August 29, 2010
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A symbol of the Broncos’ 2009 implosion will be back at Invesco Field at Mile High on Sunday night, when Denver welcomes the Pittsburgh Steelers to town in the third preseason outing for each team.
It was Nov. 9, 2009 when the Broncos – then 6-1 and among the most surprising stories in football at the time – hosted Pittsburgh in a nationally-televised Monday night affair. The Steelers outclassed the Broncos, 28-10, extending a slide that saw Denver lose eight of its final 10 games.
Josh McDaniels’ team hasn’t made significant progress in the 2010 preseason, at least in the won-loss column. The Broncos have dropped warm-up contests to the Bengals (33-24) and Lions (25-20) thus far, and have struggled with injuries to key players.
A highlight for Denver has been the play of quarterback Kyle Orton, who has completed 24-of-35 passes for 261 yards with four touchdowns and an interception. Orton, who was recently rewarded with a contract extension, is expected to play into the third quarter on Sunday along with the rest of the Denver first-team.
The Broncos will be without a number of other notables, however, including first-round wideout Demaryius Thomas (foot) and pass rusher Elvis Dumervil (pectoral). The likes of running back Knowshon Moreno (hamstring) and quarterback Tim Tebow (ribs) are question marks.
The Steelers have managed wins in each of their first two preseason games, downing the Lions (23-7) and Giants (24-17), but a great deal of uncertainty surrounds Mike Tomlin’s team as well.
Quarterback Byron Leftwich (9-of-16 passing, 138 yards, 1 TD), who was widely expected to start during the minimum four-game stretch when Ben Roethlisberger is serving a suspension, has been outplayed during the preseason to date by Dennis Dixon (13-of-15, 210 yards, 1 TD, 58 rushing yards).
Roethlisberger will start on Sunday, but Dixon is expected to see some time with the first team. A strong performance from the former Oregon star could conceivably alter the depth chart at QB heading into the Week 1 opener.
Cornerback Bryant McFadden (pectoral) will likely not play on Sunday, and safety Ryan Clark will be held out for precautionary reasons related to a sickle-cell trait.
The Steelers and Broncos will be meeting in a preseason game for the first time.
As mentioned, the teams last met in meaningful play in Week 9 of last season, with Pittsburgh traveling to Denver and handing the Broncos a 28-10 setback in a Monday night contest.
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