The Pittsburgh Steelers went up against the best passing defense in the league, but it was the rushing attack that was largely held in check against the Denver Broncos, and not Ben Roethlisberger. The 12-year veteran quarterback threw for 380 yards and three touchdowns passes against a defense that averaged less than half that yardage entering the game.
When it came to running the ball, however, the Broncos were all over it, allowing DeAngelo Williams just 26 yards on the ground on 14 carries. It was the Steelers’ lowest rushing total of the year by a good amount, and the fewest overall since 2006.
It is, notable, however, that Williams was successful in the three situational football opportunities that he was given during the course of the game. He was given three carries in short-yardage situations, including one at the goal line, and converted on all three attempts.
The first situation was the best, and most efficient, coming early in the game soon after the defense force and recovered a fumble deep in Broncos territory. After Williams got down to the two-yard line on a 19-yard reception, he punched it in on first and goal from there, which was his ninth rushing touchdown of the season, eight of which came from no more than three yards out.
Early in the second quarter, the Steelers had a second-and-one situation at the Broncos’ 13-yard line after a nine-yard reception on first down, and Williams picked up three yards rushing around the left guard. That gave them first and goal at the 10, but they settle for a field goal.
Williams’ final short-yardage opportunity of the game came late in the fourth quarter on what proved to be the game-winning drive. After an interception gave the Steelers the ball on the Broncos’ 37-yard line a nine-yard reception made it second and one. Williams picked up five yards to convert, and Roethlisberger threw the game-winning 23-yard touchdown on the next play.
Outside of those three carries, however, the 32-year old back struggled greatly to find much running room, let alone success, against an underrated Broncos front line that often gets overlooked in favor of Denver’s pass rushers and cornerbacks.
On Williams’ other 11 carries in the game, he gained just 16 yards, and not a single first down. His longest run of the day was the five-yard gain on the second-and-one conversion late in the fourth quarter.
Of those 11 additional carries, only one qualified as a successful run, gaining four yards on first and 10. He had three runs of four yards, one run of two yards, and the other seven carries were all two yards or less.
In other words, half of Williams’ carries gained no more than one yard. Three of those runs went for no gain or a loss of two yards. The Broncos entered the game having a top five rushing defense in terms of yards allowed per game, but after last night’s game, they now lead, allowing 79.9 rush yards per game, thanks to the Steelers. But they now give up about 14 yards more per game through the air, still by far the best in the league.