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Fourth Quarter Flop; Steelers Stumble to Opening Night 31-19 Loss to Broncos

One week into the 2012 season, and Steeler fans already have the script written to how this season is headed.

1. The offense line still stinks and is badly banged up
2. The running game – what running game?
3. The defense is old and can’t stop a team that can run a no-huddle
4. Injuries on both sides of the ball are already too much to overcome

At least that’s how I took it after three and a half painful hours Sunday night of listening to Cris Collinsworth suck off on Petyon Manning as if he’s the second coming, and watching the black and gold do some things right, but a lot more wrong in losing to the Broncos 31-19.

The storyline seemed to be playing out well for the first 45 minutes. The offense was controlling the time of possession, the defense had allowed 14 points but for the most part was okay, and the game seemed to be lining up for a Steelers win.

That’s when it all went wrong.

It started with a Steelers touchdown early in the fourth when Ben Roethlisberger hit Mike Wallace from three yards out to make it 19-14. The Steelers went for two, but the conversion failed, and it gave the Broncos an opening.

That’s all they needed, as Manning took them right down the field against a defense that should have been rested, but seemed gassed, and within 5 minutes he hit TE Jacob Tamme to put the Broncos up 20-19.

Then Denver converted a critical two-point conversion, making it a 22-19 game. The Steelers next possession? Try a 7-yard run, two incomplete passes, and a punt.

Denver then kicked a short field goal, setting up the Steelers for one more shot with two minutes left to go for the win down 25-19. They score a TD and an extra point – they win.


Roethlisberger on the 3rd play of the drive threw his worst pass of the night, and Tracey Porter took it back for a Broncos TD. Game. Set. Match. Broncos 31-19.

The Steelers ended the night with the ball for 35:05 to 24:55 for the Broncos, but were outgained 334 to 284. Roethlisberger was 22-for-40 for 245 yards with two TD’s and the pick.

Manning was 19-for-26 for 253 yards with two TD’s for the Broncos.

The Steelers run game was a joke, and new OC Todd Haley kept trying to go back to it to control the clock. On the night, the Steelers ran for 75 yards on 29 carries, a poor 2.9 yards per carry.

Issac Redman rushed 11 times for just 20 yards, and the leading rusher was Jonathan Dwyer with 43 yards on 9 carries.

In the end, I felt this was a game they would lose, it’s just frustrating the way they lost it.

Matt Loede has been in the sports media for over 16 years, with experience covering the MLB, NBA, and NFL. On Sunday’s during football season, you can hear Matt on national networks like Fox Sports Radio, Associated Press, and others. Born and raised in Cleveland Ohio, Matt studies and talks football inside and out, and is anxious to share his thoughts and comments with readers on a daily basis.



  1. Thomas Crowley

    September 10, 2012 at 12:32 am

    Pretty frustrating if you’re a steelers fan. But you have be encouraged about the offense. for the 1st game with a new offense that was pretty impressive.

  2. DrGeorge

    September 10, 2012 at 11:06 am

    Matt, your pre-game prediction of the score and your analysis was nearly perfect. Unfortunately. This game was really decided by the offensive and defensive lines: theirs were better than ours. Halley employed the right strategy and put us in position to win in the 4th quarter, but our guys didn’t execute. Denver employed the same strategy, and they did execute. Due to injuries and inexperience, the Steelers simply aren’t as good as Denver right now at any altitude.

    This was especially obvious on running plays; our O-line couldn’t make holes for our backs; Denver ran when needed. After Gilbert and Foster got hurt, the O-line didn’t protect Ben consistently on passing downs; Manning was sacked only once and rarely hurried. Our D-line didn’t stop the run and has no dominant pass rusher; the lack of pressure allowed Manning to survey the field and pick apart our secondary. Denver has two solid pass rushers and harrassed Ben all night.

    After Super Bowl 43 in 2009, Tomlin opted to hang on to his aging veterans to make another run at the Lombardi Trophy. I commented at the time that it was a calculated risk (it nearly succeeded), but that we would pay the price later for not rebuilding the D in 2010. Last year and this year, we are paying the price for that decision. Our D. simply can’t carry the team anymore, and our Offense simply isn’t consistently good enough to compensate. Moreover, our recent defensive draft picks aren’t as good as the men they replaced — at least, not yet.

