NFL

Steelers D looks to derail Tebow

Willie McGinest previews the Steelers-Broncos playoff matchup.
Willie McGinest previews the Steelers-Broncos playoff matchup.
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John Czarnecki

John Czarnecki has been the editorial consultant for "FOX NFL Sunday" since its 1994 inception. This season marks Czarnecki's 32nd year covering the NFL. He is one of 44 selectors to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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Pittsburgh at Denver, 4:30 p.m. ET

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: The Steelers are a nine-point favorite on the road and that’s more of a reflection on the lack of confidence in Denver quarterback Tim Tebow than Ben Roethlisberger’s mobility in the pocket on a sprained left ankle.

TEBOW TIME

Can't get enough Tebow? Then hang out here.

Tebow will see a confusing and varied zone-blitz attack from the Steelers, who have the linebackers in LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison with enough speed and quickness to also defend Denver’s unique option offense.

The Steelers allowed a league-low 14.2 points per game while their pass defense should be able to apply enough pressure on Tebow, who has thrown for only one touchdown in his last three games. Tebow has also misfired on 43 of his 73 attempts during the three-game losing streak. Look for Denver to try to get Tebow comfortable with some quick hitches and some short passes to try to get him into an early rhythm.

Pittsburgh will stack the line in order to limit Broncos RB Willis McGahee and a rushing offense that averaged an NFL-high 164.5 yards a game. The Steelers aren’t that worried about losing starting RB Rashard Mendenhall because they really like backup Isaac Redman. The Broncos want to keep Big Ben in the pocket and crush it with Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil. They don’t want Roethlisberger to be able to extend plays and find streaking receivers like Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown.

CZAR’S SCOOP: The reason there has been so much speculation about backup Broncos QB Brady Quinn possibly playing today — should John Fox yank Tebow — is because the word inside the Broncos is that Tebow apparently has lost his confidence and that’s why he is so unsure and hesitant on the field.

This is why team president John Elway reportedly came out and told the young quarterback to simply "pull the trigger" earlier in the week. Elway, the front office, and the coaches know how much Tebow is struggling with what to do next.

This is what three consecutive losses, seven turnovers and a 45-percent completion rate will do for any young quarterback. If Tebow fails in a big way today, all bets are off regarding his future as a starter in Denver.

But the problem facing Elway is what to do next. It could be next to impossible to strike a deal to trade up in order to select Robert Griffin III, Baylor’s Heisman Trophy winner, while it may make sense to wait until 2013 to try to get USC’s Matt Barkley or Oklahoma’s Landry Jones, who both decided to return for their senior seasons.

Steelers running back coach Kirby Wilson faces a long road to recovery after suffering severe burns in a house fire Friday morning. Wilson, 50, has been with the Steelers for five seasons.

RIDING THE COACHING CAROUSEL

Unemployed head coach Jeff Fisher will spend wild-card Sunday checking out the Rams’ facilities in St. Louis and also meeting with quarterback Sam Bradford. There is no question that the Rams want him to be their next head coach, but so do the Miami Dolphins and their billionaire-owner Stephen Ross.

Fisher made the decision months ago that he wanted to get back to work next season and it appears by the end of the week he will make a decision between the Rams and Dolphins. Had he waited another year, who knows what his choices might have been?

The entire NFC East could be looking for new coaches in 2013, and maybe Chicago and the New York Jets as well if those two franchises miss the playoffs once again.

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Many believe that St. Louis has the inside track on Fisher because of Bradford, who is considered by some to be a franchise quarterback when healthy, and their position in the draft with the No. 2 overall pick. Assuming Stanford QB Andrew Luck goes to the Colts, then teams desperate for a quarterback like Robert Griffin III will have to talk to the Rams. And the price figures to be steep; maybe four high draft picks and a minimum of three No. 1 picks or at least two No. 1s and two No. 2s as well. The Rams will ask for a lot because they have so many personnel needs.

The other good news in favor of St. Louis is that the Rams might have $90 million to spend on acquiring players in 2013. In St. Louis, Fisher also can make a lot of demands because the Rams don’t have a general manager, either.

Conversely in Miami, general manager Jeff Ireland is in place and there is Carl Peterson, formerly king in Kansas City — and what will be his new role? Peterson has been involved in coaching interviews on behalf of his good friend Ross and may want to make some personnel hires or decisions.

The other negative for the Dolphins is that they are in the same division as Tom Brady and Rex Ryan, and no one is positive that injured Chad Henne or Matt Moore are franchise quarterbacks. I mean, do they make a bid to draft Griffin or do they pursue Green Bay Packers backup QB Matt Flynn in free agency?


Does defense still win championships in the NFL, or is offense the new standard? We'll find out in these playoffs.

Yes, Ross could blow Fisher away with money, but what’s more important in football life? A lot of money or a quarterback?

If Fisher says no to the Rams, this team could start searching the college ranks, although Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton would be an interesting choice. Some say he’s a year or two away from being another Mike Tomlin.

The college coaches to keep an eye on are: Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz, Boise State’s Chris Peterson, Rutgers’ Greg Schiano, Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald.

Tagged: Falcons, Broncos, Packers, Rams, Dolphins, Patriots, Giants, Steelers, Mike Peterson, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Will Svitek, Stephen Nicholas, Matt Moore, Matt Ryan, Matt Flynn, Mike Wallace, Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford

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