Broncos-Steelers pairs NFL’s unexpected rushing stars Phillip Lindsay and James Conner (Kyle Fredrickson, Denver Post)
Lindsay began the year undrafted from CU, scored a 29-yard touchdown on his second NFL touch and now ranks No. 5 league-wide in yards per carry (5.5). Conner ran for 144 total yards as a rookie, then emerged in Year 2 from the shadow of Le’Veon Bell’s contract dispute and has exploded for 11 touchdowns in 10 games this season.
Entering late November, with the duo’s production still thriving, the initial shock factor on tape has worn away. Or, as Steelers’ coach Mike Tomlin puts it about Lindsay, “I think you can stop wondering 11 games in. I think he’s got a big enough body of work. He’s a guy to be reckoned with. Inside and out he’s capable of breaking big runs.”
Tyler Polumbus: The Broncos are 4-6, but there’s still plenty to be thankful for (Tyler Polumbus, The Athletic)
The NFL scouting process is flawed (see: Lindsay, Phillip)
Phillip Lindsay has 670 yards rushing and is averaging 5.5 yards per carry. He ran a 4.39-second 40-yard dash at his pro day in Boulder and amassed 5,760 all-purpose yards over his career at the University of Colorado. How did 32 NFL teams miss on a kid like this? The Broncos might tell you that they knew that nobody would draft Lindsay so there was no need to use a pick on him. But let’s be honest — they missed on him as well. Lindsay’s production throughout the early part of his career is worthy of a firstround draft pick. Thank goodness no NFL general manager could see it.
The NFL’s best pass-rush duo, Bradley Chubb and Von Miller
In 2015 Von Miller and Demarcus Ware were one of the most feared pass-rush duos in the NFL. The two combined for 18.5 sacks. Miller continued to terrorize offensive tackles with 13.5 sacks in 2016 and 10 sacks in 2017, but the team’s pass rush as a whole dropped off significantly in those years without an elite threat on the opposite side of the line from Miller. The 2018 duo of Chubb and Miller has already produced more sacks this year (19) than the Ware-Miller tandem did in the Super Bowl year. And there are still six games to go. Kansas City’s pass-rush duo of Justin Houston and Chris Jones is right on their heels with 18 combined sacks but Chubb has brought the Denver pass rush back to being one of the league’s best.
Harris waiting for Brown rematch since 2015 humiliation (Arnie Stapleton, Associated Press)
“I didn’t have a good game that night,” Harris said. “It was tough that game. It was pretty much on me that game. We didn’t have anybody in our secondary that game. I think all my safeties were gone. I think I was out there with (Josh) Bush and (Shiloh) Keo, so that was a hard game. It won’t be anything like that again.”
Harris faces No. 1 receivers week in and week out, but Brown is special. He’s one of just four active players with 40 100-yard receiving games (Julio Jones, Brandon Marshall and Larry Fitzgerald are the others).
“He has great route-running and they let him play,” Harris said, suggesting officials let him get away with separation tactics. “They let him play a little bit at the top of the routes. Also what he does, Big Ben (Roethlisberger) extends a lot of time for him and then he can kind of free-lance and get deep.
“I can’t say what I do at the top of the routes, but I’ve got little tricks too. You’ve just got to play your game. Don’t be scared, compete, and that’s what I do every week.”
Von Miller thankful for arrival of Bradley Chubb (Troy Renck, KMGH)
“We’re in this together,” said Miller, when asked if he’s determined to stay ahead of Chubb in the sack race. “When I was watching ESPN with Mel and the Kipers, I was watching those guys. That’s what they said (Chubb had a good motor), they said a lot of stuff. And then when you get in the league and you see these guys, they’re never what those guys had diagnosed. But Chubb is as advertised, if not more. He’s 270 pounds, he can drop back into coverage and he can play the run. He’s a monster when it comes to rushing the passer. He does it on the right side, versus the best offensive lineman every week. Chubb is as advertised and I’m truly blessed and grateful to be able to play with a guy like that.”
Miller is on pace for 16 sacks, leaving him within striking distance of his career-high of 18. Chubb sits at nine, his projection putting him in position to break Jevon Kearse’s single-season rookie record of 14.5 set in 1999.
“I have gotten more comfortable during the season,” Chubb said. “We work well together.”
Steelers’ NFL-best pass rush will challenge Case Keenum and Co. (Ryan O’Halloran, Denver Post)
“They do a great job of pressuring (on) more plays than they don’t and they mix it up,” Broncos quarterback Case Keenum said. “They’ve done what they’ve done for so long and they’re so good at it.”
In last week’s win over the Los Angeles Chargers, the Broncos did not allow a sack for the first time this year. The Chargers featured Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa.
The Steelers have a big cast. T.J. Watt has 10 sacks, followed by Cameron Heyward (5 1/ 2), Javon Hargrave (five) and Bud Dupree (4 1/2).
“They’ve got not only really, really good people, they’ve got good schemes,” Broncos offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said after practice Thursday. “This has been a long week for us coaches trying to get a good grip on what we’re bracing for on Sunday.”