The Pittsburgh Steelers defense was absolutely terrible in the first half after forcing and recovering a fumble on the Denver Broncos‘ first possession, which led to a 21-yard touchdown drive, DeAngelo Williams scoring from two yards out. Brock Osweiler and the Broncos offense scored on their next four drives, including three touchdown passes and a scramble.
The offense didn’t have much going for them either outside of that, punting twice, with a third drive ending in a Ben Roethlisberger interception, his 11th of the season. Chris Boswell added two field goals to give him 26 on the season, establishing a new rookie/first-year Steelers record. They trail 27-13.
The Broncos returned the opening half kickoff out to the 19. Osweiler did start the second half, throwing complete to Demaryius Thomas for nine yards on first down. On second and one, Ronnie Hillman picked up the first.
Hillman was strung out wide for no gain on first down, but a hold pushed the ball back. From the 20, Osweiler threw incomplete to Emmanuel Sanders. On second down, C.J. Anderson was defended by Ryan Shazier to break up a short pass, setting up third and 20. Mike Mitchell tackled Anderson after a short gain on a third-and-20 draw, the first third-down stop of the game. Anderson stayed down on the play.
The Broncos’ first punt of the game was fielded at about the 31 and returned 14 yards by Antonio Brown to the 45-yard line. Williams was held to one yard on first down. He was able to win the edge, but held to four yards on second down. On third and medium, Roethlisberger fired incomplete on a low pass in the direction of Markus Wheaton. Jordan Berry punted 36 yards with a fair catch at the 15.
Osweiler’s first throw of the series was a high screen to Thomas, and Brandon Boykin nearly intercepted the pass. On second down, Hillman was dragged down from behind after a gain of three. On third and long, Will Allen broke up the downfield toss as Osweiler escaped pressure, but an offensive penalty would have negated the play regardless as the Steelers defense gets its first three-and-out of the game.
Denver’s punt reached just the Pittsburgh 41 after the ball came off the punter’s foot, so the offense started again with good field position. Roethlisberger took a sack off play action for a loss of nine. On second and 19, Brown came up with the ball off a tipped pass for an eight-yard gain, setting up third and 11. Roethlisberger showed patience in the pocket and picked his spot, hitting Wheaton across the sticks for the first down, sitting down for the ball as the corner fell.
From the Broncos’ 46, Williams was just barely able to pick up a yard as the Steelers running game has struggled significantly outside of short-yardage situations. On second and nine, Roethlisberger threw up a ball down the field for Wheaton, but he was well covered and had no chance to get anywhere near the ball. On third and long once again, Roethlisberger hit Bryant for nine yards for the first down on a free play after the Broncos jumped offside.
Now at the 35-yard line, Brown drew a pass interference penalty on a vertical route, resulting in a penalty of about 26 yards. On first and goal from the nine, Roethlisberger hit Brown in the back of the end zone over Chris Harris for the Steelers’ first passing touchdown in two games, and Brown’s eighth of the year. It was Brown’s ninth reception for 96 yards in the game.
After a touchback, Osweiler threw long to Sanders fora 31-yard gain over Ross Cockrell. He landed on the ball and came out of the game. The second pass was a long ball to Thomas that he brought in, but his right knee was out of bounds for the incompletion. On second and 10, Hillman was stuffed for no gain. Now third and 10, Mitchell came up with the big pass breakup to get the defense off the field for the third consecutive time in the half.
An illegal block in the back on Will Johnson negated a big return to the 30 from Brown, resulting in a net difference of 27 yards. First and 10 from the three. On first down, Williams was held to two yards. On second down, Bryant nearly shook the initial tackler for a first down, but his left foot was just barely out of bounds, setting up third and four. Bryant caught the third-down pass in a near dual-possession situation, wrestling the ball away for the conversion.
From the 15, Bryant dropped the following pass about 15 yards down the field. On second down and 15 after a false start on Marcus Gilbert, Brown caught his 10th pass, breaking a tackler for 20 yards and going over 100 yards on the day.
From the 30, Williams was stopped at the line once again. On second and 10, Brown was good for about five. Roethlisberger led Brown too far on a third-down throw as the Steelers were forced to punt. Berry’s punt died at the 29, picked up and returned for a touchdown, but the Broncos bench cleared, thinking the play was over, resulting in an illegal substitution penalty enforced at the spot of the substitution.
