BRONCOS 31, STEELERS 19Steelers' record: 0-1One year ago: 0-1Series record (including playoffs): Broncos lead, 18-10-1STORYLINEThere 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.TURNING POINTThe 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 OUTIn the first half alone, Larry Foote had seven tackles, including one for loss, plus a sack for a loss of 5 yards, a pass defensed and two quarterback pressures.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 Troy Polamalu tackle RB Knowshon Moreno for no gain, then Ike Taylor broke up a pass for Demaryius Thomas, and then Larry Foote sacked Peyton Manning for a loss of 5 yards that set up a punt. 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 LaMarr Woodley recovered to give the Steelers possession on the Denver 47-yard line.* On his first play in a Steelers uniform, DeMarcus Van Dyke downed a Drew Butler punt at the Denver 1-yard line.* On a 23-yard punt return by Antonio Brown on the final play of the first quarter, it was David Paulsen's block that allowed him to turn the corner.* It was a third-and-3 in the latter stages of the second quarter, and Mike Wallace's block at the point of attack helped spring Isaac Redman on a 6-yard run that gave the offense a fresh set of downs on what became a 79-yard touchdown drive.* On that touchdown drive, Ben Roethlisberger completed 5-of-9 (with one spike to stop the clock) for 75 yards and the touchdown to Heath Miller. Roethlisberger converted a third-and-11 with a 23-yard pass to Antonio Brown, a third-and-13 with a 17-yard pass to Emmanuel Sanders, and a third-and-goal from the 4-yard line with the scoring pass to Miller.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.* After Shaun Suisham's field goal gave the Steelers a 3-0 lead, the Broncos went to the no-huddle offense exclusively, and Peyton Manning directed a 12-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a short touchdown run by Willis McGahee. * On the Steelers opening possession of the second half, Willie Colon was flagged for two false starts and Antonio Brown was flagged for one.* 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 Mike Adams stripped it out for an incomplete pass. The Steelers ended up settling for a 35-yard field goal and a 13-7 lead.* 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.
Sep 10, 2012 at 10:30 AM
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