Broncos fans expected the game at Heinz Field to be a tough one, but few expected Denver to be dominated by Pittsburgh as easily as they were.
The Steelers got the first strike with what seemed like an all-too-easy touchdown after just six plays and three minutes and the Broncos struggled to keep the offense on the field.
It would be an absolutely ugly first half and third quarter, but a fourth-down conversion to start the fourth quarter set up the Broncos first touchdown and that led to a quick second touchdown, suddenly making this awful football matchup somewhat of a game.
With no timeouts and 2:39 to go, Bridgewater and the Broncos offense attempted a miraculous comeback.
But despite a valiant drive, it was not to be.
Broncos played a terrible 3 quarters.— Zac Stevens (@ZacStevensDNVR) October 10, 2021
Came up three yards shy of an incredible comeback in the 4th quarter.
Steelers had the first possession of the game, and with two short runs by Najee Harris, the reports of Ben Roethlisberger’s demise seemed to be true.
But after a 23-yard third-down conversion to Chase Claypool followed three plays later by another third-down conversion that was a 50-yard touchdown strike to Diontae Johnson.
So much for Big Ben being washed up. pic.twitter.com/2FMX7x6weT— Doctor of Words (and tights) (@docllv) October 10, 2021
When the Broncos offense took over to show if they could respond, it couldn’t handle the crowd noise and got a delay of game penalty to start the series at 1st-and-15. The next two plays were short runs before throwing a five-yard pass on 3rd-and-9.
A disappointing outing set up a three-and-out and a punt. Not the way to wear down the Steelers defense and give your own D a chance to rest.
The Steelers offense was driving behind the legs of Harris before Malik Reed hit Big Ben, forcing a fumble and giving Broncos the ball - and a much-needed break.
Bridgewater and the offense couldn’t take full advantage and settled for a 39-yard field goal, closing the gap 7-3 Pittsburgh.
The start of the second quarter looked like it could be another march down the field for the Steelers thanks to Harris once again, but a big run stop by Von Miller set up 2nd-and-13, followed by an incomplete pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster that forced Steelers to settle for a 48-yard field goal.
Steelers with the seven-point advantage once more.
The Broncos’ next drive would end in another three-and-out after a tipped pass on second down and a bad drop by Courtland Sutton on 3rd-and-3.
But the Broncos’ defense, despite barely getting any rest, pinned the Steelers offense deep in their own territory, capped by a huge pass breakup by Pat Surtain on a long pass, setting up 4th and 2 for the Steelers and their first punt of the day.
On the Broncos’ next offensive possession, Javonte Williams broke open on a 49-yard run, nearly scoring a touchdown but coming up just short at the 2-yard line.
But on 2nd and goal, Devin Bush flies through the line, creating a huge loss and ultimately forcing the Broncos to just rely on Brandon McManus for another field goal.
When the Steelers took over with just under six minutes, a second-down throw to Chase Claypool against Von Miller in coverage led to a huge gain to put the Steelers in the red zone. A terrible pass interference call on Kyle Fuller a few plays later set up a 1st-and-goal on the one. Najee Harris would easily convert that into six points on second down and a leap over the #Broncos’ exhausted defensive line.
The Harris TD would put the Steelers up 17-6, where the score would stay into halftime as Bridgewater and the offense could do nothing.
It was an ugly half of football.
Broncos got the ball to start the second half, but despite sustaining a drive for xxx plays, couldn’t convert to a score and had to punt. Again.
And when the Steelers got the ball back, it was obvious the Broncos’ D was gasping for air, strung out and playing catchup on nearly every play - including three running plays to start with a total of 26 yards, followed soon after by a pair of 14-yard passes to Harris out of the backfield and Claypool in the flat.
Thankfully on 3rd-and-11, Roethlisberger lofted the ball and overthrew Ray-Ray McCloud by nearly 10 yards, setting up a field goal and just three more points instead of seven. However, Dre’Mont Jones used the Steelers’ offensive line to jump over the top, giving Denver a 15-yard personal foul, and Pittsburgh a 1st-and-10 at the 18.
Two incompletes in a row put the Steelers back to 3rd-and-10, but a strike to Claypool in the end zone seemed to break the game wide open. Steelers 24, Broncos 6.
Bridgewater and Patrick opened their next series with a big first down, only to be followed by a sack for an 8-yard loss, setting up 2nd-and-18 and Pat Shurmur dialed up a run play up the middle...for a 3-yard gain and 3rd-and-15. A 10-yard completion to Patrick set up 4th-and-5 to close out the quarter.
Embarrassing. Or as Andrew Mason said, “Atrocious.”
Broncos opened the quarter with a big fourth-down conversion on a pass from Bridgewater to Patrick that required chains to show he got it by a centimeter. Not abandoning the run, the next play went to Williams who carried a few tacklers to the first down before coming up with minus yard play on the next one.
An eight-yard play on 3rd-and-11 to Noah Fant, set up another fourth-and-manageable play that was converted into a 1st-and-goal with a huge 25-yard completion to the three.
On second-and-goal, Lloyd Cushenberry got a holding call, putting the Broncos back to the 13 for 2nd-and-goal. Bridgewater took it himself for 11 to bring on 3rd and goal two yards out.
Pat Shurmur, forgetting he had Williams, dialed up a pass play that predictably went incomplete, but a pass to Kendall Hinton on fourth down saved the drive and gave Denver a touchdown.
Also gave the backup wide receiver-sometimes QB his first NFL touchdown.
That TD ignited Denver’s defense to get a big three-and-out stop on Pittsburgh, giving the ball back to its offense with just over 10 minutes left and down 11.
And the offense took advantage, capping a 1:52, five-play drive with a 39-yard touchdown to Sutton. A failed two-point conversion cut the Steelers’ lead 24-19.
Suddenly the Steelers’ touchdown instead of field goal thanks to Dre’Mont Jones’ penalty is looking much worse.
Steelers were able to get down the field enough to add a field goal to the score, pushing their lead to seven but giving the Broncos’ offense the ball with just over two minutes left.
Some huge catches by Sutton and Hinton got the Broncos down to the 9. But a terrible no-call on defensive holding set up 4th and goal, and Bridgewater was intercepted in the end zone.
Who deserves the worst grade from this game?