ENGLEWOOD, Colo. - Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has only taken two hits in the last eight weeks since he left the Chiefs game with a torn plantar fascia. Manning's rehabilitation work in late November and throughout December was arduous, and not without setbacks. But in terms of overall wear and tear, this is the freshest he's been to enter the playoffs in some time.
"Obviously I haven't played a ton in the past few weeks. I needed that time in order to get healthy certain parts of my body. At the same time, other parts of your body take advantage of that," he said.
"Not getting hit and not getting pounded on, you try to take advantage of that and feel better for it. I'm looking forward to being out there on Sunday, that's for sure."
So are his teammates, particularly running back C.J. Anderson, who noticed how Manning has been particularly on-point in his mental preparation this week.
"In meetings, practice, everywhere. He just keeps you on your toes, (asking), 'Hey, did you see this?' or 'This might happen, make sure you see this,'" Anderson said. "Me, Ronnie (Hillman) and Matt (Paradis), we've got our own individual meetings with him."
They hope those meetings bring the right pre-snap adjustments -- and results to follow.
"With 18 out there -- under center, shotgun, he can be all the way back in the end zone and put us in the best way possible," Anderson said.
--Quarterback Brock Osweiler was back on the practice field Monday and Wednesday, but after throwing some warm-up tosses, he spent the rest of the practice working with strength and conditioning coach Luke Richesson.
"He's still sore," Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak said.
After being listed on previous weeks' injury reports with injuries to his elbow, rib cage and shoulder, it was a knee problem that landed Osweiler there this week.
It's possible that the Broncos could dress three quarterbacks for Sunday's game: Osweiler, starter Peyton Manning and rookie Trevor Siemian.
"With Brock right now, the thought of maybe suiting three guys has to enter our mind here as we go through the week," Kubiak said. "Hopefully day by day he'll get better and have more confidence that we'll be able to play with our normal two."
Notes: Safety Darian Stewart returned to practice on a limited basis Wednesday after missing last week's work because of a scar-tissue issue tied to a previous hamstring injury he aggravated Jan. 3. He is expected to play Sunday. ... Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. returned to practice on a limited basis after sitting out last week because of a shoulder injury. Harris played through the Chargers game with the injury and is expected to be available on a full-time basis Sunday against the Steelers. ... Quarterback Brock Osweiler spent Wednesday working out with team strength and conditioning coach Luke Richesson because of a knee injury he suffered against the Chargers on Jan. 3.
Outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware practiced Monday and Wednesday after sitting out last week's work because of a knee injury. An MRI revealed no extensive damage and he is expected to play against Pittsburgh. ... Left guard Max Garcia is expected to start once again in place of Evan Mathis. Mathis is still playing some series each game when Garcia moves to right guard to give Louis Vasquez a breather.