The Denver Broncos and the Pittsburgh Steelers are no strangers to one another in 2012: The last time the Broncos won a game Demaryius Thomas caught the game-winning touchdown in the playoffs against the Steelers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. But this time around, Thomas will be catching passes from Peyton Manning, not Tim Tebow.
Manning will be the cog that makes the Broncos go this season. The defense returns Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller while Champ Bailey is covering the secondary once again. Willis McGahee and a stable of running backs are ready to pound the ball on the ground. But is Manning ready to go after missing the entire 2011 season? He's been written about as the comeback player of the year and an MVP candidate -- as long as he's healthy. We'll certainly need more than one week to know where Manning is at in his career.
The Steelers, meanwhile, return with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Mike Wallace, though the later missed camp due to a contract dispute. Running back Rashard Mendenhall has been practicing this week, but he is still unlikely to play as he recovers from his ACL surgery. Linebacker James Harrison's status has grown cloudy, especially after Thursday's failure to practice.
Prediction: Broncos 17, Steelers 14 -- Peyton Manning will have some rust in his first regular season game, but the defense will do just enough to keep Big Ben down. In the end, Matt Prater kicks the go-ahead field goal late in the fourth quarter. It'll be the return of Prater Time!