Osweiler still in charge for Broncos-Steelers

Posted at 1:44 PM, Dec 19, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-19 16:12:22-05

The NFL's all-time passing leader's aching body is on the mend. The shelf life on his replacement's honeymoon may be nearing its expiration date.

No pressure Brock Osweiler. All you have to do if you want to have a chance at holding onto your job whenever Peyton Manning heals up is take the Denver Broncos on the road and find a way to beat a team that hasn't lost a game in December in two years.

"Whatever happens in the future happens in the future," Osweiler said. "That doesn't pertain to me right now. That's out of my control."

What is in control is finding a way for the Broncos (10-3) to keep pace with the surging Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5), who will take a nine-game December winning streak into a stretch that will determine whether they chase down a playoff spot for the second straight season. Osweiler's terrific start while taking over for Manning hit its first major speedbump last week against Oakland, when he was sacked five times as the Raiders rallied for a 15-12 win.

"I need to get the ball out quicker and I need to find out outlet quicker," Osweiler said. "That's exactly what I'm going to do. I'm going to learn from it, grow and get better."

If Denver wants to fend off rapidly closing Kansas City for the AFC West title, Osweiler doesn't really have a choice. He does have the luxury of having the NFL's top-ranked defense wearing the same jersey, though the Broncos' self-proclaimed "No Fly Zone" secondary will face its toughest test of the season from Ben Roethlisberger and arguably the league's best passing attack.

Or maybe, inarguably the best. At least, according to the Steelers.

"Of course we are," wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey said. "You've got to be confident in yourself. ... If we were the last offense in the league and we had guys that had 30 catches, I wouldn't be saying that statement."

Heyward-Bey isn't bragging exactly. Just call it the confidence born from being part of a group that is averaging 346 yards passing in the six games since Roethlisberger returned from a sprained left knee. Opponents have tried a little bit of everything: from zone to man-to-man coverage to a mix of both with largely ineffective results. If the Broncos want to play at the line of scrimmage and try to disrupt Pittsburgh's timing, that's fine by the Steelers.

"We're all fast enough to run by everybody," Heyward-Bey said.

Other things to look for as the Steelers try to beat the Broncos at home for the first time in 18 years.

HAPPY HOMECOMING?: Denver wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders began his career with the Steelers before signing with Denver in 2014, where he developed into a Pro Bowler last season. While Sanders looks fondly back on his time in Pittsburgh, he's well aware the feeling might be mutual after statements he made shortly after joining the Broncos were construed by some as a shot at Roethlisberger. "I hope I don't get booed because it's all love," Sanders said.

CHASING BEN: Denver's 44 sacks lead the NFL and outside linebacker Von Miller has at least one sack in five straight games. Roethlisberger, however, provides a unique test. They don't call the 6-foot-5, 240-pound quarterback "Big Ben" for nothing. "You don't want to hit him high because he's going to absorb it and get away from you," Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe said. "You want to get him around the legs and get him down. You want to get your hands on the ball."

NOT INTIMIDATED: Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown is long past the days where an opponent can get in his head. It's why the All-Pro brushed off chatter from the Broncos about shutting Pittsburgh down.

"That's the world we live in, the hashtags, everyone's got names," Brown said. "It's super competitive. Just a challenge."

MCMANUS MISSES: Broncos kicker Brandon McManus has missed a field goal in three consecutive games, including a 49-yarder that would have tied the Raiders in the fourth quarter last weekend. Still, coach Gary Kubiak said his faith in McManus is not shaken:

"No, I have a lot of confidence. As a matter of fact, that's a good topic because he kicked really well today," Kubiak said. "I mean he was hitting some bombs out there in practice. I think he's been very consistent for us. Obviously last week that's a big miss. He'd like to have that back."


AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton in Denver contributed to this report.


AP NFL website: and