The Steelers snapped their three-game losing streak Sunday against the Denver Broncos, winning their first game at Heinz Field this season in a 27-19 victory.
For the second time in two weeks, QB Ben Roethlisberger and WR Diontae Johnson connected for a long touchdown pass on the opening drive. Roethlisberger hit Johnson for a 50-yard touchdown just three minutes into the game and the Steelers took an early 7-0 lead.
Pittsburgh forced a three-and-out on Denver’s opening drive and a 52-yard Sam Martin punt forced the Steelers to start their second drive from their own 17. They moved the ball to the Denver 48 on the strength of some good runs by RB Najee Harris (who finished the day with 122 rushing yards), but Roethlisberger was strip-sacked by Malik Reed and the Broncos recovered to take over at the Steelers 29. The defense didn’t allow a first down but Denver still came away with points on a 39-yard Brandon McManus field goal to cut the Steelers lead to 7-3.
The Steelers’ run game carried them on their third drive, as Harris ran for 29 yards on the drive and also had a six-yard reception, but the drive stalled at the Denver 30. Chris Boswell knocked a 48-yard field goal through to give the Steelers a seven-point lead at 10-3. Another Denver three-and-out gave Pittsburgh the ball back but they followed with a three-and-out of their own after CB Patrick Surtain broke up a pass to WR Chase Claypool down the left sideline on third-and-two.
The Broncos picked up their first first down of the game on their next drive on a huge 49-yard run by RB Javonte Williams that brought Denver to the Pittsburgh 2. A delay of game brought Denver back to the seven, and after Williams ran for two yards LB Devin Bush sacked Broncos’ QB Teddy Bridgewater for a 12-yard loss to give Denver a third-and-goal from the Pittsburgh 17. Williams picked up six yards on a screen pass and the Broncos settled for a 29-yard McManus field goal to cut their deficit to four at 10-6.
The Steelers offense had another big play on second-and-seven when Roethlisberger hit Claypool over the middle and he turned it into a 59-yard gain. On third-and-15 from the Denver 18, CB Kyle Fuller got flagged for pass interference against Johnson which set the Steelers up with first-and-goal from the one. A one-yard Harris touchdown run gave the Steelers a 17-6 lead with just over two minutes left in the first half. The Steelers defense allowed a 14-yard completion to WR Courtland Sutton on first down and then another 12-yard completion to Sutton but that was all Denver would get on the drive as they punted from the Pittsburgh 49 with 1:31 left in the half. The Steelers were able to run five plays but only gained 14 yards before halftime.
The Broncos got the ball to start the second half trailing 17-6, and after getting to Pittsburgh territory at the 47 their drive stalled out. DL Cam Heyward batted down Bridgewater’s pass on third-and-seven and the Broncos punted.
Harris was heavily featured again on the Steelers’ next drive, as he ran for 30 yards on five carries before Chris Boswell came out for a 51-yard field goal attempt. The attempt was good, but a penalty on DL Dre’Mont Jones gave the Steelers a new set of downs at the Denver 18-yard line. The Steelers capitalized on the second chance, as Roethlisberger threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Claypool and the Steelers took a 24-6 lead with 2:41 left in the third quarter.
WR Tim Patrick picked up 19 yards on first down on a pass from Bridgewater, but on second down DL Henry Mondeaux got to Bridgewater for a sack. On third and 15, Bridgewater found Patrick for 10 yards and the Broncos went for it on fourth down from their own 39.
Patrick got just enough for the first, and Javonte Williams picked up 10 yards and a first down on the next play. The Broncos again went for it on fourth down from the Pittsburgh 28 and they got it again, this time courtesy of a 25-yard reception by Courtland Sutton that took Denver to the Pittsburgh three-yard line. A holding penalty against C Lloyd Cushenberry II on second and goal knocked Denver back to the Pittsburgh 13, but Bridgewater scrambled for 11 yards to get it back to the Steelers’ two-yard line. The Broncos third fourth down try of the drive was successful, as Bridgewater and WR Kendall Hinton connected for a two-yard touchdown. McManus’ extra-point was successful, and the Steelers lead was cut to 24-13.
A second-down hold by center Kendrick Green doomed the Steelers’ drive, and they punted it away from their 22. Punter Pressley Harvin III booted the ball 63 yards, and WR Diontae Spencer’s 13-yard return brought the Broncos to their own 28 to start the drive. Bridgewater hit Patrick for 15 on second-and-six, and then found Sutton for nine. A five-yard run by RB Melvin Gordon moved Denver to the Pittsburgh 39, and Bridgewater and Sutton hooked up for a 39-yard touchdown reception. The Broncos went for two and failed as the Steelers held on to a 24-19 lead with 5:46 left.
With Harris banged up, the Steelers turned to RB Benny Snell to try and control the clock. After a two-yard run by Snell to open the drive, Roethlisberger found Johnson who’s catch-and-run gained 22. On the next play, Roethlisberger and Claypool connected for 16. Snell ran for one yard, and then back-to-back four yard gains moved Pittsburgh to the Broncos’ 30-yard line. Boswell was good from 43 yards, and the Steelers extended their lead to 27-19.
The Broncos wouldn’t go away easy, as they got all the way down to the Steelers two-yard line. On fourth-and goal, Bridgewater was picked off by CB James Pierre and the Steelers held on for the 27-19 win.
Next week, the Steelers play their first primetime game of the 2021 season when they take on the Seattle Seahawks at Heinz Field at 8:20 p.m.