Denver (10-3) at Pittsburgh (8-5)
When: Sunday, December 20th 2015
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
Time: 4:25 ET | TV: CBS
The Pittsburgh Steelers continue their push towards the playoffs when they host the Denver Broncos on Sunday afternoon. The Steelers have won nine straight December games and are tied with the Kansas City Chiefs for the final spot in the AFC. The Chiefs currently own the tiebreaker as both teams are red-hot. Pittsburgh’s 33-20 win over injury plagued Cincinnati last week moved them to within two games of the Bengals in the AFC North. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 282 yards last week on 30-of-39 passing, but did not throw a touchdown and was intercepted once. His trio of deadly weapons at wide receiver Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and Marcus Wheaten have combined for 16 touchdowns this season with Brown leading the way with seven. Pittsburgh’s offense has been unstoppable lately gaining 494 yards and 35.2 points per game over the last five. The offense will be tested Sunday against the top-ranked Denver pass defense. While the Steelers are good at stopping the run (88.3/game), they’ve let up a ton of yards through the air. Pittsburgh ranks 31st in the league allowing 279 passing yards a game. The Steelers have won four out of five overall and after today’s home finale will finish up at Baltimore and Cleveland. Running back DeAngelo Williams is expected to play despite missing Thursday’s practice due to illness. Williams has rushed for 210 yards and two scores over the last two weeks.
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Denver’s top-ranked defense will try and slow down Roethlisberger and company and stay alive for a bye in the upcoming playoffs. The Broncos secondary of Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr. and Bradley Roby will go up against the Steelers big three receivers. Denver ranks first in the NFL against the pass allowing just 188.2 yards a game through the air and just 17.2 points a game. Denver hit a stretch in November where they allowed 24 points or more in three of four games, but have since clamped down allowing a total of 18 in the last two games. Quarterback Brock Osweiler suffered his first defeat in four starts last week when Denver fell at home to the Oakland Raiders. Osweiler threw for 308 yards, but didn’t find the end zone. With Peyton Manning still out with a foot injury, Osweiler will get at least one more shot. Running back Ronnie Hillman was shut down by Oakland last week gaining only 20 yards on 12 carries. Denver only had 34 rushing yards total against the Raiders – something that needs to improve to help out Osweiler who threw it 51 times last week. Denver can win their franchise-record seventh road game today. They will finish the season up at home against Cincinnati and San Diego.
Pittsburgh is rolling right now, but this Denver defense will be tough to throw against. I think the Broncos find some success on the ground and Osweiler has a good enough game to keep it close.
Pick: Broncos +6.5