DENVER – Broncos cornerback Tracy Porter previously had decided the outcome of a game with an interception that he returned for a touchdown, having done so most memorably for the New Orleans Saints in a Super Bowl victory against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.
On Sunday night in Denver, with Porter and Manning now having aligned forces, it was Ben Roethlisberger's turn.
Porter's interception and 43-yard return for a touchdown of a Roethlisberger pass intended for wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders with just over two minutes remaining sealed the Steelers' fate in a 31-19, season-opening loss at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
"There's no one to blame but myself," Roethlisberger said. "I hate to let my teammates down, the coaches, the fans. The loss is squarely on my shoulders.
"I'll take that and get better and learn from it."
The lasting lesson, Roethlisberger suggested, had a lot to do with clock management.
The Steelers were trailing, 25-19, and were facing a second-and-10 from the Pittsburgh 39-yard line with 2:10 remaining on a stopped clock prior to what turned out to be the decisive play. They lined up with Sanders wide left, Roethlisberger in the shotgun with running back Jonathan Dwyer deployed to the quarterback's right, and with tight end Heath Miller and wide receivers Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace aligned to the right of the formation. Brown went in motion to the left and then back toward where he had lined up initially prior to the snap.
The call was for a screen-right, but when that didn't materialize as initially anticipated, Roethlisberger worked his progressions until locating Sanders.
Roethlisberger's pass found Porter instead.
Porter did the rest, and when he crossed the goal line he had turned a six-point Denver lead into a 12-point advantage with just 1:58 remaining.
"I should have called a timeout," Roethlisberger said. "The play clock was winding down. I hate to burn timeouts, but I should have because we were kind of all over the place."
The Steelers had two timeouts remaining at that juncture.
"We were kind of in no-huddle," Roethlisberger continued. "But Coach (offensive coordinator Todd Haley) called a play because he wanted a play. It was really loud out there, and I didn't get (the play call) at first. Once I got it I relayed it, and we were just kind of late getting set up.
"(Sanders) was the last guy (in the progression). I really thought he had a step on (Porter) and I could get it to him. The guy (Porter) made a good play."
The pick-six spoiled what had been a productive night for Roethlisberger amid some tough circumstances.
The Steelers had lost right guard Ramon Foster (eye) and right tackle Marcus Gilbert (knee) to injuries in the second quarter.
Roethlisberger finished 22 of 40 for 245 yards, with two touchdowns and the game-sealing pick-six. He directed an offense that converted 11 of 19 third downs, including four straight during a 14-play, 79-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter, despite working against a Broncos defense that admittedly had the Steelers guessing on occasion.
"They're a good defense," Roethlisberger said. "They disguise (coverages) very well. We were on the sidelines talking about how half the time we didn't know what coverage they were going to."