ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --The Broncos kick off their 2012 campaign under the lights at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, squaring off against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football. On Friday, NBC's broadcast crew of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth visited Dove Valley to watch practice and meet with Head Coach John Fox and a number of players in preparation for Sunday's game. Michaels took the time to chat with DenverBroncos.com about what he expects from Sunday's game, why people will tune in and admit that he occasionally looked ahead to the Pittsburgh-Denver battle even while preparing to call the Giants-Cowboys game.
How do you prepare for games as a broadcaster, particularly Week 1 contests to kick off the season?
"I always try to stay abreast during the offseason so that you don't come in and just say, 'OK, let's find out about the Denver Broncos.' Obviously I've paid a lot of attention during the offseason, and the Broncos have pretty much dominated the offseason news. Our crew is up to speed. This is an interesting game for us in the sense that a lot of our focus was on Dallas and the Giants, because that was first. I know that in trying to prepare for this game, every time I was preparing for Dallas and the Giants, I would sneak a peak over at Pittsburgh-Denver. But I would say, you know what, I've got to get back to Dallas and the Giants. I think our whole crew is pretty much of the same mind in that regard.
"We've seen Pittsburgh a lot, so we're very familiar with them. We haven't done Denver in a number of years in the regular season, but we were here for a Chicago preseason game a couple of years ago. It's funny how you can get up to speed fairly quickly. We know a lot of the players who may be new to the team but are not new to us, because we've seen them with other teams. Looking forward to it. This was something we saw on the schedule when it came out and were very excited about. Now, here we go."
What do Broncos fans need to know about the Steelers entering Sunday's matchup?
"They probably know all they need to know. You know that (quarterback) Ben Roethlisberger is a tough guy to bring down, obviously -- everybody knows that. Their defense is always going to be good. (Linebacker) James Harrison, who has an injury issue right now, may or may not play, but obviously he's one of their key guys. You can't miss (safety) Troy Polamalu -- you know that. They're always well-coached. (Defensive Coordinator) Dick LeBeau is a Hall-of-Fame coach and was a Hall-of-Fame defensive back with Detroit as well. The Pittsburgh-Denver rivalry through the years has been a pretty good one, and it goes all the way up obviously to the playoffs last year when the Broncos won the game in overtime. It's a great matchup. It's a team in Pittsburgh that is very familiar to most people around the country. Then with (quarterback) Peyton (Manning) coming to Denver, obviously people want to see that. So for us it's a real primetime, big-time matchup."
Is Peyton Manning on a new team the main thing you'll be watching early in the game?
"I think most people will. I kind of kidded around on the air as we were signing off in New York the other night, this is like the Pittsburgh Steelers have become the Washington Generals. Somebody probably took offense to that in Pittsburgh, but I would tell them, look, every team that is going to come in to meet Peyton for the first time -- heck, the rest of the Broncos might be the Washington Generals at the beginning of this game, because everybody's going to be tuned in to see, how is Peyton? What does he look like in a Broncos uniform? Now what? Is he healthy? Can he be the old Peyton? I think clearly at the beginning of the game, that's why people are going to be tuned in and have their focus on. Then the game will evolve. Peyton will get started, we'll see how he does, then as John Madden used to say, a game breaks out. At least at the outset, all eyes will be on Peyton. Everybody wants to know, can he or can't he? What's going to happen here? And then away we go. Should be a heck of a night."
What do you expect to see from Manning on Sunday?
"Well, I'll tell you what, after watching the tape of the San Francisco game, he looked like Peyton Manning. It's like, what? You put him in a blue uniform and that's exactly the way you remember him. Going by his performance in the first quarter of that game, you've got to think that he's still the same Peyton. I hope he is, too, because he's a great guy. He's been great for the league. Obviously one of the all-time great quarterbacks. Clearly a unanimous choice as soon as he's eligible for the Hall of Fame. A guy that hopefully sticks around in football for a long, long time, because that whole Manning family has been great for the game."
What kind of atmosphere do you anticipate at Sports Authority Field at Mile High?
"On Sunday Night Football, we're used to good matchups, full stadiums, everybody excited about watching the game. Obviously it's going to be the same thing. I've always felt, going back to the old Mile High days, that I enjoyed doing games in Denver as much as any place. I always thought that Mile High had a fantastic atmosphere. The stands were very close to the field, the confetti was swirling around, you never knew what the weather was going to be like. I know how much Denver and obviously all of Colorado loves the Broncos. None of that is going to change. I don't think it can really be any more charged up than it has been during the glory years here in Denver.
"To me, it's always been a great place to televise a game from because the fans are so passionate. I love the fact that it's played on natural grass. I always thought Mile High was great because of that -- when a lot of teams were going with artificial turf and the rest, Mile High just looked different. The new stadium has a lot of that same character. I know it was built with that in mind, to try to keep the crowd fairly close to the field and all of that. I think they've been able to transfer it very well."