Whoever makes the NFL schedule hates the Denver Broncos.
Peyton Manning will make his Mile High debut on Sunday. And flying to town is a team that's already familiar with the field-for a reason, though, that a bitter taste in its mouth likely still remains.
The Pittsburgh Steelers were eliminated by the Broncos in the AFC Wild Card round this past January. While Tim Tebow isn't taking snaps anymore, that doesn't change the vengeful circumstances. After last year's shocking collapse, Troy Polomalu and company will have revenge on the brain Sunday night.
In the line of fire is Manning's brittle neck.
The former Indianapolis Colt has had four surgeries on it-four. Let's just say if Dick Lebeau shared Gregg Williams' defensive philosophy, Manning's mother should pull a Jeff Van Gundy-to-Alonzo Mourning and hold on to her son's leg for dear life.
Sure, there's injury risk for every NFL player in every NFL game. They know this, they roll the dice.
For Manning, the risk of not just any injury, but a major one is amplified because of his medical history. He knows this and is rolling the dice as well, but a Blitzburgh invasion of Denver is the last thing his surgeon(s) wanted to see in Manning's first meaningful action back.
If the Steelers don't boast the best pass rush in the league, they're definitely up there. Over the past four years, all-world outside linebackers James Harrison, who's listed as questionable to suit up, and LaMarr Woodley have combined for an average of 22.4 sacks per season (that number would be even higher if they didn't miss 11 games between them in 2011). For comparison's sake, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers racked up 23 sacks last year as a team.
But simply bringing quarterbacks to the ground, or opposing players in general, isn't Pittsburgh's reputation.
No gain and plenty of pain is its mantra (at least that's what its style of play would lead you to believe).
In an ESPN player poll this offseason, James Harrison was voted the "most violent, dangerous" player in the NFL. He won with 67.5 percent of the vote. Ray Lewis placed second with just 10 percent.
Harrison, Woodley and Polomalu are widely known as a handful of the hardest hitters in the league. Denver fans-unintelligently-were actually hoping their newly-acquired quarterback would get hit in the preseason, just to test his neck. Well, you better believe they'll get their wish against the Steelers.
Manning is one, if not the best QB in the league at avoiding contact, but across from Lebeau's pass-rushing juggernaut, he'll get hit. He'll get hit hard. And hopefully for his sake, he isn't asking for his money back from four surgeries following the game.

Posted in Pittsburgh Steelers

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