ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Broncos All-Pro linebacker Von Miller pulled up his hood and delved into character last Sunday. He punctuated brief press conference answers with "On to Cincinnati." He was channeling Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
Belichick issued the response after an ugly loss, his way of turning the page. Von did it, in my opinion, for comedy, and needs to use it as motivation to turn on the Bengals. Miller enters Sunday having posted at least a half sack in six consecutive games, one shy of his career-long streak set in 2015-16. While he made the stat sheet -- he was given a full sack after the league reviewed the film, leaving him with 11 -- Miller failed to shine against the Steelers. Even coach Vance Joseph admitted Shaquil Barrett, out at least two weeks with a hip flexor leading to Jeff Holland's promotion, delivered the Broncos' best rush.
It's time for Miller to step forward.
The Broncos are heavy favorites, 5.5 points, as they seek their third road win in their last four games. And they are facing a backup quarterback in Jeff Driskel. He can run. He clocked a 4.5 40 at the combine. Joseph said he reached 21 miles per run on a jaunt this season. That's remarkable talent, but should have no impact on Miller's havoc.
"We can't fall into that trap (of looking ahead and taking anything for granted)," Miller said. "Last year we did that against the Giants. Odell Beckham was out. They were down a whole bunch of star players. And we were thinking we can just line up and Eli Manning was going to throw us the ball. We have to learn from our past and keep our head down."
Driskel is starting, and performing in front of a patched together offensive line. In last Sunday's loss to the Browns, Cedric Ogbuehi finished at left tackle with Bobby Hart at right tackle. Jake Fisher landed on the IR with an injury and Cordy Glenn is dealing with a back issue that left him inactive last week.
There's no excuse for Denver not to make Driskel miserable. Miller needs to play off rookie Bradley Chubb, who was shut out last week. However, the tandem continues to lead the NFL with 20 sacks, just ahead of Houston's J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney.
"We know how we need to work together," Chubb said.
The Broncos' defense has strained the imagination with its elasticity. They have allowed 1,006 yards over the past two games, but only 39 points. For Joseph, a better offense requires improved defense. The Chargers and Steelers converted 14 of 29 third down conversions. They stayed on the field for 73 minutes. This is not a recipe for success.
"Again, there were too many big plays. It’s unacceptable to give up that many big plays each week. A 97-yard touchdown in single-high coverage, we can’t do that. I’m very pleased we won the football game, but disappointed in the lapses that we have each week. It’s got to stop. It’s got to stop for us to finish the season the right way," Joseph said. "We have to get back to work and figure out a way to fix some of these issues that we’ve had on defense and offense. It’s our entire football team. It’s a good win, we’ve won two in a row, but we have to get better. We have to demand that we get better from our players."
The Broncos waived rookie linebacker A.J. Johnson to make room for Holland. They want keep Johnson if he clears waivers, but needed a pass rusher following Barrett's injury and Shane Ray's issues with an ankle and wrist ailments. ... Former Bills starting quarterback Nathan Peterman will workout as part of a group next Tuesday. The Broncos are doing their due diligence this time of year as they look to add depth.