With the ball at the 28-yard line, Boykin made the tackle against the run near the line of scrimmage for a two-yard loss. Moats tipped Osweiler’s second-down pass at the line. On third and 12, Cameron Heyward notched his seventh sack of the season, the second season in a row with at least as many, and the second time he is leading the team. The sack resulted in a loss of eight, back to the 18, from which the Broncos will punt to start the fourth quarter.
Brown returned the punt about 10 yards to the 40-yard line. The first play was an easy catch-and-run for 12 yards to Brown. In Denver territory, Brown made one tackler miss and hurdled another out of bounds for 17. From the 32, Wheaton plucked a ball from behind him for another first down for 13 yards inside the 20. A penalty on the defense netted half the distance for roughing the passer, giving the Steelers first and goal at the 10.
Wheaton snagged the first pass out of the air, but for one yard. On second and goal, Roethlisberger found Wheaton again on a corner route, making the first defender miss and getting into the end zone to tie the game at 27.
Following a touchback, Osweiler checked down to Anderson, which resulted in a six-yard loss, but Bud Dupree was flagged for holding, a five-yard penalty and an automatic first down. From the 25, Vernon Davis was stopped after a five-yard gain over the middle. The second-down pass was behind Thomas. On third and five, Robert Golden nearly had his second interception in as many weeks, instead settling for a pass breakup on third down. The punt was downed at the 37-yard line.
On first down, Roethlisberger threw a screen to Bryant, but was only able to pick up a yard. On second and nine, Cody Wallace was called for another hold, resulting in second and 19. A check down to Williams picked up about seven yards, setting up third and 12. Roethlisberger narrowly escaped a sack and threw complete to Brown coming back for the ball, but even with forward progress came up three yards short. Berry’s punt was downed at the 16-yard line after 40 yards.
Osweiler bobbled the snap, recovered for a loss of four yards. He completed to Owen Daniels to set up third and six. The Broncos just barely managed to convert after Osweiler pitched the ball to the back, but a hold negated the play and set up third and 16 from the 10. Davis dropped a huge pass that would have converted to give the defense a big break, and the offense good field position.
The punt was fair caught at the 44 after a 46-yard punt, with about half of the fourth quarter expired in a tie game. On first down, Heath Miller was good for a couple. On second and eight, Roethlisberger hit it to Williams, who was buried at the line of scrimmage for no gain. On third and seven, a neutral zone infraction negated a first-down completion to set up third and two. Roethlisberger’s pass fell incomplete trying to throw over the line, with Miller the intended target. Berry’s punt rolled out at the 11.
On first down, Osweiler hit his receiver for a 13-yard gain. Hillman was hit hard after three. On second and seven, Osweiler narrowly escaped a sack only to throw an interception to Ryan Shazier, the first of his career.
With 4:20 remaining, Bryant was the recipient of a screen pass, eluding a tackler to pick up nine yards into field goal range. On second and one, Williams was good for about five up the middle.
From the 23, Roethlisberger went vertical, hitting Brown for the touchdown, his second of the game. The Steelers took the lead back for the first time since early in the first half.
A reverse on the kickoff helped give the Broncos the ball at about the 40. Osweiler’s first pass was behind Daniels for the incompletion on first down. After Shazier missed a tackle on a dump off pass, Allen forced the back out after six yards to set up third and four. Heyward came off the field after the play. On third down, Osweiler found Sanders for the first down over Cockrell at the 41.
Thomas dropped a pass over the middle with space. On second down, Osweiler fled the pocket, scrambling for five. On third and five, after a timeout by Pittsburgh, Osweiler’s pass died in the middle of the field with no receiver in the area. On fourth and five, Osweiler’s swing pass was incomplete off Anderson’s hand for a turnover on downs.
Loaded up in a run formation, Williams was held to just a yard on first down as the Broncos used their first timeout. On second down, Roethlisberger threw into tight coverage to Williams, behind the back, as the pass was intercepted by Brandon Marshall at the 41-yard line.
From the 41, the Broncos have 2:01 with two timeouts to tie the game, down by a touchdown. Cockrell and Shazier helped break up a pass to Daniels at the two-minute warning. On second down, Allen dropped a potential interception on a bad decision. On third down, Sanders fell on a deep shot. On fourth and 10 from the 41, William Gay was in coverage on Sanders to break up the ball to force yet another turnover on downs.
From the 41, Williams picked up about two yards as the Broncos used their second timeout. On second down, another few yards and another timeout made it third and six with 1:30 to play with no timeouts left. On third and six, Roethlisberger hit Brown for the first down, ending the game by securing the victory.