Flashback to last January and the Steelers were a banged up and weary squad coming into Denver to play a playoff game in which they ultimately lost. Now with the exception of Big Ben having a healthy left foot this time around let's look at the current state of the Steelers: Due to injuries and 2nd round pick/presumptive starting LT Mike Adams sucking ass the Steelers will enter this game with exactly 1 starter on the offensive line that was in that same position when they started training camp a few weeks ago. What was supposed to be a revamped offensive line perhaps finally fixing a longtime weakness the Steelers instead have more questions on this unit filled with retreads than they did at the end of last season. Starting at RB last January was Isaac Redman who will get the start again here but he's missed two full weeks of practice with a bad hip and now has an ankle injury on top of that. Mike Wallace actually played in that game in January but with an entire new offense to learn it will be a challenge considering he is just now reporting to camp. This offense suddenly doesn't look too great, especially with an offensive line held together by duct tape going up against a good pass rush. Defensively the Steelers also have problems. James Harrison may not even play in this game after preseason knee surgery. And Ryan Clark will most likely miss the game as well with a sickle-cell disease. That means Pittsburgh will start two new starters in the secondary. The Steelers walked into this stadium last January banged up and full of question marks and really not a hell of a lot has changed.
But this bet isn't so much about what Pittsburgh may or may not be able to field. This bet is about Peyton Manning. I'm not pretending to know how good Manning will be this season, whether he still has zip on the ball, or how long he will even last after a few games of taking hits. But I know this guy is one of the most competitive players to ever take the field. This is a guy for the most part that has never really faced many questions in his career. You knew you were getting 12 wins, a Top 3 MVP finish, 40+ TD'S and a division crown. Now suddenly people are wondering just what this guy has left. That seed of doubt has crept into everyone's minds. Not only that but he was outright cut by the team he helped put on the map. I believe we have all the ingredients necessary for a statement game. Everything is lining up perfectly for Manning (and the Broncos who so desperately wanted him) to come out in front of a jacked up crowd on a national TV showcase game and lay down a huge message to everyone who has doubted him over the last 18 months. Maybe Manning will suck this year who knows, but all great players have one last kick and I think Manning will give it everything he's got this year and no more so than right off the bat in Week 1.