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In midst of historically tough stretch, 'battle-tested' Broncos ready for next challenge

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —As the Broncos try to climb out of a hole and return to .500, they won't be getting any help from their schedule.

When the Broncos host the Steelers on Sunday, they'll face their third consecutive team that boasts at least a five-game winning streak.

Houston entered Denver in Week 9 with a five-game winning streak, the Chargers held a six-game streak before the Broncos ended it Sunday and the Steelers have also won six straight.

That's more than just a tough draw. That's a stretch that no team has seen since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dealt with it in 1976.

But Head Coach Vance Joseph thinks his team is uniquely prepared to handle the challenge as they approach the final game of the slate.

"We're kind of battle-tested," Joseph said. "We've played the best teams in the league. So for our team, we won't flinch. We're looking forward to the challenge."

There's certainly some truth behind Joseph's logic. After falling by two points to Houston after several self-inflicted wounds, the Broncos rebounded to beat a Los Angeles Chargers team that hadn't lost a game since they faced the Rams in Week 3. In that victory, the Broncos overcame a 12-point deficit to earn their most-impressive win of the season.

Even when the Broncos haven't been able to complete the win, they've given some of the NFL's best teams all they can handle. They held a double-digit fourth-quarter lead over the AFC-leading Chiefs in Week 4, came within a field goal of the then-undefeated Rams and fell by just one possession on the road in Kansas City.

Those performances don't make a 4-6 record feel any better, but they do illustrate the potential this Denver team still possesses.

"[They've had] close games against really good football teams," Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Wednesday. "This is definitely a team that is much better than their record shows, and we understand that and know that. They're a team that's kind of sitting there. They got a big win this last week and need to get this win. We don't look at records, we look at going on the road to a tough place to play against a really good football team."

If the Broncos are able to beat the Steelers and earn a second consecutive win against a hot team, they would thrust themselves back into the wild-card race and maintain the confidence they gained at StubHub Center.

"It doesn't matter who we play," quarterback Case Keenum said. "Our strength of schedule, you could say that's been pretty impressive, but it doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is what's in this building, what's in this locker room. It doesn't matter what defense is thrown out there against us, it doesn't matter what's going on outside the building. We're going to attack, we're going to move forward and we're going to do our job."

There's a reason, though, that Pittsburgh hasn't lost since Week 4. Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, James Conner and an opportunistic pass rush are just few elements contributing to the six-game win streak.

"It won't be easy to beat this team," Joseph said. "This team is 15-1-1 on the road in the last [17] outings [since 2015]. We understand how hard it's going to be, but our team is in a good place and looking for the next challenge, quite frankly."

There should be a benefit to following up Sunday's win with another stiff test. Against a team of the Steelers' caliber, there's no chance the Broncos can fall victim to a trap game.

"I think we're focused," Joseph said. "Our team gets it. Sunday, that was one win. We've had a bunch of close losses, so it's good for us to win one of the close ones, but we get it. It's one win. We're back to a small focus. One day at a time and one play at a time. I think we're OK there. We won't be looking past the Pittsburgh Steelers."

And while the game will certainly be a challenge, the Broncos feel prepared.

As cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said Wednesday, this is nothing new for him and his teammates.

"We've had a tough game every week," Harris said. "We haven't had no easy games and we've faced the top offenses every week. This is just another top offense that we've got to see, another great challenge.

"We're up for it. We've seen it all already."

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