Harris vows new streak after allowing 1st TD since '13
Meantime, Harris figures he'll just have to start another streak when the Denver Broncos (10-4) host the Cincinnati Bengals (11-3) in a Monday night matchup pitting dominant defenses against novice quarterbacks.
Harris hadn't surrendered a touchdown in 35 games before Brown scored twice on him in the Steelers' 34-27 comeback win in Pittsburgh last week.
Harris was lined up in man coverage both times, although on the second score safety Josh Bush was late sliding over to help him.
Still, Harris pointed the blame at himself for Denver's second straight loss in which they blew a double-digit halftime lead.
''Yeah, that's why he's a great player. That's why he's a Pro Bowl player, and I think there is even more to come down the road for him,'' Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said. ''I think he played one of the top players in football, if not the top player. I know who I'd be voting for right now for MVP.''
That would be Brown, whom Harris wants to see in January for a rematch.
''Oh yeah, definitely. I hope we see them again,'' Harris said.
And he promises it will be different next time, too, after Brown caught 16 passes for 189 yards.
''I won't be out of whack,'' Harris said. ''I'll be ready to go.''
The Steelers hurt their playoff chances, however, with a 20-17 loss Sunday at Baltimore. Brown had 61 yards receiving and no touchdowns on seven catches.
The Broncos are in a precarious position themselves: they could still earn a first-round bye and even the AFC's top seed - or they could miss out on the postseason party altogether.
''That's a crazy spectrum of possibilities,'' Denver tight end Owen Daniels said. ''But we're ready for the challenge.''
A win over the Bengals, who haven't won a Monday night road game in a quarter century, would put the Broncos in the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season.
Pittsburgh's loss Sunday clinched the AFC North title for Cincinnati. The Bengals can secure a first-round bye with a win in Denver, which would vault them into the No. 1 spot ahead of New England. The Patriots lost to the Jets 26-20 in overtime Sunday.
Although the Bengals won't have tight end Tyler Eifert, who has a dozen TD catches, they still have receivers A.J. Green, Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, a trio that Harris compares favorably to Pittsburgh's terrific trio of Brown, Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton.
What should help Harris and fellow Pro Bowl cornerback Aqib Talib on Monday night is the return of starting safeties Darian Stewart (hamstring) and T.J. Ward (hamstring). Both missed the showdown in Pittsburgh last weekend and are expected back in the lineup Monday night.
''We've just got way more chemistry now,'' Harris said. ''We're all in tune with the game together. Having T.J. and Stew back this week will be huge.''
Ward should boost Denver's run defense, too. Jeremy Hill has run for 10 touchdowns and last year he had a monster game against Denver, rushing for 147 yards and a touchdown in 22 carries.
''Their tight end is out, so that kind of changes their game plan. But I kind of see them doing the same thing they did on us last year,'' Harris said. ''They pounded us, man. So, we've got to be ready for the run. Hill had an amazing game for them against us last year. So, we expect him to get the rock.''
The Broncos sport the league's top defense against the run and the pass and the Bengals have allowed the fewest points in the league.
Denver's defense hadn't allowed a 30-point game or a 300-yard passer until last week when Ben Roethlisberger burned them in leading a comeback from a 17-point second-quarter deficit. That included TD throws of 9 and 23 yards to Brown.
''Nobody can say they played Pittsburgh and they had to play A-Brown 1-on-1 the whole game,'' Harris said. ''Everybody else plays zone or they played double teams. So, I'm the only one who had to play him straight up like that.''
Harris hadn't allowed a TD since Nov. 24, 2013, at New England.
''It's time,'' he said, ''to start a new streak.''
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