    Our O & D will improve, as the young guys gain experience and our injured veterans return to the lineup. The question is whether the team will improve fast enough to get us into a wild card game this year. It may, barring any more serious injuries. But I think it will take a year or two and considerably better talent on D. to make us serious Super Bowl contenders again. The fun this year will be in watching the coaches and players develop this core of talent for the future.

    • George H

      September 10, 2012 at 12:34 pm

      I do agree that we need to start rebuilding the defense, but I still think this team can get to 11 wins. Lets not forget we got harassed in game one last year and we still went 12-4. Last night had some positives and negatives, but through it all, we still had a chance to win the game.

      I like trying to establish the run, but when the holes arent there then theres not much you can do. I would of went into NE offense mode and started doing quick, timed passes to move the chains down the field in place of the run game. The Steelers have so much talent in the receiving corps that its a shame not to see all of the guys getting a few touches a game. I believe with our personnel, we are much more equipped to be running more open sets and use an aerial attack. The run game can compliment the passing game. I would of also liked to seen Rainey used as a receiver last night as well. I noticed we tried to do a screen pass, but I believe our o-line might be too inept to properly block for it. I dont see any reason why this offense cant put up around 24 a game.

      Now the hard part is the defense. Lack of coverage. Lack of pressure. Lack of run stopping ability. Granted it was against Peyton Manning (I dont care if hes missed a year, hes still a top 5 qb), Lebeau and the defense needs to step up. Having Clark and Harrison back will certainly help, but that game showed what kind of season we could be in for defensively. The defense needs to get pressure and the defense desperately needs to cause turnovers or any hopes of a 7th Lombardi Trophy will fade away fast.

  3. mark

    September 10, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    Dick Lebeau put together a horrid defensive game plan. To make matters worse, the cb’s (Lewis/Allen) often failed to make tackles immediately after the catch. Taylor was abused again by Thomas and other than Larry Foote having a great 1st quarter, the LB crew was mediocre at best. Timmons has to start making plays! I never even heard McClendon’s name after all the hype of the pre season,and Mundy is a journeyman now and forever. Now for the offense: O-line continues to be a problem. I am starting to wonder if Kugler needs to share more of the blame? Bad penalties,un disciplined and porous and finally the injury bug. I know, cant blame injuries on coaches but maybe sometimes they are rooted in style of play? On to interior O-line play; Legursky is miserable and overmatched always. Colon played well except for his ever constant false starts. I guess no matter the position, Willie is jumpy. I didnt think Adams played too badly for a rookie and his future is still looking up. Haley is getting a pass from me this week, but I want to see how this offense does against a solid Jet team on Sunday.
    Anyway, if the pass defense doesnt look good against the Jets, our answer will be in early this year.

    • WestCoastSteelerFan

      September 10, 2012 at 9:04 pm

      Dick Lebeau learnd nothing from last years loss in Denver..still playing that soft zone with basically A single safety cause Troys is always around the line..Hell Midas well move him to middle linebacker! They have no pass rush up front because Hood an Hampton not made to rush..Their RUN stoppers (misses Aron Smith) didn’t hear Timmons name all night and that has been the norm lately he lookd heavy and slow. Footer had a decent game along with Keisel but the rest get a D grade..Dwyer gets a B coulda been an A due to the fact that those bums on the O-Line can’t open up a decent size hole..Redman ran like he was hurt or scared D..Ben and the recievers Heath included playd as expected B+ its not the loss I’m mad at..its the way they loss. The Defence has been the keyoy to their success..I wounded are those days over?

  4. Dave B.

    September 10, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    Our defense has gone from being a team strength for many years to being barely average at best . This team gets ZEROE pass rush from its defensive lineman . With that being said , this puts tremendous pressure on the linebackers to get the needed pass rush as well as helping out in pass coverage . Bottom line . the linebackers can only do so much . The next area of concern is the secondary . Its barely average at best . Ryan Mundy replacing Ryan Clark in the Denver game is a joke . Mundy looks an plays lost at times . Keenan Lewis at the other corner spot is a major work in progress . In time he may blossom into something , but right now the jury is still out . Granted were missing Harrison , but this defense needs to improve and bottom line , age and time is not on its side .

  5. Steve Geddes

    September 10, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    Time is on are side we we’ll be back !!!

  6. DrGeorge

    September 11, 2012 at 9:38 am

    Here’s an encouraging note on the Ravens-Bengals game last night: both defenses appear to be vulnerable to the run and to the no-huddle attack that Ben loves to run. Now if we can just keep our O-line healthy. The bad news is that both of those offenses look improved over last year, and Flacco in particular.

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