Denver defense planning to face Roethlisberger, Brown in playoffs

| Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016, 9:18 p.m.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Big Ben can talk.

The Broncos aren't buying anything Ben Roethlisberger says about possibly missing an AFC divisional-round playoff game Sunday.

So don't even get Denver's players started on Antonio Brown's status.

“Nah, they'll be there,” cornerback Aqib Talib said Wednesday afternoon. “They'll be there. We know that.

“Ben can say whatever he wants. He has torn bursa sacs, and he'll be there. We know you'll (be) there, Ben.”

Talib was not alone among Broncos who acknowledged preparations account for a Steelers' offense led by Roethlisberger and Brown. Defensive tackle Sylvester Williams said Roethlisberger would “be at his best, I can promise you that.”

This is not a case of the Broncos doubting Roethlisberger's injured right shoulder or Brown's concussion symptoms. Most Denver players spoke respectfully of the Steelers' quarterback and leading wide receiver.

Cornerback Chris Harris Jr., was part of that majority, though he clearly already had heard enough about the Steelers' injury situation.

“Everybody is hurt,” he said. “There are no excuses. You've got to get through it.”

Brown posted two touchdowns against Harris in the Steelers' 34-27 victory at Heinz Field on Dec. 20. Before those scores, Harris had gone two seasons without being beaten for a touchdown.

“I've moved on from that,” Harris said.

It isn't as clear if the Broncos have moved on completely from blowing a 17-point lead in that loss to the Steelers.

The likes of Harris, Talib and Williams were quick to point out the Broncos played without safeties T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart. Both are projected to play Sunday, though Stewart and Harris did not participate fully in practice Wednesday, coach Gary Kubiak said.

Ward, while not providing specifics, said the return of him and Stewart will allow the Broncos to “do some other things game-plan wise.”

Not that the Broncos believe a new plan is necessary. Their defensive players believe poor tackling was what allowed the Steelers to hang three second-half touchdowns on the NFL's top-rated defense.

“Form tackling, man — it's the basics,” rookie linebacker Shane Ray said.

“You might take a bad angle on a guy. You don't get a body on a guy, just get your arms on him, and he gets free. We lost at the fundamentals.”

What the Broncos insist they haven't lost, though, is their minds.

They don't believe a quarterback already with two title rings and an All-Pro receiver seeking his first will miss the Steelers' first divisional-round game in five years.

“You don't miss games like this, especially if you're guys like that,” Williams said.

“They're playing. And we know it.”

Rob Rossi is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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