Here's the thing about blitzing: It can't be a casual thing or a mere change of pace. A coach has to be dedicated to it, and he has to have players who share his enthusiasm. Last weekend we saw two quarterbacks, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, who normally handle blitzes with the utmost disdain, unhinged by them. Against Manning, Pittsburgh rushed two or three linemen and surrounded them with blitzers. Inside linebacker James Farrior (right, 2 1/2 sacks) was devastating, as was safety Troy Polamalu, who's adept at squeezing through small openings inside. Denver's defense put big heat on Brady, especially on third down, but in the second half it was the Pats who were moving the ball and the Broncos who were hanging on.
Aside from Carolina against New York, teams haven't established much of a running game in the postseason. The Steelers typically turn to the run in the second half to protect a lead. I think they'll throw the ball early again this week. I think Denver will too, especially if Pittsburgh decides to change gears and play coverage instead of an all-out rush. Coming off a weekend of shocking upsets, I think the trend will continue. Steelers 20, Broncos 17.
Photograph by John Biever