Broncos still smarting from loss to Pittsburgh last month
ENGLEWOOD, COLO. — The Denver Broncos are still smarting from their most recent encounter with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
They blew a 17-point lead and lost 34-27 at Pittsburgh on Dec. 20 when Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown capitalized on Denver's dearth of healthy safeties to hook up for a pair of second-half TDs.
The Broncos were without T.J. Ward, Darian Stewart and Omar Bolden that game. Plus, David Bruton Jr. played 75 snaps on a broken right leg and was speared by Steelers center Cody Wallace.
Bruton went on IR with a fractured fibula. He and his teammates were angered that Wallace wasn't suspended like Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was for his helmet-to-helmet hit on the Panthers' Josh Norman that same weekend.
Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said a 300-pound lineman with a running start spearing an unsuspecting player with his head down was way worse than what the Giants' star receiver did to Carolina's star cornerback.
The Broncos (12-4) promised Wallace would pay the price if they got another shot at the Steelers (11-6).
They have just that this weekend thanks to the way the Cincinnati Bengals imploded with personal fouls in the final minute of their wild-card game against Pittsburgh last weekend.
Back-to-back 15-yard penalties on linebacker Vontaze Burfict and cornerback Adam Jones set up Chris Boswell's 35-yard field goal with 14 seconds left that gave the Steelers a stunning 18-16 win.
There was plenty of talk in the Broncos locker room Monday about keeping their cool. But there was also more chatter about retaliation for Wallace hit on Bruton that drew a flag for unnecessary roughness.
"No, it's not going to be anything as far as cheap or anything," Stewart said in response to a question from The Associated Press.
"We're going to get them between the lines, between the plays, the whistle. So, I mean, he's going to be sore after the game. That's how I see it, man. He come out on a screen, he'd better not come at 2-6. Shoot, I'm cutting him."
The illegal hit on Bruton, "really (ticked) me off last time," Stewart added. "You got me mad right now just thinking about it."
Coach Gary Kubiak said every Saturday he shows his team cutups of clean hits and plays that crossed the line.
"So, we're always talking about those things. But penalties here or there, one play here or there, is the difference in playing another week and not playing at all this time of year," Kubiak said, "and our guys understand that."
Defensive end Malik Jackson, who has been penalized aplenty this season for over-the-line hits, said what he learned from the Bengals' meltdown Saturday night was "you have to keep your composure."
The Broncos promised to do just that.
They also vowed this rematch will be different because they'll have their star-studded secondary intact.
Although Stewart (hamstring) and Harris (shoulder) were the only two Broncos who missed Monday's practice, both said they expect to be back on the field Wednesday and should be at full strength come Sunday.
The Steelers are the only team that topped 30 points on Denver's league-best defense, and Roethlisberger is the only quarterback who threw for 300 yards against the Broncos.
Both Roethlisberger and star receiver Antonio Brown, who burned Denver for 189 yards and two TDs on 16 catches last month, were injured on hard hits from Burfict on Saturday night.
Roethlisberger hurt his right shoulder on a sack, and Brown was knocked cold by an illegal hit in the closing seconds. Combined with Adam Jones' subsequent 15-yard flag, the Steelers got 30 yards closer for Chris Boswell's 35-yard field goal and an 18-16 win.
The Broncos expect to face Roethlisberger on Sunday even if his shoulder is sore: "His legs still work," Stewart said. "So, he'll be able to move around."
The Broncos also expect to see Brown running routes.
"We want those guys to be there," cornerback Aqib Talib said. "If we didn't want them to be there, that means I'd want A.B. to be messed up. That's a good dude, a good family dude. We don't want him to be messed up."
Harris wants another crack at Brown, who ended Harris' streak of 35 games without giving up a touchdown.
"He'll bounce back strong," said cornerback Bradley Roby, adding it will help everyone on defense to have the Broncos' starting safeties back.
"It's going to be huge because the first game we kind of had some communication issues," Roby said.
He vowed to play better this time, too.
"I love revenge games," Roby said. "It brings the best out of me. There's nothing like revenge games."
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