By Teresa Varley
The Steelers exploded in the second half to defeat the Denver Broncos 28-10 and improve their record to 6-2.
Safety Tyrone Carter, starting for Ryan Clark, got the Steelers on the board first with a 48-yard interception return for a touchdown. After a defensive battle in the first half, the offense kicked it into overdrive in the second half, with Roethlisberger hitting Hines Ward for two touchdown receptions, and Mike Wallace adding a third.
Roethlisberger finished the night completing 21 of 29 passes for 233 yards while Rashard Mendenhall led the running attack with 22 carries for 155 yards.
The Broncos came out of the gate firing with Kyle Orton hitting Eddie Royal for a 13-yard gain. Orton found Royal again for 14-yards to midfield, and stuck with him for a 20-yard completion to the Steelers 25-yard line. But, just when things got going the Steelers defense stepped up. LaMarr Woodley knocked Correll Buckhalter for a three-yard loss, and William Gay broke up an Orton pass on third down. The Broncos were forced to settle for a 40-yard Matt Prater field goal, giving them a 3-0 lead.
Rashard Mendenhall opened things up for the Steelers with a five-yard gain and Santonio Holmes moved the chains with a nine-yard reception. Mendenhall added a six-yard carry, but the drive would stall there. Roethlisberger overthrew Ward and on third down couldn't find an open receiver and was sacked for a 10-yard loss.
Orton stayed with the air attack, finding a new target with back-to-back completions to Brandon Marshall. James Farrior knocked Knowshon Moreno for a two-yard loss, but Orton went right back to Marshall for nine yards. Jabar Gaffney pulled in a short three-yard grab, and on third down Ike Taylor stopped Marshall for a five-yard gain, short of the first down.
Roethlisberger lit it up with a 16-yard completion to Santonio Holmes, but an eight-yard sack took away half the yardage and they weren't able to get things rolling, forcing another punt.
The tide turned for the Steelers on the Broncos next drive. Orton was looking for Moreno, but Carter stepped in front of the ball, intercepting it and returning it 48 yards for a touchdown and 7-3 lead.
Brett Keisel let his presence be known on the next drive with a four-yard sack of Orton. But Orton came through on consecutive third down conversions with a 15-yard completion to Marshall and an 18-yard pass to Daniel Graham. His luck would run out when Gay broke up a sideline pass to Gaffney on third down. The Broncos went for it on fourth-and-five, but the eight-yard completion to Brandon Stokley was negated by a holding penalty on Ben Hamilton, forcing the Broncos to punt instead of having a first down.
The Steelers got the ball back and put it in the hands of Mendenhall for consecutive four yard carries, and then Roethlisberger hit the speedy Wallace for 11 yards. Mendenhall came back with a three-yard gain, but a false start penalty pushed them back five yards. Roethlisberger hit Ward for four yards and on third down was able to escape pressure, but the completion to Heath Miller went for no gain, forcing the third punt in as many possessions.
Denver had one last shot before halftime, but after an 18-yard completion to Marshall they lost yards on their next two plays and couldn't get out of the hole, sending the game into halftime with the Steelers leading 7-3.
It looked like the offense was going to make something happen to start the second half when Ward grabbed a seven-yard reception and Mendenhall converted the first rushing first down of the game with a six-yard carry. Roethlisberger connected with Ward for 18 yards and Holmes pulled in a 16-yard reception to the Broncos 33-yard line. But, defense continued to be the name of the game. Kenny Peterson sacked Roethlisberger for a 13-yard loss, knocking the ball out of his hands. Robert Ayers recovered, returning it 54 yards for a touchdown and 10-7 Broncos lead.
Roethlisberger and company responded the only way they know how – with their best drive of the night. Roethlisberger hit Wallace for 18 yards and Mendenhall burst up the sideline for 24 yards. Holmes pulled in a 35 yard reception to the three-yard line, and the Steelers hit pay dirt when Ward caught a three-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone to re-take the lead, 14-10.
After another defensive stop, it was back to work for Roethlisberger. Miller came through with a 14-yard reception and Mendenhall motored for a 28-yard gain. Roethlisberger found Wallace for 15 yards and it was back to Mendenhall for another eight yards. The Steelers continued to move the ball when Holmes pulled in a 10-yard reception at the 15-yard line. But on the next play, Roethlisberger's pass for Ward was intercepted by Andre Goodwin in the end zone to bring the drive to a halt.
The defense was able to hold, not allowing the interception to cause any damage, as both teams exchanged possessions.
The Steelers were able to pin the Broncos deep in their own territory at the nine-yard line and then came up with another big defensive play. Troy Polamalu intercepted Orton, setting the black and gold up with great field position at the 25-yard line. And they took full advantage of it. Roethlisberger hit Wallace for a 25-yard quick scoring strike, extending the lead to 21-10.
The Steelers added a three-yard touchdown pass to Ward in the closing minutes, securing a 28-10 win.