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The most-hyped game of Week 1 is on Sunday night as Peyton Manning makes his return to the NFL and his Broncos debut when Denver hosts Pittsburgh – the Broncos ended the Steelers’ 2011 season thanks a Tim Tebow overtime touchdown pass in the wild-card round. But when Manning became available, the Broncos jumped and eventually shipped Tebow to the Jets this offseason.
The Steelers will be without starting safety Ryan Clark as he has a health risk playing in the altitude. This is the third time Clark has not played in Denver since the high altitude caused Clark severe health problems in the sixth game of the 2007 season. He will be replaced by Ryan Mundy, the team’s dime back who was one of the players victimized on the winning 80-yard touchdown pass by Tebow to Demaryius Thomas.
Steelers WR Mike Wallace says no need to hold him back against Denver despite holdout that ended last week. Pro Bowler said he’s nearly up to speed on new offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s playbook.
John Fox is a notoriously conservative head coach and Manning doesn’t throw the ball as well as he did with Indianapolis, so we might not see as much passing as we’ve come to expect from a Manning-led offense. Still, this offense will look very much like the one Manning orchestrated in Indianapolis. We will see almost all 11 (one RB/one TE) or 12 (one RB/two TE) personnel and the Broncos will now do very little movement pre-snap, as Manning surveys the defense to get his team into the best possible play call. Manning needs one TD pass to reach 400 in regular season. Only Brett Favre (508) and Dan Marino (420) have more.
STEELERS NOTES: Head coach Mike Tomlin has 4-1 record on Kickoff Weekend … In 2 career regular season starts at Den., QB Ben Roethlisberger has completed 45 of 64 passes (70.3 pct.) for 523 yards with 7 TDs vs. 3 INTs & 111.7 passer rating. Has 80-33-0 (.708) career regular-season record as starter (min. 10 starts), 2nd-highest win pct. among active QBs (Tom Brady, 124-35-0, .780) … RB Isaac Redman had career-high 479 rush yards in ’11 … WR Mike Wallace posted 1,100 rec. yards in consecutive seasons (1,257 in ’10; 1,193 in ’11). For career, Wallace averages 18.7 yards per catch (171 rec., 3,206 yards).WR Antonio Brown (1,108) reached 1,000 rec. yards for 1st time in career last season … TE Heath Miller tied career-high with 2 TD catches at Den. on 10/21/07… LB LaMarr Woodley (48) needs 2 sacks to become 6th Steeler to reach 50 career. LB James Harrison (58) needs 3 sacks to surpass Keith Willis (59) & Joey Porter (60) for 2nd-most sacks in franchise history
BRONCOS NOTES: Have 38-13-1 (.745) record in home openers, highest win pct. in NFL … Den. has won 4 of past 5 at home vs. Pit. … QB Peyton Manning ranks 3rd all-time in career pass yards (54,828), compl. (4,682) & TD passes (399). Has 4th-most regular-season wins (141) as starter in NFL history. In past 2 regular season games vs. Pit., Manning is 2-0 & has 5 TDs vs. 1 INT & 98.6 rating … Club averaged NFL-best 164.5 rush yards per game in ’11 … RB Willis McGahee (1,199) reached 1,000 rush yards in season for 4th time in career in ’11 … WR Eric Decker led team with career-best 8 TD catches last season … In playoff meeting vs. Pit. (1/8/12), WR Demaryius Thomas posted 4 rec. for 204 yards, incl. game-winning 80-yard TD catch in OT … Since entering NFL in ’99, CB Champ Bailey (50) has most INTs among NFL CBs … LB Von Miller ranked 2nd among NFL rookies with 11.5 sacks (Aldon Smith, 14) last season. Most sacks by Denver rookie since sacks became official statistic in ’82 … DE Elvis Dumervil has 3.5 sacks in 3 regular season games vs. Pit.
WAGERWEB.COM TRENDS: Steelers are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games in Week 1. Steelers are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games overall. Steelers are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 vs. AFC. Broncos are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 vs. AFC. Broncos are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games overall.