Roethlisberger throws 2 TDs, Steelers top Broncos 27-19.
The ruckus was drowned out by Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers. For at least a week.
It’s strange how having anything that resembles a running game for the first time in a long time can do that.
The Steelers beat Denver 27-19 on Sunday to break a three-game losing skid,
riding an offensive balance that had been missing for much of the previous two years.
Pittsburgh (2-3) rookie Najee Harris ran for a career-high 122 yards and a score before a cramping problem in his calves caused him to sit on the bench as Denver’s late comeback fell short.
In the fourth quarter, the Broncos(3-2) were down by 18 points until a pair of Teddy Bridgewater touchdown throws pulled them within striking distance.
With 11 seconds remaining, Bridgewater’s fourth-down heave to the end zone was intercepted by James Pierre, enabling the Steelers to exhale. For a little moment, at least.
When asked whether the win would make up for the harsh criticism he’s faced in the past month, Roethlisberger just grinned.
“I doubt it,” he replied. “But all that counts is that we won the game.”
And they triumphed in a manner that they’ll almost certainly need to stay up with the AFC North’s fierce competition.
The Steelers didn’t have to depend only on their 39-year-old quarterback to make anything happen after Harris ripped through gaps that didn’t exist in the first four games.
That had been the goal all along, but it got forgotten in the midst of a tough first month.
The Steelers have lost three of their last four games, despite a retooled offensive line that appeared overmatched at times.
Against the Broncos, not so much. The Steelers only gave up one sack and held Denver outside linebacker Von Miller at bay despite rushing the ball 35 times and throwing just 25 times, a ratio Roethlisberger is pleased with.
Roethlisberger lined up in the shotgun with the option to run or pass on many occasions, saw coverage that suggested he should probably throw it,
but chose to give it off to Harris instead because the 22-year-old runner and the five linemen in front of him had it going.
“Why would you remove it from his grip when you’re grinding it and getting it?” According to Roethlisberger. “Watching him succeed and take over was a lot of joy.”
However, Harris was forced to leave the game in the fourth quarter due to cramping.
Bridgewater almost drew the Broncoseven after spending the majority of the week in the NFL’s concussion protocol before returning to practice on Friday.
Bridgewater threw for 288 yards on 24 of 38 passing,
including a 2-yard dart to Kendall Hinton and a 39-yard rainbow to Courtland Sutton with 5:46 left to get Denver within 24-19.
In the closing seconds, Bridgwater drove Denver to the Pittsburgh 3 before Pierre’s first career interception stopped the danger.
Bridgewater said, “We can’t wait until the game is out of hand to have a feeling of urgency.”
Denver’s pristine September became more of a mirage after the defeat.
Last month, the Broncosdefeated the Giants, Jaguars, and Jets.
The Broncoswere put to the test by Baltimore and Pittsburgh in back-to-back weeks and came up short.
While Bridgewater bemoaned yet another sluggish start, Denver’s defense failed to provide much assistance.
Three times the Broncos seemed to have an interception in their hands, only for the ball to fall harmlessly to the ground.
In the second quarter, running back Javonte Williams broke off a 49-yard rush only to spike the ball after being stopped at the Pittsburgh 1.
The action resulted in a delay-of-game penalty, and the Broncos were forced to settle for a field goal.
Harris’ 1-yard plunge was set up by a pass-interference call on Kyle Fuller, and a rare “leverage” penalty on a Pittsburgh field-goal attempt instead handed the Steelers a first down.
Roethlisberger connected with Chase Claypool three plays later to give the Steelers a 24-6 lead,
just enough to put them at ease after a turbulent period.
Roethlisberger remarked, “We didn’t care whether it was beautiful (or) nasty.”
“All we wanted to do was win the game.”
Broncos: Cornerback Mike Ford (knee) left in the second half and did not return.
Steelers: JuJu Smith-Schuster, a wide receiver, was taken to the hospital with a shoulder injury after being tackled after a 3-yard gain on an end-around in the second quarter.
Devin Bush, an inside linebacker, exited the game in the third quarter with an undisclosed leg injury.
With the cramping problem, Harris had to leave late.
Broncos: They begin AFC West play next week hosting the Raiders. Las Vegas swept the season series last year.
Steelers: On Sunday night, they face the Seattle Seahawks (2-3) without Russell Wilson.
After having surgery on his right middle finger last Friday, Seattle’s top quarterback is out.