ENGLEWOOD — Von Miller lived his life without privacy for years. He documented everything from his European travel to his training in California. He provided a regular presence on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat.
This season everything is different.
Von has gone through social media detox, using the platforms infrequently and even deleting the apps after quick posts. It became part of his vision for 2021, decluttering his mind to be present for his franchise and teammates in a crossroads season for the future Hall of Famer.
It has improved his well-being, especially after an ugly defeat. I asked Von about his seismic shift in social media strategy.
"After losses, I don't really pay attention to that stuff. After a win that stuff is great for everybody. Everything feels good. After times of adversity, (staying off it) really keeps you even-minded. I just feel like I have done everything you could possibly do on social media. I have been a social media guru for a long time, and tried just about everything, except this," Miller said.
"It feels good to be off social media. It feels good to just worry about family, football and my son, and being a great teammates. Social media will always be there. Whenever i need it I can post something and get back off. But it does feel good to have an even mindset."
Von first adopted this strategy during the 20`15 playoffs, inspired by LeBron James' social media blackout during a postseason. Von sought to appreciate Peyton Manning's final run, to narrow his focus and act as a human sponge.
"I wanted to maximize our opportunity as the No. 1 seed and did a social media blackout. We went on a tear in the playoffs and in the Super Bowl. I always identified that with being helpful to me and my mental health," Miller said. "I wanted to bring it into a season like this. I am trying to get the most out of my game. I am 32 years old, trying to be the player I was and then some."
Miller has delivered, notching at least a half sack in each of the first four games. He leads the Broncos with 4.5 sacks and ranks sixth in the NFL. He admitted he's happy to have Lamar Jackson in the rear-view. The Broncos' game plan called for the former All-Pro to hold his line to avoid creating running lanes for Jackson.
"It was team ball," Miller said. "It’s good to get back to playing normal football against a team that is going to drop back and pass normally.”
Miller knows Pittsburgh's Big Ben Roethlisberger well. He has faced him in the playoffs and regular season. Roethlisberger was forever known as an oak tree with mobility, able to throw darts as defenders hung off his legs and shoulders. This version of Big Ben looks more wrinkled and compromised.
The Steelers boast losses in eight of their last 10 games, dating to last season. Roethlisberger ranks 29th in yards per attempt at 6.1, is averaging a career low 9.48 yards per completion and has a one-to-one touchdown (four) to interception (four) ratio. He is also dealing with labrum and hip injuries that created speculation he might be benched.
"I need to be better," Roethlisberger said during his weekly press availability. “I need to fight through and figure out how to make better decisions, how to make better throws, how to be a better football player. That’s why I just said I’m not going to quit. I’m going to keep doing that. I’m not giving up on this season. No one in this building is. It’s still early, and there’s still a lot of fight left in us.”
Miller is not taking Roethlisberger for granted. He has seen him play too well for too long.
"He's the same old Big Ben. He can still throw the ball downfield. He can still break a couple of tackles and get rid of the ball quick," Miller said. "I see the same ol' Big Ben for sure. ... We all know how serious this win is for us, and we all know the type of situation we are in. We need to go ahead and win these games now instead of waiting until the end of the season praying and hoping for wins to get into the playoffs. "
Teddy makes progress
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater continues to trend in the right direction to start Sunday despite suffering a concussion against the Ravens. He participated in meetings and lifting Wednesday and was limited in practice Thursday. He also worked with the offense during walkthroughs on Wednesday, according to veteran Tim Patrick, allowing him to coach the receivers on his preferences for the game.
Bridgewater struggled before exiting with an injury, completing 7 of 16 passes. The team has to improve dramatically on third down, ranking 30th with a 31.4 percent conversion rate. The Broncos abandoned the run game in the second half against the Ravens, rushing four times. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur addressed it Thursday, saying it was the result of getting off schedule and facing a series of third-and-longs.
"I have to do better," Shurmur said. "We have to do better."
For the Broncos to get back on track, they need left tackle Garett Bolles and Justin Simmons to play well. Both are coming off tough performances against the Ravens. Bolles, second-team All-Pro last season, has allowed three sacks in four games. ...
Tight end Albert Okwuegbunam hurt his hamstring in Wednesday's practice which could knock him out of Sunday's game. Eric Saubert would receive additional playing time if Okwuegbunam is sidelined. ...
Cornerback Ronald Darby (hamstring) and running back Mike Boone (quad) could return this week. ...
Guards Dalton Risner (foot) and Graham Glasgow (knee) are trending toward playing. At least one, possibly Risner, should start. ...
Melvin Gordon's health (lower leg injury) would not play into whether Boone is activated from the IR as coach Vic Fangio said he expects Gordon to play.