All eyes will be on the quarterbacks in Sunday’s nationally televised preseason matchup between the Denver Broncos (0-2) and Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0) at Investco Field at Mile High. However, one of them is still expected to be held out one more game as his Broncos host the Steelers as 2-point underdogs. Be sure to shop around though via our live NFL odds page as this game has been seen anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 depending on the sportsbook.
Denver rookie Tim Tebow is still nursing sore ribs which he suffered on the last play of the preseason opener against the Bengals, resulting in a touchdown run. Tebow will reportedly sit out again after missing last week along with running backs LenDale White and Correll Buckhalter so they will be ready for the preseason finale at Minnesota next Thursday. Starting running back Knowshon Moreno remains out with a hamstring injury and might not play in the preseason.
Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels has been shuffling his offensive line and is expected to start D’Anthony Batiste at left tackle and rookie Zane Beadles at left guard in order to do a better job of protecting starting quarterback Kyle Orton and reserve Brady Quinn. The team saw Ryan Clady come off the PUP list and practice on Wednesday following knee surgery, but the earliest he could play at this point is the regular-season opener at Jacksonville.
Orton and Quinn were sacked a combined four times for 28 yards in last week’s 25-20 home loss to Detroit and hope to get some more time to throw against the Steelers. The duo still combined to complete 27-of-39 passes for 292 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
Orton in particular has looked very comfortable as the starter despite pressure being placed on him by McDaniels with the signing of Quinn and drafting of Tebow. He earned a one-year contract extension worth $8.8 million and figures to be the man unless Denver continues to skid after dropping eight of the last 10 games last season following a surprising 6-0 start.
Meanwhile, the story in Pittsburgh continues to revolve around QB Ben Roethlisberger and the possibility that Commissioner Roger Goodell may reduce his suspension from six to four games. Roethlisberger is expected to start for the second week in a row despite the fact that he will not be on the field for the regular-season opener against Atlanta. He completed 6-of-8 passes for 76 yards with an interception in last week’s 24-17 win over the Giants before giving way to Byron Leftwich (3-of-6 for 95 with one touchdown) and Dennis Dixon (7-of-8 for 82).
Dixon will see his first significant playing time in the preseason with the starters when he follows Roethlisberger in the quarterback rotation against the Broncos. Leftwich has already worked with the first team in the preseason and will likely start the regular season as Roethlisberger’s replacement with Dixon backing him up.
The Steelers will be without starting cornerback Bryant McFadden (pectoral muscle) and safety Ryan Clark, who could risk triggering a red blood cell condition in the high altitude that caused him to lose his spleen and gall bladder there three years ago. Rookie Maurkice Pouncey will start at center though after impressing Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin with his ability to pick up the team’s blocking schemes quickly and effectively.
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