The Pittsburgh Steelers picked up their tenth straight December win, scoring 30-plus points for the sixth straight game as they defeated the Denver Broncos, Sunday, 34-27 at Heinz Field.
A late interception by Ryan Shazier put the Steelers in great field position, setting up Ben Roethlisberger’s second touchdown pass of the game to Antonio Brown from 23 yards out to give the Steelers the go-ahead score with just 3:24 left to play in the game, capping of 24 straight unanswered points by the Steelers offense.
Despite picking up the win and moving to 9-5, the game didn’t start well for the Steelers, who found themselves trailing Brock Osweiler and the Broncos, 20-7, midway through the second quarter.
Following a fumble from Ronnie Hillman, DeAngelo Williams punched in a 2-yard touchdown to give the Steelers a 7-0 lead just under five minutes into the game. From there the Broncos offense woke up and scored three straight touchdowns, breaking a streak of 25 straight drives without a touchdown.
Osweiler found Demaryius Thomas for an 18-yard, a wide-open Emmanuel Sanders for a 61-yard touchdown on a play in which the Steelers secondary had a complete breakdown, and a 7-yard rush of his own to give the Broncos a 20-7 lead.
Pittsburgh answered with a 24-yard field goal by Chris Boswell that bounced off of the left upright to bring the Steelers within ten, 20-10.
Denver came right back, marching 80 yards in 10 plays that was capped off by a 6-yard touchdown from Osweiler to Thomas in which the Broncos receiver stiff-armed Antwon Blake to the ground, giving Denver a 27-10 lead with just under two minutes to go in the first half.
Pittsburgh then marched 51 yards in 10 plays, taking up just 1:52 of game time as Boswell drilled a 41-yard field goal sending the Steelers into halftime trailing by 14, 27-13.
The Steelers secondary allowed Osweiler to throw for three touchdowns and more than 240 yards in the first half as the secondary looked lost at times, allowing far too many easy completions for Osweiler and his weapons as Denver went 8-for-8 on third down in the half.
Fortunately for Pittsburgh, defensive coordinator Keith Butler made the necessary adjustments at halftime.
Coming out of the locker room to start the third quarter, Pittsburgh’s offense marched 58 yards on seven plays after the defense got their first stop of the game.
Brown, who won his much-hyped matchup with Chris Harris Jr. handedly, hauled in a 9-yard touchdown pass to pull the Steelers within seven, 27-20, with more than a quarter and a half left.
Pittsburgh’s defense then forced the Broncos to punt twice before Roethlisberger found Markus Wheaton wide-open on a crossing route for a 9-yard touchdown to tie the game at 27-27 with just over 12 minutes left in the game.
That’s when things got interesting.
The two offenses traded two punts each before Shazier picked off Osweiler on an ill-advised throw over the middle, giving the Steelers great field position.
Three plays after the Shazier interception, Roethlisberger found Brown on a seam route against Harris Jr. for his second touchdown of the game, putting Pittsburgh on top, 34-27.
The Broncos had plenty of time to try and march down the field to tie the game, but Denver turned the ball over on downs after picking up just one first down, giving Pittsburgh the ball back to try and close out the impressive win at home.
But in a head-scratching decision by Roethlisberger, the veteran quarterback threw an ill-advised interception to Brandon Marshall that was intended for Williams, giving the Broncos the ball inside Steelers territory.
However, much like the defense had throughout the second half, the unit came up with another big stop, nearly picking off Osweiler twice as they forced another turnover on downs.
From there, Pittsburgh was able to close things out thanks to an 8-yard pitch and catch from Roethlisberger to Brown that sealed the 34-27 win for Pittsburgh.
In the win, Roethlisberger became the first quarterback all season to throw for more than 300 yards against the No. 1 defense in football, which came in allowing just 188.9 yards-per-game through the air.
Roethlisberger finished with 380 yards and three scores through the air on 40-of-55 passing. Brown hauled in 16 receptions for 189 yards and two big scores, while Martavis Bryant added 10 catches for 87 yards.
Wheaton added six catches for 62 yards and a score.
Defensively, Lawrence Timmons, Mike Mitchell, Will Allen and Shazier added six tackles each, with Timmons sacking Osweiler once.
Mitchell added a fumble recovery that set up Pittsburgh’s first touchdown of the game.
Sitting at 9-5 with just two weeks left in the regular season, Pittsburgh now turns its attention to the 4-10 Baltimore Ravens, who lost the Kansas City Chiefs, 34-14, Sunday.