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Broncos' Manning has answer for everything Steelers throw at him

| Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Christopher Horner
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning eludes Steelers linebacker Larry Foote during the second quarter Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)

There are some quarterbacks you can rattle by blitzing them, and then there is Peyton Manning, who thrives against the blitz even after 20 months of inactivity.

Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau used his linebackers to put pressure on Manning during the Steelers' 31-19 loss Sunday night — pressure that didn't faze him at all.

Manning completed 19 of 26 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns in his first game in nearly two years. He did most of the damage when the Steelers brought extra rushers.

When the Steelers rushed five, Manning was 7 of 7 for 145 yards and a touchdown, along with a 7-yard scramble. The Steelers blitzed Manning 30 percent of the time Sunday.

Manning was sacked twice because of the blitz, and he was hit two other times, but it wasn't enough to affect his play. Manning identified the blitzes and used quick and precise routes to nullify any pressure.

LeBeau tried to put pressure on Manning up the middle with limited success, as Larry Foote blitzed six times and Lawrence Timmons five. The rest of the blitzes came from the outside linebackers. LeBeau never brought a cornerback or a safety to pressure Manning.

Ironically, it was a blitz that produced the biggest play of the game for the Broncos — a 71-yard pass from Manning to Demaryius Thomas — in which Manning caught linebacker Chris Carter blitzing.

Other observations:

• With James Harrison out, LaMarr Woodley is the Steelers' most accomplished pass rusher. However, Woodley only blitzed 10 times, albeit he did sit out a number of plays during the second quarter. Meanwhile, Carter blitzed 10 times with Jason Worilds eight.

• Three times the Steelers had the ball inside the Denver 10-yard line and ran a total of eight plays, seven of which were passes. The only run called was Isaac Redman's inside handoff on the first play of the fourth quarter. Incidentally, the Steelers scored touchdowns on two of the three times they got inside the 10-yard line.

• For the first time in a while, the Steelers have a true fullback on their roster. However, that doesn't mean they have to use him much. Will Johnson played eight snaps, most of which came in the first half.

• One big difference between Todd Haley's offense and Bruce Arians' offense is the tight end. Arians loves to use two or three tight-end sets, and if the first week is any indication, Haley is the complete opposite. Out of 72 snaps (including the two-point conversion attempt), the Steelers used a two tight end set nine times and three tight ends once (on the failed two-point conversion).

• Foote played like a man possessed. He led the team with eight tackles, had a sack, forced a fumble, hit Manning twice and was credited with a pass defensed. What was most impressive about Foote was the quickness he showed for being 32 years old.

• Guard Willie Colon didn't have the best of days by getting called for a pair of false starts and allowing a sack when he was late anticipating a twist from Derek Wolfe, but Colon made up for it in his shear power in the run game. Pulling from left to right, Colon sent Denver linebacker Wesley Woodyard flying to the ground during a third-quarter run by Jonathan Dwyer. Just wait until Colon gets comfortable at guard.

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