ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- This offseason, the Broncos welcomed future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Peyton Manning and a number of other experienced players that have made Denver one of the league's most talked about teams
For every team in the NFL, this weekend's season-opener brings about the inevitable excitement of a fresh start and a chance to justify the optimism of the offseason. But only two teams get to open up in NBC's nationally televised Sunday night time slot. Playing in primetime only adds to the excitement.
"It's a huge opener, there's no doubt about it," safety Jim Leonhard said. "Obviously, the history with what happened in the playoffs last year, Peyton Manning coming in, it doesn't get much bigger than a Sunday night, opening week. It's going to be a huge game. I think the crowd is going to be big for us. It's when you want to step off on the right foot and get a win."
The Broncos enjoy the privilege of playing in front of one of the NFL's most loyal fan bases, one that has sold out 325 consecutive regular-season games, the second-longest streak in the league. Entering the 2012 season, that support has helped the Broncos compile an NFL-best home record of 170-68 over the 28 years of Pat Bowlen's ownership era.
"(The) opener's always an exciting time of the year, I think," Decker said. "Everybody wants to get out and just be able to play four quarters and see where we're at as a team. We know our fans are excited. The stadium is going to be rocking on Sunday. We've got to take care of business and make sure we're doing the small things in practice to make ourselves ready to go on Sunday."
Taking on a perennially-powerful opponent like the Steelers further ramps up the excitement for kickoff.
"It's a primetime game and we're playing one of the best teams in the NFL for a long period of time, it's exciting," Decker said.
Wide receiver Brandon Stokley returned to Denver this offseason after playing for the Broncos from 2007-09. He's as familiar as anybody in the organization with what Broncos Country brings to the table. But Stokley's never seen anything quite like the energy level this preseason, as evidenced by record-setting fan attendance at training camp and the team's summer scrimmage.
"It's the first game of the year, Peyton being in town, you can just tell the excitement in the community around here is at an all-time high," Stokley said. "It's going to be a great atmosphere and should be a fun game."