The Broncos came out hot against the Steelers in their Dec. 7 meeting, jumping to a 21-7 lead only to get blown away by Kordell Stewart, who accounted for five touchdowns and 352 total yards, and wideout Yancey Thigpen, who also had a career day. Denver was worried about Jerome Bettis's strongside runs, so they lined up Ray Crockett, their best cornerback, on that side, which left Darrien Gordon covering Thigpen on the weak side. It was no contest. Thigpen caught three touchdown passes against Gordon, including the 69-yarder that turned the game around. It was a stop-and-go. Gordon stopped, Thigpen went. The Broncos won't get caught that way again.
Denver defensive ends Neil Smith and Alfred Williams both played with torn triceps muscles that afternoon, and Stewart didn't face much of a rush. Now Smith and Williams are healthy. They made life miserable for Elvis Grbac in Denver's win on Sunday over the Chiefs, collecting four sacks between them, and the Broncos won't be bashful about going to its blitz package, as New England did with great success against Pittsburgh. They'll defy Stewart to go to his hot reads quickly, and to keep him from breaking off a long run, they'll "spy" him with their quickest linebacker, John Mobley.
The Pick: Broncos 27, Steelers 24