The Broncos came out looking to avoid going 0-2 for the second year in a row under Vic Fangio, as they tackled their first road game of the season against the Steelers.
Drew Lock going down early in the game looked to be a death knell for the team, but Jeff Driskel stepped up admirably and the Denver defense got some key turnovers to make up for terrible special teams play.
However, the team couldn’t get out of their own way, giving up seven sacks and once again letting a game within striking distance slip out of their fingers.
The focus will now be on how long Drew Lock will remain sidelined and if Denver can salvage the early part of their season.
Denver took the field to begin the game and came out firing to Courtland Sutton immediately. Looks like Pat Shurmur wanted to start fast and come out aggressive with Drew Lock slinging the ball right out of the gate.
Courtland Sutton is back baby. pic.twitter.com/4KUXRVx6ZV— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) September 20, 2020
A key pass interference call on 3rd down kept their first drive alive but it stalled out around the 40 yard-line.
The Steelers Keith Butler loves to dial up the rush on 3rd down. Bush has a free run to Lock on 3rd and 12. pic.twitter.com/82e9vjIyjL— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) September 20, 2020
Michael Ojemudia made a nice play on 3rd down to force the Steelers to punt on their first drive.
O.J. does a good job coming up to protect the sticks. #Broncos force a 3 and out. pic.twitter.com/xIySS67Xif— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) September 20, 2020
Melvin Gordon got going on the Broncos second drive with several nice runs, as Denver countered the Steelers blitzes by pounding the rock. However, what looked like a solid drive, ended in disaster when Drew Lock held the ball too long and ended up fumbling it away to the Steelers.
What do you think about Drew Lock here @ProFootballDoc? pic.twitter.com/ycvW4UzUHm— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) September 20, 2020
Even worse than the turnover, Drew Lock came up injured on the play after falling hard on his right shoulder.
Injury update for the Broncos: QB Drew Lock is questionable to return (right shoulder).— Patrick Smyth (@psmyth12) September 20, 2020
With Lock getting looked at in the locker room, Big Ben marched the Steelers down the field to capitalize on the turnover. Ojemudia had a chance for an interception in the end zone that went through his hands, and the Steelers punched it in a few plays later.
The biggest news of the game is obviously Lock being out. Jeff Driskel steps in at quarterback as we head into the second quarter.
Steelers 7 - Broncos 0
Driskel made a few plays in the passing game to get Denver in field goal position, and McManus got the Broncos on the board.
Steelers 7 - Broncos 3
The Denver defense held tough and forced the Steelers to punt, giving Jeff Driskel and the offense some help.
Fangio dials up the rare blitz for Justin Simmons. Easy deflection and the #Broncos hold on third down. pic.twitter.com/XXVtdz23QP— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) September 20, 2020
The Broncos offensive line continued to struggle with the Steelers’ blitz, and the offense under Driskel just looked completely inept.
The Steelers didn’t take long to take advantage, as rookie Chase Claypool burned Michael Ojemudia up the left sideline for a long touchdown.
Steelers 14 - Broncos 3
Chase Claypool toasts Michael Ojemudia. pic.twitter.com/vj2RwntJmA— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) September 20, 2020
Jeff Driskel started the next drive out with a really nice deep throw to Courtland Sutton, but the offensive line continues to be absolutely unable to protect the quarterback, and the drive eventually stalled with a missed long field goal.
Three sacks and seven total QB hits so far today for the Steelers.— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) September 20, 2020
The injuries continued to pile up for the Broncos as Jerry Jeudy went over the middle for a tough catch and took a big hit from Devin Bush. Jeudy was ruled probable to return.
WR Jerry Jeudy (rib) is PROBABLE to return.— Aric DiLalla (@AricDiLalla) September 20, 2020
The Steelers took advantage of a ball that went through Sutton’s hands to notch an interception of Jeff Driskel, and bring it all the way back to the red zone.
Jeff Driskel was high on this pass out of a clean pocket. Sutton can't hold on and the Steelers are on the doorstep again. pic.twitter.com/4NVdCzNJne— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) September 20, 2020
The Broncos defense held strong, forcing a field goal so the Broncos head into halftime down 14.
Steelers 17 - Broncos 3
The Steelers came out with a strong kick return to start the half and looked to be gaining momentum, but Justin Simmons came up with a big interception and return to give the Broncos the boost they needed, and set up the offense in great field position.
Justin Simmons with a clutch interception. pic.twitter.com/Hdr7gYvrXW— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) September 20, 2020
Jeff Driskel hit KJ Hamler and Noah Fant for big first downs to get them down in a goal to go situation. Denver, unable to punch it in after yet another sack set them back, had to settle for a field goal.
Steelers 17 - Broncos 6
The Broncos defense held up on the subsequent series, forcing a punt after a 4th down stop. Aside from the big play against Ojemudia, the Denver defense has performed pretty well considering.
While Jerry Jeudy did return from being shaken up earlier, Courtland Sutton left the game and didn’t return.
Driskel continued to find Jerry Jeudy and Noah Fant, though, and threw a great corner route to Fant for a touchdown to put Denver back into the ball game. Fant also converted the subsequent two point attempt.
Devin Bush can't cover Noah Fant and the #Broncos are somehow in this game. pic.twitter.com/2CAkySGmip— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) September 20, 2020
Steelers 17 - Broncos 14
We now have a ballgame!
The Steelers continue to be aggressive, going for it on 4th down, which led to a great play by Ben Roethlisberger for another Steelers touchdown later in the drive.
Ben Roethlisberger looking like his old self on this throw out of structure to Diontae Johnson for six. Rookie Michael Ojemudia having a hard day. pic.twitter.com/abvuxD78UN— Bobby Football (@RobPaulNFL) September 20, 2020
Steelers 24 - Broncos 14
Instead of responding on offense, the Broncos put themselves into a deeper hole with terrible special teams play. After poor field position from a bad decision to bring the ball out of the end zone on a kick return, the mistake was compounded with the punter, Sam Martin dropping the snap in the end zone, leading to a safety.
Steelers 26 - Broncos 14
However, just when it seemed like Denver was completely out of the game, the defense forced a fumble that was recovered by Kareem Jackson, giving the Broncos a ray of hope.
Jeff Driskel continued to hang tough and lead the team back down the field, dropping a beautiful pass into Melvin Gordon for a touchdown.
Melvin Gordon out here looking like WR 1 @Melvingordon25 @Broncos pic.twitter.com/nw4BAHiPVC— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) September 20, 2020
The roller coaster continues!
Steelers 26 - Broncos 21
The Broncos defense came up big again with a key stop, to give the offense a shot at coming back for a winning score.
A pass interference call and an amazing grab by Noah Fant got Denver down into Steelers territory.
Nice throw under duress by Jeff Driskel, better catch for Noah Fant. pic.twitter.com/pGraji5mQO— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) September 20, 2020
The Broncos ended up giving away a chance to get a first down, missing a 3rd and 2 and giving up their 7th (!) sack on the final 4th and 2.
The coaching staff deserves credit for keeping the team together as the game looked very close to snowballing out of control multiple times. It would have been very easy to fold under all the mistakes, but the Broncos kept fighting, despite all the blunders.
I thought the Denver defense had a nice game, keeping the offense in it with multiple turnovers and giving them plenty of chances. In the end, the mistakes were too many to overcome and Denver drops to 0-2 to start the season, for the second straight year.
The Broncos are still a team who just doesn’t seem to know how to win.
Speedy recovery, Drew.