With a shot at putting more distance between themselves and the Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers seemed to lose their grip on Sunday night in Denver, with turnovers and defensive breakdowns that caused them to lose a game they should have won, 31-28 to the Broncos. The offense committed three turnovers, though all could not be on the shoulders of Ben Roethlisberger. The defense had a shot to redeem itself after playing poorly most of the night, but allowed Bronco QB Jay Cutler to march down the field for the game winning field goal with 1:10 to go.
The Broncos played their best game of the season, and the Steelers played their worst on the National Sunday night spotlight. A Jason Elam 49-yard field goal as time expired sealed the win dropping the Steelers to 4-2 when they could easily be 6-0 if they would have made just a few plays in the two games they lost.
The Steelers allowed themselves to get down by 14 points twice, once after a sack and fumble that was returned for a score by rookie Tim Crowder, and again as Cutler threw a score on the last play of the 3rd quarter. Pittsburgh thrower Ben Roethlisberger both times brought the team back, the second time hitting rookie tight end Matt Spateh with a 13-yard score that tied the game at 28 with 1:10 to go.
That was more then enough time for Cutler to pick his way down the field. The QB went 4-for-5 on a drive that took Denver from their 20 to the Steelers 31, setting up Elam for the game-winning boot. Denver, who had dropped three in a row, improves to 3-3, while the Steelers drop to 4-2. Pittsburgh had been only allowing 9 points per game, but seemed out of sync in their first game after their bye week last weekend.
Roethlisberger did his usual running around, and went 24-for-35 for 290 yards with four TD’s and two interceptions. One of the picks was his fault as he tried to go deep on a play fake, the other the fault of returning wide out Hines Ward, who had the ball hit him in the hands, only to have it pop in the air for a Bronco turnover. Big Ben was also sacked four times, and had the key fumble that was returned for the score that made it 21-7 Denver in the second quarter.
As for the Bronco offense, they put on an impressive display against an aggressive Steelers defense. Cutler went 22-for-29 for 248 yards with three scores and two picks. The running game was not great, but still went for 90 yards, led by a big 31-yard scramble and run by Cutler. Travis Henry ran for 51 yards on 17 carries, but had to leave the game with bruised ribs in the third quarter.
As for Pittsburgh, this was another wasted opportunity to show why they are a heavyweight in the AFC. Their defense let them down, and by allowing Cutler to pick them apart in the last drive they showed their are not in the same league as other AFC powers New England and Indy. Plus the O-line once again did not do enough to protect Roethlisberger and credit him for scrambling for his life enough to make plays.