BRONCOS 31, STEELERS 19
Steelers’ record: 0-1
One year ago: 0-1
Series record (including playoffs): Broncos lead, 18-10-1
There are precious few instances of a first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback changing teams, but that is exactly what happened when Peyton Manning was released by the Indianapolis Colts and signed by the Denver Broncos. Manning’s debut – how he would perform coming off neck surgery that sidelined him for all of 2011 – was the most compelling issue of the opening weekend of this NFL season.
The Steelers were in control of the game until a quick throw out to Demaryius Thomas turned into a 71-yard touchdown that gave the Broncos a 14-13 lead.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT
In the first half alone,
WHAT WENT RIGHT
* The Broncos won the toss and elected to receive, and the Steelers defense allowed a couple of first downs, before getting off the field with a three-play series that had
* The Steelers were last in the NFL in 2011 with only 15 takeaways that included only four fumble recoveries. On Denver’s second offensive possession – on a third-and-1 – Willis McGahee fumbled and
* On his first play in a Steelers uniform,
* On a 23-yard punt return by
* It was a third-and-3 in the latter stages of the second quarter, and
* On that touchdown drive,
WHAT WENT WRONG
* At the end of the first quarter, the Steelers had 1 yards rushing on six carries; in the first 20 minutes of the game, the Steelers had 19 yards rushing on 10 attempts, and holding penalties had been called on both Heath Miller and Mike Wallace during rushing attempts.
* Red zone efficiency was an issue throughout the 2011 season, and the Steelers failed to capitalize on their first trip inside the Denver 20-yard line. A first-and-goal at the 8-yard line became a first-and-goal at the 3-yard line following a penalty for encroachment on the Broncos. But from there, Ben Roethlisberger threw three straight incompletions – to Antonio Brown, to Heath Miller, and then again on third down when Miller was wide open in the end zone only to have CB Tracy Porter deflect the ball before it could get to him.
* On the Steelers opening possession of the second half,
* Antonio Brown had the ball in his hands in the end zone on a first-and-10 from the Denver 23-yard line, but SS
* Getting Demaryius Thomas on the ground continued to be an issue for the Steelers. The guy who ended the Wild Card Game in overtime with an 80-yard catch-and-run turned a quick throw from Peyton Manning into a 71-yard touchdown that gave the Broncos a 14-13 lead midway through the third quarter.
* After the Steelers put together another touchdown drive to re-take the lead, the defense promptly allowed the Broncos to take the ensuing kickoff and move right down the field for a go-ahead touchdown. This time instead of a single splash play, it was a 10-play 80-yard drive in which Peyton Manning operated almost exclusively in the hurry-up.