The Steelers six-game winning streak was snapped in Denver in a 24-17 loss to the Broncos.
The Steelers, who still maintain first place in the AFC North with a 7-3-1 record, couldn’t overcome two fumbles and two interceptions, which eventually resulted in 14 points for the Broncos.
Disappointing. But you’ve got to give Denver credit,” said Coach Mike Tomlin. “They had a winning performance. We did not. We accept responsibility for that. It was the turnover ratio. We didn’t do a good enough job of taking care of the ball. We also didn’t do a good enough job of getting the football. You’ve got to look at it from that perspective. It’s dual responsibility. We didn’t take care of the ball well enough. We didn’t balance that out by getting the ball. When you are minus whatever we were in the game, it’s going to be tough to win. We’ve got some work to do, we’ll do it. We’ll absorb this and what comes with this and get back to work tomorrow.”
Ben Roethlisberger completed 41 passes for 462 yards and two touchdowns, but his two interceptions were costly. One led to a Denver touchdown, and the other ended the Steelers comeback attempt when he was picked off in the end zone with 1:03 to play in the game.
JuJu Smith-Schuster had an amazing game in the loss with 13 receptions for 189 yards, going over 1,000 yards for the season with 1,055 yards, and a 97-yard touchdown reception.
Antonio Brown had nine receptions for 67 yards. Brown now has 804 career receptions, joining Torry Holt and Marvin Harrison as the only players in NFL history with at least 800 catches in their first nine years in the league. Brown also set an NFL record for fewest games (126) to reach 800 receptions.
The Steelers had some big plays, including a two-yard touchdown pass from Chris Boswell to Alejandro Villanueva on a fake field goal. Defensively the Steelers had two key sacks, Javon Hargrave and Cameron Heyward splitting one, and Vince Williams with a monster hit. But it wasn’t enough.
“I am not displeased with anything in the way the game unfolded other than the turnover ratio,” said Tomlin. “Some of that minutiae we’ll look at when we watch the video.”
The Steelers came out throwing on their first possession, with no rushing attempts, and were moving the ball. Roethlisberger hit Brown, who turned it into a 14-yard gain. Vance McDonald added a nine-yard gain, and Roethlisberger stuck with it and found Smith-Schuster for 10 yards. James Conner took the screen pass for seven yards, and on third and three, Jaylen Samuels shook off a tackle for a 12-yard gain on the catch and run. The Steelers tried a little trickery, with Brown throwing it, but he couldn’t connect with Samuels. The drive stalled there. Two more incompletions brought on Boswell, but his 48-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Justin Simmons, and the Steelers came up empty.
The Broncos had better luck on the ensuing drive. Case Keenum engineered a short nine play, 39-yard drive, but it got the Broncos on the board first when Brandon McManus hit a 41-yard field goal for the early 3-0 lead.
Another scoring opportunity slipped right out their hands on the next drive. The offense was moving the ball, this time mixing it up with Roethlisberger with five completions and Conner with five carries for 16 yards. On third-and-one, Roethlisberger hit a wide-open Xavier Grimble for 23 yards. Grimble was hit at the one-yard line by Will Parks, forcing a fumble that went out of the end zone for a touchback.
The Steelers tied things up in the second quarter. Roethlisberger completed seven consecutive passes on the drive, but the offense was hampered by a pass interference call that they couldn’t dig out of. Boswell was called upon again, and his 41-yard field goal tied things up, 3-3.
The Broncos came right back. Phillip Lindsay set them up with a 32-yard run to the Steelers 38-yard line, and Keenum connected with Matt LaCosse for 17 yards. Keenum capped the drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to LaCosse, taking a 10-3 lead.
In need of a spark, Roethlisberger and company took over at their own 25-yard line with 3:27 to play in the half. Four straight completions, two each to Smith-Schuster and McDonald, set the Steelers up at the Broncos 48-yard line at the two-minute warning. Roethlisberger connected with Ryan Switzer for 15 yards and went back to him for 24 yards to the Denver seven-yard line. Two short passes and an incompletion gave the Steelers a fourth-and-two from the two-yard line, bringing on Boswell for his third field goal attempt of the game. The Steelers went into their bag of tricks, with Boswell faking it and throwing a two-yard touchdown pass to Alejandro Villanueva on the final play of the half, sending them into the locker room tied, 10-10, with momentum on their side.
And that momentum did carry over. On their second possession of the second half the Steelers started out buried at their own three-yard line. It didn’t take long to get out of dodge. Roethlisberger, under heavy pressure, heaved it from his own end zone to Smith-Schuster who caught it at the 33-yard line, and then was off to the races. Aided by his own stiff arm and a block by Brown, he took it the distance for a 97-yard touchdown, giving the Steelers their first lead of the day, 17-10. The touchdown was the second 97-yard touchdown of his career, the first was last season against Detroit.
The Broncos would be the next one to come up with a big play. Chris Harris Jr. picked off Roethlisberger, on a pass intended for Brown, and returned it 14 yards to the Steelers 43-yard line. Keenum went straight for the kill, hitting Sanders for 38 yards to the five-yard line. Keenum went right back to Sanders for a five-yard touchdown, tying the game, 17-17.
Another big defensive play by the Broncos gave them the ball back at the end of the third quarter. On the screen pass Conner was reversing field, and after a 23-yard gain was hit by Bradley Roby, forcing a fumble, that was recovered by Darian Stewart at the Broncos 23-yard line.
The Broncos made the turnover count when Lindsay took it in from the two-yard line, giving the Broncos back the lead, 24-17.
A detailed look at how they scored:
First Quarter: Steelers 0, Broncos 3
Scoring Play: Brandon McManus 41-yard field goal.
Scoring Summary: 9-39-3:10
Second Quarter: Steelers 3, Broncos 3
Scoring Play: Chris Boswell 41-yard field goal.
Scoring Summary: 9-56-5:20
Second Quarter: Steelers 3, Broncos 10
Scoring Play: Case Keenum 10-yard touchdown pass to Matt LaCosse.
Scoring Summary: 6-75-3:02
Second Quarter: Steelers 10, Broncos 10
Scoring Play: Chris Boswell two-yard touchdown pass to Alejandro Villanueva.
Scoring Summary: 12-75-3:27
Third Quarter: Steelers 17, Broncos 10
Scoring Play: Ben Roethlisberger 97-yard touchdown pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Scoring Summary: 1-97-0:15
Third Quarter: Steelers 17, Broncos 17
Scoring Play: Case Keenum 5-yard touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders.
Scoring Summary: 2-43-0:37
Fourth Quarter: Steelers 17, Broncos 24
Scoring Play: Phillip Lindsay two-yard touchdown run.
Scoring Summary: 11-79-5:43