I think it’s safe to say the Champs are officially back.
After a slow start to their Monday night matchup with the Broncos, the Steelers exploded in the second half, outscoring the Broncos 21-7 as they walked out of Invesco with their fifth straight win – 28-10. The win sets up a big North showdown with the fellow first place Bengals Sunday at Heinz Field. Both teams will enter the game at 6-2.
For the Steelers, the first half could not have been any uglier, except for the score. The team got a gift pick six from Kyle Orton that Tyrone Carter, replacing Ryan Clark who sat out the game, took back for a score to give the team a 7-3 lead.
Denver took their first possession of the game and used an 8-play drive to get to the Steelers 22 before Matt Prater kicked a 40-yard field goal to make it 3-0. The Steelers did nothing worth talking about in the first quarter, running 11 plays and gaining 20 yards while Ben Roethlisberger was sacked twice.
The second quarter as much of the same till Carter picked off Orton about three minutes into the second quarter, and took it back untouched for the defensive score that put the Steelers up. The offense was still in stuck mode, as the team had just one real offensive possession in the quarter, and punted after gaining just one first down.
It was after the half that the team started to finally assert itself. They started fast, going from their 17 to the Broncos 33, when the last negative play of the night happened for the Steelers. Roethlisberger was under pressure, and stripped by Kenny Peterson. The ball rolled around till Robert Ayers picked it up and went 54 yards for a score to make it 10-7 Denver.
The lead would be short lived for the Broncos.
The Steelers responded right away, as they needed just two minutes to go the distance. A pass to Mike Wallace went for 18 yards, then Rashard Mendenhall went 24 yards. A deep pass to Santonio Holmes went for 35 yards to the Broncos three. One play later the team took the lead for good, as Big Ben hit Hines Ward for a three-yard TD to make it 14-10.
The game stayed tight till midway through the fourth quarter. A huge Troy Polamalu pick of Orton set the Steelers up at the Broncos 25. On third down Roethlisberger extended the play, and threw deep to Wallace, who beat Brian Dawkins for a score to extend the lead to 21-10 with 7:03 left.
Then the defense started to pounce. Orton and the Broncos were unable to do much of anything, and quickly went three-and-out and were forced to punt. That’s when the offense put the finishing touches on the win. Led by Mendenhall, who had 155 yards on 22 carries, the team marched to the Denver three, when Roethlisberger hit Ward for a second score to close out the game at 28-10 with 1:22 left.
Roethlisberger was 21-for-29 for 233 yards with three scores and a pick. His QB rating was 116.0. Orton was under stress for most of the second half. He was just 23-for-38 for 221 yards with three picks. The Steelers amassed 375 yards of offense, holding Denver to 242 yards.
After a first half that was not so hot, the team held the ball total for 33:03 to 26:57 for the Denver. The defense also held Denver to zero first downs rushing, and just 27 yards on the ground while the Steelers put up 173 yards rushing.