The Pittsburgh Steelers take a 10-9 lead into halftime over the Denver Broncos, on the strength of a one-yard Fitzgerald Toussaint touchdown run and a Chris Boswell field goal. The Broncos countered with three field goals of their own, including one to end the half. The Broncos’ first two scores came from short fields thanks to a long punt return and then a shanked punt.
The offense for both sides has been up and down, with Ben Roethlisberger and Peyton Manning looking shaky at times. Both teams have dealt with drops, but the Broncos have been the better team getting pressure so far. The Broncos start the half with the ball after deferring to start the game.
The half began with a touchback, followed by a three-yard run from C.J. Anderson, tackled by James Harrison. On second down, Manning handed off again, resulting in another run stop to set up an early third and long. The Broncos converted just one of seven third downs in the first half. This time, on third and seven, Manning’s pass was incomplete, but William Gay‘s coverage drew a pass interference against Demaryius Thomas.
From the 32, Ronnie Hillman was tackled after a short gain by Lawrence Timmons. On second down, Will Allen missed a tackle on Virgil Green to allow four extra yards to set up third and six. Gay came back to make the stick for a loss of one on the next third down on a screen. Markus Wheaton was hammered on the punt return at the 21.
On first down, Martavis Bryant could not hang on to a high screen pass. But he made up for it on second down, catching it 11 yards down the field with a catch and run for 52 down to the 27.
On first down, Heath Miller could not hang on to the run-pass option pass, his second ball he could not snare during the game. It was Bryant again, however, for 12 yards to the 15.
Inside the red zone, Roethlisberger threw a dangerous screen to Bryant in close coverage that was broken up and at risk of being intercepted. On second down, Roethlisberger checked down to Miller over the middle for a five-yard gain. On a big third-and-five play, Aqib Talib was in coverage on Bryant to break up the ball at the goal line, forcing the Steelers to settle for a 28-yard Boswell field goal, extending the lead back to four points at 13-9.
After a touchback, Manning hit his first pass to Emannuel Sanders for 19 yards. From the 39, Jarvis Jones broke up the pass in coverage on Owen Davis. Harrison popped the running back for a loss of one on second down. Manning’s pass on third down sailed out of bounds after the Broncos picked up the blitz. Wheaton tried to field the punt after a bounce, but he was hit after touching the ball, resulting in a live ball, with Darrius Heyward-Bey smartly hitting it out of bounds, but resulting in the Steelers having terrible field position.
Fitzgerald Toussaint was chased to the perimeter and taken down for a loss of a yard on first down. On second down from the five, Toussaint had a similar result to set up a third and 11. Jordan Todman got the carry on the draw to pick up five yards just to give Jordan Berry room to breathe for his punt. This time, his punt traveled 43 yards and was caught for a fair catch at the Denver 47.
On first down, Manning found Sanders for 10 yards into Steelers territory. He went over the middle for another 10. From the 33, Anderson cut back inside to pick up another 10 yards. Harrison bowled over the running back in pass protection to get to Manning for the first time in the game for the sack and a loss of seven. On second and 17, a six-yard pickup made it a third and 11. From the 23, following a timeout, in five wide, Manning’s pass was out of bounds. McManus’s fourth field goal was good, making it 13-12.
After, predictably, yet another touchback, Roethlisberger and the offense took the field for the third time of the half. From the 20, he found Sammie Coates for a 24-yard gain over the middle. Wheaton caught his first pass of the half for a short gain over the middle for six. On second and four, Coates drew a pass interference down to the 38.
On first down, Toussaint carried for five yards. On four wide on second down, he got the hand off again for the first down and a bit more. At the 24 now, however, Roethlisberger was sacked, but a facemask on Marcus Gilbert resulted in a first and 25 to start the fourth quarter. Now first and 25 from the 39, Todman had nowhere to go on a draw, running in circles for a fiver-yard loss. On second and 30, Roethlisberger badly overthrew Wheaton over the middle. Bryant was able to pick up 10 yards down to the 34, settling instead for a punt. Berry’s punt went for a touchback, awfully bad timing for one of those when he has avoided them nearly all season.
From the 20 for Manning, he fell to avoid a sack, but got back up and hit the open receiver for a 34-yard catch and run. From the Steelers’ 46, Hillman dropped the pass. Hillman was swallowed up for a loss of four by multiple defenders after a timeout. On third and 14, under pressure, Manning got off a short pass over the middle that only picked up a few yards. Wheaton muffed the punt, but Ross Cockrell awarely covered it in the end zone for a touchback. The Broncos were flagged for illegal motion as well, giving the Steelers the ball at the 25.
Jesse James caught his first pass of the game over the middle, beating the linebacker for 22 yards. From the 47, Wheaton showed a nice stiff arm to pick up a first down across midfield and more, picking up 13.
From the 40, Heyward-Bey picked up five yards. Toussaint picked up up the first down, but had the ball knocked up, which was clearly and immediately recovered by Demarcus Ware at the 35-yard line.
Timmons was able to cut Anderson down after two yards. A holding penalty wiped out a 28-yard run, pushing them back to the 27 and setting up a second and 12. Gay very nearly had an interception, but Sanders turned into a defensive back and broke it up. On third down, however, he came back and hit Fowler for a big gain to the 36.
Approaching field goal range, Harrison and Steve McLendon tackled Hillman after a three-yard gain. Harrison was flagged for neutral zone infraction to make it second and two. Hillman picked up the first down at the 25.
Timmons was able to chase down the back trying to catch the sideline after a four-yard gain. On second down, Sanders beat Cockrell on a screen pass to pick up the first down. On first down from the 14, Hillman was cut down by Gay after a five-yard gain. Another pounding run went for seven to set up first and goal at the two-yard line. Hillman was stuffed by Shazier on first down. Anderson was stopped short on second down up the middle, but he got in on a quick snap on third down. Manning and the Broncos easily converted for two to take a seven-point lead at 20-13.
After, of course, a touchback, Roethlisberger took the field with three minutes to play and three timeouts, needing a touchdown to tie the game.
On first down, Roethlisberger found Bryant for 17 to start the drive, taking a low hit in the air. On the next play, it was Bryant on a screen pass for three yards. A check down to Toussaint picked up just two yards, setting up third and five after the two-minute warning. Under pressure, Roethlisberger couldn’t get a clean pass off to Bryant over the middle. On fourth down, the season essentially ended with a Von Miller sack, Denver taking over in field goal range.
After a couple of run stops resulting in the Steelers calling their final two timeouts, the Broncos picked up about four yards to set up a 45-yard field goal attempt. It was good, making it a two-score game with 53 seconds to play.
From the 20, a vertical shot to Wheaton fell incomplete, but it drew a pass interference flag worth 22 yards. A snag of a high pass for Bryant went for eight yards. Another shot to Bryant down the field picked up a chunk, but inbounds. A spike at the 24-second mark set Boswell up for a 37-yard field goal attempt, which was good, making it a 23-16 game and the Steelers needing to recover an onside kick.
The ball trickled past the 40-yard line, with the Broncos recovering, Manning ending the game with a kneel down, and ending the Steelers’ season.