ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In the wake of the Denver Broncos' Dec. 20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said if he had an MVP vote he would consider giving it to Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown.
Brown had 16 catches for 189 yards and two touchdowns in that 34-27 Steelers win last month, so the Broncos know Brown's absence due to a concussion from Sunday's playoff game changes some things for Pittsburgh's offense. But they also believe the Steelers will simply ask more of a capable group of receivers.
“Prepare for their offense so nothing changes,’’ Kubiak said following Friday’s practice. “ … We know we’re playing a really good team in a big, big game.’’
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (right shoulder) did not practice until Friday this week and the Steelers said he was a full participant on Friday. The Broncos believe if Roethlisberger is physically able to throw to most of the field, he will be able to spread the ball around to other Steelers players like Martavis Bryant, Heath Miller and Markus Wheaton.
The Steelers have five players who had at least 40 catches during the regular season. Brown was easily the team’s leader in receptions (136), yards receiving (1,834), touchdowns (10) and targets (195), but Bryant had 10 catches against the Broncos last month while Wheaton had a 40-yard reception against the Broncos to go with a touchdown catch.
Asked if the Broncos have to try to figure out how the Steelers would spread out the workload, Kubiak and the Broncos players gave something like a be-ready-for-anything answer.
“I don’t think you can go there,’’ Kubiak said. “ … They’ve got a lot of guys who make plays and the one thing about Ben (Roethlisberger) is Ben’s going to attack coverage. Our preparation has been for their offense.’’
“We all know Big Ben is the engine that makes it all go for real,’’ said Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib. “ … They’re still the Pittsburgh Steelers, we just stay with the game plan.’’
The Broncos will certainly have a close eye on Roethlisberger during pregame warm-ups to see how he is throwing. Roethlisberger suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder during the Steelers’ wild-card game win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
He returned to the game, but was limited in what he could do. He said this past week if he could “only throw it 25, 30 yards” or if he felt he was hurting his team he wouldn’t try to play.
“We’re still going against the Steelers, though, we still get a chance to play the Steelers,’’ Talib said. “The Steelers still beat us, so we still get a chance to get our get-back at the Steelers. That’s what we’re focused on.”