What Went Right, What Went Wrong

What went right, wrong at Denver

Posted Jan 17, 2016

The highs and lows of the Steelers' Divisional Playoff game against the Broncos.

Bob Labriola with his thoughts on "what went right, wrong" at Denver.

* Make them kick field goals instead of score touchdowns. The Steelers defense took the field at their own 30-yard line after a big punt return. On a third-and-5 from the Pittsburgh 14-yard line, Peyton Manning threw a pass into the flat for running back C.J. Anderson, but Ryan Shazier came across the field quickly to make the tackle for a 4-yard gain. The Broncos settled for a 28-yard field goal from Brandon McManus for a 3-0 lead with 11:21 left in the first quarter.

* It was just a 6-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger, but Sammie Coates turned it into a 37-yard gain to the Denver 41-yard line with some nice running after the catch to convert the third down midway through the first quarter.

* Broncos try a direct snap to RB Ronnie Hillman on a third-and-2, but James Harrison is there to stop him for no gain. Denver punts.

* Again, the Broncos are forced to settle for a field goal following Jordan Berry’s 27-yard punt late in the first quarter. Three Denver offensive plays gained 8 yards, and Brandon McManus kicked his second field goal for a 6-0 Broncos lead.

* The Steelers took a 7-6 lead with an 80-yard drive on five plays that ended with a 1-yard run by Fitz Toussaint with 1:22 left in the first period. Other big running plays on the drive were a 40-yard reverse by Martavis Bryant behind a nice block by Heath Miller, and a 15-yard run by Toussaint behind a nice block by Darrius Heyward-Bey.

*  In the first quarter, the Steelers had 133 yards of offense, the most allowed by a Denver defense since Nov. 16, 2014 when St. Louis had 138.

* Credit where credit is due. After his second 27-yard punt, Jordan Berry hits a 50-yarder that pins the Broncos at their 5-yard line with 3:14 left in the second quarter.

* On the Steelers opening possession of the second half, the offense drove 69 yards in eight plays to extend their lead to 13-9 on a 28-yard field goal by Chris Boswell with 9:32 left in the third quarter. Martavis Bryant caught two passes for 64 yards on the drive, and he should’ve gotten a pass interference penalty on Aqib Ralib in the end zone.

* The Steelers’ first offensive possession ended in a three-and-out, and the Broncos made the first big special teams play of the game. Jordan Berry’s 52-yard punt was returned 42 yard by Omar Boldin to give Denver the ball at the Pittsburgh 30-yard line to starts its first possession.

* Fourth-and-1 from the Denver 32-yard line. Ben Roethlisberger goes deep to Markus Wheaton in the end zone. He doesn’t make the play on a pass that got through Aqib Talib and hit Wheaton on the shoulder pad. Without Antonio Brown, those are plays that have to be made.

* Field position can be so important. A Britton Colquitt punt traveled 57 yards and was downed by Aaron Brewer at the Pittsburgh 3-yard line. The Steelers offense followed with a three-and-out, and Jordan Berry’s punt traveled 27 yards to set up Denver at the Steelers 31-yard line.

* Not a good game for Jordan Berry. On his first three punts, two of them go for only 27 yards apiece. The second gives Denver the ball at its 41-yard line with 6:48 left in the first half with the Steelers holding a 10-6 lead.

* It sure looked as though Peyton Manning gave himself up on a play that began with a blitz by Will Allen and ended with Manning getting up and completing a pass to Emmanuel Sanders for a 34-yard catch-and-run to the Steelers 46-yard line.

* Don’t know which part of the punting game is worse – Jordan Berry’s punting or Markus Wheaton’s work as the returner. Wheaton muffs a punt at the Steelers 7-yard line, but Ross Cockrell saved the day with a recovery right at the goal line. By rule, it’s a touchback and the Steelers’ ball at the 20-yard line. Got it at the 25-yard after a penalty on Denver, with 11:33 left in the fourth quarter.

* The first turnover, and it’s a killer. Fitz Toussaint apparently had gained first down yardage around the Denver 30-yard line when the ball was popped out by Bradley Roby and recovered by DeMarcus Ware at the Broncos 35-yard line.