Bob Labriola with his thoughts on "what went right, wrong" vs. Denver.**
WHAT WENT RIGHT**
* The Broncos opened with consecutive running plays on their first offensive series. On the first, Ronnie Hillman gained 1 yard. On the second, Will Allen forced a fumble that Mike Mitchell recovered at the Broncos 21-yard line.
- After the takeaway, the Steelers needed just two plays to get the ball into the end zone. The first play was a screen pass to DeAngelo Williams gained 19 yards and was aided by a pancake-block from David DeCastro on linebacker Danny Travathan. On the next play, Williams took a handoff and powered into the end zone over the right side, and after Mike Tomlin elected to kick the PAT, the Steelers had a 7-0 lead with 10:16 remaining in the first quarter.
- On the kickoff after the touchdown, Darrius Heyward-Bey raced downfield, avoided a blocker and dumped returner Andre Caldwell at the 15-yard line. That's why Heyward-Bey is active on game days and Sammie Coates is not.
- A 38-yard pass to Antonio Brown, down to the Denver 4-yard line, was nullified by a holding penalty on Heath Miller. Two plays later, Darrius Heyward-Bey drew a pass interference penalty on Aqib Talib that gave the Steelers a first down at the Denver 21-yard line.
- Steelers defense finally gets off the field on the opening possession of the second half. A holding penalty, an incomplete pass on a ball thrown behind Emmanuel Sanders, and a pass defensed by Ryan Shazier set up a third-and-20. The Broncos ran a draw play on third-and-20 and then punted. To that point, the Broncos were 8-for-8 on third downs.
- The Steelers closed the deficit to 27-20 midway through the third period after a 9-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown that followed a 26-yard pass interference penalty Brown drew on Broncos cornerback Chris Harris. The touchdown came on a pretty pass from Ben Roethlisberger that was perfectly timed and placed.
- It was a 36-yard punt by Jordan Berry that was in the process of being downed by the Steelers at the Denver 29-yard line but the ball hadn't been blown dead by the officials. Jordan Norwood came racing up to pick up the ball, and he returned it 71 yards for an apparent touchdown. But even the Broncos thought the ball had been downed by Shamarko Thomas, and their offense began to come onto the field. That made it a penalty for illegal substitution, and the touchdown came off the scoreboard with a 5-yard penalty assessed on the Broncos on the play. Three plays later – on the final snap of the third quarter – a Cam Heyward sack of Brock Osweiler set up a Denver punt from its own 18-yard line.
- After taking possession following the Broncos fourth punt of the second half, Ben Roethlisberger completed 5-of-5 for 51 yards including the 9-yard touchdown to Markus Wheaton, and the Steelers forged a 27-27 tie with 12:39 remaining in the fourth quarter.
- It started with pressure from Stephon Tuitt, and then after Brock Osweiler stepped away from that, Bud Dupree was closing fast from behind when the Denver quarterback tried to get the ball to Emmanuel Sanders over the middle. Ryan Shazier intercepted to give the Steelers the ball at the Denver 37-yard line with 4:20 left in the fourth quarter.WHAT WENT WRONG
- On the first play after the punt, the Steelers sent both William Gay and Antwon Blake on a blitz, and the Broncos capitalized. Emmanuel Sanders was all alone running through the Steelers secondary, and he took Brock Osweiler's pass and ran into the end zone untouched to complete the 61-yard play that gave the Broncos a 14-7 lead. With 3:08 left in the first quarter, Sanders already had four catches for 100 yards and a touchdown.
- The Steelers' first turnover came late in the first quarter. Ben Roethlisberger led Markus Wheaton a little bit too much on a crossing pattern, and Broncos safety Josh Bush was there to make a diving interception of the overthrow. His 13-yard return gave the Broncos possession at midfield. The first quarter then ended with the Broncos holding a 14-7 lead.
Game action as the Steelers hosted the Denver Broncos at Heinz Field.
- The Steelers' third-down defense was awful early. After the interception by Ben Roethlisberger, the Broncos drove 50 yards in 10 plays to take a 20-7 lead because they missed the PAT. On a third-and-goal from the 7-yard line, Brock Osweiler escaped contain and ran into the end zone for the touchdown. After that play, the Broncos were 6-for-6 on third downs.
- After an 14-yard run by Ronnie Hillman to set up a first-and-goal at the Pittsburgh 8-yard line with 2:43 remaining in the first half of a game in which Denver held a 20-10 lead, the Broncos offense was 8-for-8 on third downs.
- On a second-and-goal from the 6-yard line, Brock Osweiler threw a quick pass to the sideline to Demaryius Thomas, who stiff-armed Antwon Blake to the ground and ran into the end zone for the touchdown that upped the Broncos' lead to 27-10 with 1:56 remaining in the first half.
- Some first half statistics that reflected the Broncos having a 27-13 halftime lead: Brock Osweiler completed 14-of-18 for 214 yards, with three touchdowns, no interceptions, and a rating of 155.8. A perfect passer rating is 158.3. Also, Emmanuel Sanders caught eight passes for 139 yards and one touchdown, and adding his 24-yard run on a reverse, he finished the half with 163 yards from scrimmage. Including the 14 yards Osweiler gained on scrambles, the Broncos finished the first half with 89 yards rushing on 16 carries. By comparison, the Steelers finished with 8 yards rushing, all by DeAngelo Williams, on five carries.
- After a third straight punt by the Broncos offense to start the second half, Antonio Brown fielded the punt at the 9-yard line and returned it out to the 28-yard line. But an illegal block in the back penalty on Will Johnson forced the Steelers offense to begin the possession at their own 3-yard line with 5:32 remaining in the third period.
- For all of the great things Ben Roethlisberger did in the game, the interception he threw with 2:01 remaining in a game the Steelers led, 34-27, was the kind of mistake that's impossible to explain or excuse. Trying to force the ball to DeAngelo Williams along the sideline in front of the Denver bench, Roethlisberger as intercepted by Brandon Marshall to give the Broncos another shot to tie the game.
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