Denver’s pass rushing partners getting healthy just in time


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. | Denver’s pass-rushing duo is intact again, just in time to face a banged-up Ben Roethlisberger.

DeMarcus Ware practiced Thursday with a brace on his left knee, the same one he used during his 20-sack season in Dallas. Von Miller returned from a bout of food poisoning that the All-Pro outside linebacker blamed on bad mozzarella sticks and a sugary drink when he went to see “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

“The Force struck back,” Miller cracked.

A notoriously healthy eater, Miller said he learned his lesson not to have a cheat day with fried cheese.

“You can’t put just regular gas in a Ferrari,” Miller said. “… But I’m back on my diet. I’m ready to go.”

So is Ware, who injured his left knee against San Diego in the regular-season finale three weeks after returning from a bad back.

Ware said he doesn’t anticipate the brace slowing him down Sunday when the Broncos (12-4) host Pittsburgh (11-6).

“It’s really just protecting my knee and just making sure that, just in case somebody hits it or whatever, that it’s protected. I feel good about that,” Ware said, adding: “I think that there won’t be any limitations in the game.”

Ware said the brace was his idea.

“I was getting it taped and I said, ‘You know what?’ — I was being funny — ‘Well, maybe four or five years ago I had 20 sacks and I wore a brace.’ Sometimes you’re a little superstitious,” Ware said. “I told them, ‘It’s the same type of injury, so I think we need to stick the brace back on there again and let some of that rub over into the postseason.'”

Like Miller, Ware is a healthy eater, and he was disappointed to hear Miller got sick.

Miller was sent home before Wednesday’s workouts and defensive end Malik Jackson was pulled during practice and sent home, too.

“I told him I don’t know what kind of cheese was in those mozzarella sticks, please don’t eat those again,” Miller said. “I thought Malik ate some too because he was a little bit sick yesterday, also. I hope those guys, I believe they flushed the mozzarella sticks out. I told them to just stick with the popcorn and the little Goobers at the movies, OK.”

Miller earned his second All-Pro nod this season and Ware was well on his way to one of his best seasons, winning his first career Player of the Month honor in September before a bad back sidelined him for five games and parts of three others.

Denver led the league with 52 sacks, including 11 by Miller and 7 1-2 by Ware.

Miller and Ware figure to be healthy together in time to face Roethlisberger, who’s dealing with an injured right shoulder after getting driven into the ground last weekend by Vontaze Burfict. Cincinnati’s volatile linebacker also knocked out Steelers star receiver Antonio Brown, who’s been in the NFL’s concussion protocol this week.

“Ben and Antonio, in my opinion, this game is too big for those guys to miss out on this game,” Miller said. “I think Ben, he’s a pro. He’s going to be doing everything in his power to get ready and be able to play. That’s just my opinion on it. If they change it up, then we’ll play for that, but in my mind, I’m playing for Big Ben to be at 100 percent and the same way with Antonio Brown.”

It will help the Broncos to have safeties T.J. Ward, Darian Stewart and Omar Bolden, all of whom missed the Dec. 20 game in Pittsburgh where the Steelers overcame a 17-point deficit for a 34-27 win.

“They help us get a little bit more pressure up front because they make the quarterback hold the ball just a little bit longer,” Ware said. “That’s going to help us get pressure this week.”

Along with his knee brace and Miller’s vow to stay away from the greasy and sugary snacks at the movies.

Notes: WR Emmanuel Sanders said QB Peyton Manning continues to look great at practice. “Today, the wind was blowing and his ball was still zipping through the wind,” Sanders said. “I think he’s been having a good week of practice. I think he’s preparing the right way. He wants to win and so do we.” … Coach Gary Kubiak said he anticipates QB Brock Osweiler (knee) practicing Friday for the first time since the Broncos’ last game, on Jan. 3. He only participated in the pre-practice walkthrough again Thursday. “It’s just been a process getting him back,” Kubiak said. … G Max Garcia (groin) was added to the injury report and was limited Thursday.

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