It’s a good thing they play 60 minutes in the NFL, because in the first 30, the Pittsburgh Steelers and their playoff hopes were flaundering.
I said in my post previewing this matchup, if you want to know who’s winning the game without looking at the score, look at third down conversions. The Steelers D allowed the Denver Broncos to convert a perfect 8 for 8 in the first half, while giving up 295 total yards, and most importantly, 27 points for the 27-13 halftime deficit.
It all flipped after the break. The defense held Brock Osweiler and the Denver O to 1 for 9 on 3rd downs, 0 for 2 on 4th downs, for 90 total yards in the half, and more importantly 0 points. It was a key interception by linebacker Ryan Shazier with 4:28 remaining in the 4th quarter set up the game winning 23 yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown. Just like it was a key fumble in the first half that set up the Steelers first TD.
On the day, the two Broncos turnovers led to 14 Steeler points. It’s this kind of defensive performance that has many “experts” selecting Pittsburgh to be their sleeper pick to make it to Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara. But, it’s mostly because they know just how potent this offense can be if the defense gives them anything.
Roethlisberger completed 40 of his 55 passes for 380 yards, with 3 touchdowns, but 2 interceptions. The 380 yards is the most Denver has given up to an opposing QB all season. Antonio Brown upstaged his former “Steel City” running mate, Emmanuel Sanders, for 16 receptions 189 yards and 2 touchdowns. While Martavis Bryant added 10 catches for 87 yards, and Markus Wheaton with 6 catches for 62 yards and a touchdown.
The Steelers have now faced 6 of the top 10 ranked defenses in the NFL this season. The 6th ranked New England Patriots, 4th ranked Arizona Cardinals, 8th ranked Kansas City Cheifs, 10th ranked Cincinnati Bengals twice, 2nd ranked Seattle Seahawks, and now the top team in the Broncos.
In the first half, it appeared Denver had them figured them out. Just like with the previous 5, Roethlisberger, Brown, Bryant, Wheaton and OC Todd Haley figured them out. #7 and his crew managed 192 total yards, 14 first downs, and 21 points for the 34-27 victory. It was the 6 consecutive time the Steelers have scored 30+ points in a game, extending their franchise record.
In case you’re wondering or forgot, here’s how they fared against those 6 defensive units.
- New England Patriots (L): 21 points, 464 total yards, 330 passing and 0 turnovers.
- Arizona Cardinals : 25 points, 310 total yards, 169 passing and 0 turnovers without Roethlisberger.
- Kansas City Chiefs (L) : 13 points, 339 total yards, 192 passing and 3 turnovers without Roethlisberger.
- Cincinnati Bengals (L): 10 points, 356 total yards, 240 passing and 3 interceptions.
- Seattle Seahawks (L): 30 points, 538 total, 480 passing and 4 interceptions.
- Cincinnati Bengals (W): 33 points, 354 total yards, 270 passing and 1 interception.
- Denver Broncos (W): 34 points, 377 total yards, 354 passing yards and 2 interceptions.
- 7 game averages of 23.7 points per game, 391.1 ypg and 290.7 passing ypg.
You can see why opponents fear these guys getting into the postseason. By virtue of having a better record against conference opponents, the Steelers currently are in the 6th seed over the New York Jets. All Pittsburgh has to do is win out in order to keep that spot or even move up to 5th if the Kansas City Chiefs slip up. Up next for the Steelers, at the (4-10) Baltimore Ravens next Sunday. Kickoff is at 1 PM.