No reason for Broncos fans to hit the panic button! Yet!

Last night's Broncos-Steelers game was déjà vu all over again -- a virtual blueprint of the previous week's loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Close early thanks to Denver's unexpectedly staunch defense (and despite a costly turnover -- this time an interception). But the offense's inability to hold the ball for more than a few minutes at a time forced the D-squaders to stay on the field for far too long, causing them to wear down in the second half, allowing the Steelers to take over the game and turn it into a laugher.

So why shouldn't Broncos boosters astonished at how strong the team looked a few weeks back toss themselves off the nearest cliff? For one thing, the team's slated to play the Washington Redskins next week -- a cure-all if ever there was one. For another, the schedule down the stretch, while hardly a breeze (San Diego, Indianapolis and Philadelphia still await), offers a batch of very winnable contests: two against Kansas City, another opposite Oakland, plus a get-together with the dive-bombing New York Giants. As such, the Broncos have an opportunity to get their running game in gear and build on the rudimentary passing scheme when not facing two of the best defenses in the league -- and yes, I still put the Ravens in that class.

Honestly, none of us thought the Broncos would be in this position after eight weeks -- and if they're not yet at an elite level, they're still way better than we anticipated at the start of the season. So get that shotgun barrel out of your mouth, and, for God's sake, don't pull the trigger. Hope's still alive.