Broncos cornerback Kyle Fuller had a tough first half but Denver’s offense only had three first downs at break.
PITTSBURGH – For the second time in as many street games, the Broncos abandoned a long touchdown pass to open the game’s first series.
Both times, cornerback Kyle Fuller was left alone and beaten. This time it was Diontae Johnson who got a 50-yard heave from Ben Roethlisberger for the quick touchdown.
In contrast to the previous street game in Jacksonville, the Broncos hadn’t caught up by half time. Or in the third quarter. The Steelers re-selected Fuller to score a second touchdown and Roethlisberger tossed another shot on goal to Chase Claypool, the Pittsburgh difference cutting off a furious comeback from Teddy Bridgewater and the Broncos for a 27:19 win.
Bridgewater tossed two touchdowns at 24-6 in the fourth quarter and had the first and the goal at 3 for a potential tie, but his last throw in the end zone with 11 seconds remaining was picked.
Bridgewater turned three 4th downs on a 14 play drive to start the combeack, including his 2 yard touchdown flip to Kendall Hinton at 10:15 to put the Broncos within two scores, 24-13 .
Bridgewater then tossed a 39-yard touchdown pass to Courtland Sutton just within the 6-minute mark to put the Broncos within 24-19. At this point, Bridgewater was 18 out of 27 for 216 yards with two touchdown passes and no interceptions for a pass rating of 115.7. Bridgewater has 6 touchdown throws and no interceptions until his last throw.
The atmosphere was brilliant with a boisterous, if barely crowded Heinz Field on a wonderful October Sunday afternoon. On a sunny 73-degree afternoon, a gathering of 59,841 popped up near the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers to see how the Steelers pretty much controlled the game from the coin toss through the fourth quarter.
Fulller had a tough first half as he was flagged towards the end of the first half for a pass interference penalty that set up the first and 1st Steelers’ goal. Najee Harris jumped over the left side of the line for the touchdown.
The Broncos offensive had no right to point a finger. It only had 3 first downs and 107 yards in the full offense in the first half as the deficit could have been worse.
The Broncos won the coin toss and delayed – but struggled to see the ball in half. Steelers controlled the ball for nearly 20 minutes of the 30-minute half. They scored a goal on their opening move when quarterback Roethlisberger lifted his goal pass to Johnson, who made a nice adjustment to the ball and defeated Fuller’s man marking.
Teddy Bridgewater and the Broncos didn’t have much on the ball, nor did they really get going. At 12:42 in the first half, the Steelers had 8 first downs against none of the Broncos. Bridgewater, who missed much of the week of training to go through the concussion log, was 6 out of 11 for just 56 yards in the first half. Big Ben was 8 of 14 for 165 yards and a touchdown.
But in the fourth quarter Bridgewater got into a passing groove. After his touchdown pass to Hinton, he faced Courtland Sutton on a nice 39-yard strike for a touchdown with 5:46 remaining. That made the result 24-19. The 2-point conversion failed when Bridgewater missed Sutton diagonally. Bridgewater yelled for a pass interference flag but didn’t get it.
It was the Denver D who was responsible for the Broncos’ first 3 points. Big Ben tried to extend the game while his receivers were covered, but his legs wouldn’t go with him. Broncos’ outside linebacker Malik Reed hit the ball out of his hand and inside linebacker Alexander Johnson picked up the fumble.
The Broncos offensive was in business at Steeler 29. But Steeler’s sensational edge rusher TJ Watt blew a Javonte Williams run for defeat and the Broncos settled on a 39-yard field goal from Brandon McManus.
Williams got something in return in the second quarter when the Steelers boxed up against the Broncos formation right on the third and one. Bridgewater hit left and Williams only had two defenders and two blockers in front of him. It was blocked well and Williams cut in and won 49 yards on the Steelers’ 2-yard line.
A chance to take the lead, however, was thwarted almost immediately when Williams stood up and speared the ball cheerfully – only to delay a 5-yard game penalty. Bridgewater was then released for a 12-yard loss and the Broncos had to settle for another short McManus field goal.
At 17-6 at halftime, the Denver D kept a steeler drive alive when Dre’Mont Jones was marked for a “lever” penalty by Chris Bosell during a 51-yard field goal attempt. The kick was good, but Steelers trainer Mike Tomlin wanted more than a 20-6 lead and he got it. The penalty kick moved the ball onto Denver’s 18-yard line and Roethlisberger split the zone between Bryce Callahan, Kareem Jackson and Justin Simmons with a pass to Claypool for the 18-yard touchdown and a 24-6 lead at the end of the third Quarter.
Launch Safety Kareem Jackson went to the locker room for a concussion checkup in the second quarter after being called by an independent doctor assigned to the game. Jacdkson returned to the sidelines at 5:47 at halftime. Jackson went low to make a nice open field tackle on the Zach Gentry narrow field. Rookie Caden Sterns replaced Jackson on a couple of series. …
Courtland Sutton was active in training on Friday after an ankle sprain. Sutton held a pre-game test in front of coach Vince Garcia and felt ready to go into the game, which was played on a field that is a mix of grass and artificial turf (but more grass). It would have been a difficult game for Sutton to miss since Sunday was his 26th birthday. …
Although the Broncos activated veteran cornerback Ronald Darby from the injured reserve list on Saturday, he was not active on Sunday. The Broncos pulled him up on Saturday because there was still some uncertainty about how rookie cornerback Pat Surtain II was feeling with the chest injury he first sustained against the Ravens last Sunday. Surtain was apparently feeling fine on Sunday morning.
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