By Sean Hartnett
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Peyton Manning didn’t miss a beat. Take him out of the only NFL uniform he’s ever known, throw him against the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers defense, and watch him compete and perform.
That’s what Peyton does. A new city, new teammates, a season sidelined by four neck surgeries — none of that mattered. Manning takes command and control of the offense like no other quarterback in the NFL.
The Steelers attempted to keep him off the field, but when he had the ball in his hands, Manning was in complete control on Sunday night.
“For us to come back and answer, I really think it’s something we can build on,” Manning said during his postgame press conference. “You can refer back to that situation later on in the season. It can build confidence.”
That’s what Manning is about. He inspires confidence in those around him. Throughout his 15-year career, Manning has always made teammates greater. Eric Decker only had 44 total receiving yards in 2011. Manning found Decker for five completions and 54 yards on Sunday night.
Whether it’s Decker, emerging talent Demaryius Thomas or former Indianapolis Colts’ teammates Jacob Tamme and Brandon Stokley — Manning will get the most out of those around him.
Even at 36, Manning’s greatness isn’t showing any signs of stopping. John Elway led the Broncos to glory in the final chapter of his career. The Broncos’ executive vice president probably sees a lot of himself while watching Manning operate at Mile High.
Manning reached the 400 touchdown club after his first touchdown in a Broncos’ uniform, joining fellow legends Dan Marino and Brett Favre. His short completion to Demaryius Thomas was taken 71 yards into the end zone. Not only did Manning reach that elite plateau, he was able to do it in 209 games — the fastest of all-time.
“You call it an individual record, but I kinda accept it on behalf of many great teammates and coaches,” Manning explained. “Dan Marino and Brett Favre are two of my favorite players of all-time. I don’t really feel comfortable being in that company. To be mentioned amongst them, it’s truly humbling and quite an honor.”
After going 19-for-26 with 253 yards and two touchdowns in his Broncos’ debut, Manning is just warming up.
“It’s just a start, there’s a lot of things we can build on. It felt good to get the win,” he said. “I’m still feeling my way out. I still have some limitations.”
The Broncos have the second-toughest strength of schedule out of 32 NFL teams. There will be plenty of challenges thrown in the way of Peyton and the Broncos, but he inspires belief that he can bring the glory years back to Denver.
Has Manning already turned the Broncos into Super Bowl contenders? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.