. The pistol formation has been awful for the running game. They might as well go to straight shotgun.”
Kickoff from Heinz Field is at 4:25 p.m. ET.