STEELERS DEFEAT BRONCOS 28-10
The Steelers took it to the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football scoring 21 points in the second half on way to a 28-10 win. The victory moved the Steelers (6-2) into a first-place tie with the Cincinnati Bengals (6-2) in the AFC North. The Broncos now sit at 6-2 after suffering their second consecutive to AFC North opponents. The Steelers play host to the Bengals next Sunday at 1 pm, while the Broncos travel to the nation's capital to take on the lowly Washington Redskins.
Denver Broncos Brandon Marshall (15) tackles Pittsburgh Steelers' Troy
Polamalu after Polamalu intercepted a pass by Kyle Orton in the fourth
quarter of the NFL football game in Denver on Monday, Nov. 9, 2009. The
Steelers won 28-10. (AP Photo/Chris Schneider)
STEELER D STILL TOPS IN NFL
The Steelers D' proved they are still one of the best in the league on Monday night. They held the Denver offense to 3 points and 27 total rushing yards. The Steelers D' held rookie RB Knowshon Moreno to 3 yards on 5 carries. Terrel Buckhalter carried 9 times for 24 yards. Brett Kiesel recorded 2 sacks and knocked down a pass by Kyle Orton on a crucial 3rd down in the fourth quarter. Safety Tyrone Carter snagged two picks and returned one for a TD filling in for starter Ryan Clark (sickle-cell). Troy Polamalu had the Steeler's other INT.
Keep in mind the Steelers D managed to do all of this on the road, and against a 6-1 opponent, without starters Aaron Smith (shoulder), Lawrence Timmons (ankle), and Ryan Clark (sickle-cell), and second string defensive end Travis Kirschke (back).
THE D IS DEEP
The Steelers D didn't miss a beat without Timmons, Clark, Smith, and Kirschke. LB Keyaron Fox filled in for Timmons and led the team with 6 tackles. Fox is considered the best special teams player in the league by his teammates, and certainly proved he can start in the NFL. If Fox wasn't on the Steelers, aka Linebacker University, he'd be starting somewhere.
As I mentioned earlier, Tyrone Carter had 2 INT's in place of Clark, returning one for a TD. Nick Eason and rookie first-round draft pick Ziggy Hood rotated at end in place of Smith/Kircshke and helped stuff the Denver rushing attack and harrass Kyle Orton. Timmons and Clark should both be ready to go against Cinci on Sunday.
The Steelers offense achieved almost perfect balance on Monday night tallying 233 yards through the air and 173 on the ground. Roethlisberger and the offense looked confused in the first half scoring 0 points. The Steelers only points in the first half came off of Carter's INT. The Broncos showed Roethlisberger a lot of different fronts and continually brought more blitzers than the Steelers could handle. Yet Mendenhall was still gaining decent yardage on first down runs. The Steelers ran into trouble when they abandonded the run, putting Roethlisberger in the shotgun on second and third down. Had they been a little more determined to establish the run, they could have made the Broncos ease up on their blitzing, and allowed Big Ben more time to look down field for Wallace and Holmes.
At half-time the Steelers coaching staff made all the right adjustments. The offense came out in the third quarter and pounded the rock with Mendenhall, who ended the game with 155 yards on 22 carries. The Broncos had to respect the run, and as a result, Wallace, Holmes, and Ward got open down field. Big Ben hit Hines Ward on a slant-route for a 3 yard TD completion at the end of a 4 play 80 yard drive. He then hit Mike Wallace on 25 yard TD early in the fourth-quarter, putting the game on ice. Another three yard TD pass to Ward was icing on the cake for Pittsburgh.
The Broncos D were forced to put more men in the box after Mendenhall broke off big runs of 28 and 36 yards. Mendenhall's 36 yard run came on a 2nd and 18 play.
Rashard Mendenhall gets my vote for the MVP of the game. Mendenhall broke off 3 runs of over 20 yards on his way to 155 yards rushing on just 22 carries. Keep in mind Mendenhall's 155 yards came against the number one ranked D in the league coming into the game.
Mendenhall once again showed why the Steelers made him their first-round choice in 2008 putting his perfect combination of size and speed on display. The second year RB also had one reception for 9 yards. I'd like to see Ben look for Mendenhall in the flat more, and I'd like to see offensive coordinator Bruce Arians dial up a screen pass for Mendenhall here and there. It seems like great things happen when the ball is in this guy's hands.
BRONCOS OFFENSE BEING EXPOSED
After two consecutive losses to Baltimore and Pittsburgh, its obvious the Broncos offense is struggling to make big plays. Once the Steelers realized Orton doesn't have the ability to throw the ball deep, they played more aggressive, pressuring Orton into ill-advised throws. Woodley, Harrison, and Kiesel put the heat on Orton, while William Gay, Ike Taylor, Tyrone Carter, and Troy P began breaking on the short routes to Marshall and Royal. The Broncos couldn't run at all against the Steelers, and when you can't run or threaten with deep passes against the Steelers, you're going to have a long night, or in this case, a long second half.
PLAY OF THE GAME
In my opinion the play of the game came in the fourth quarter on Mendenhall's 36 yard run on 2nd and 18. Mendehall's scamper on 2nd and 18 came directly after he was stuffed for -8 on first and 10, deep in Steelers territory with his team up 21-10. The run allowed the Steelers to kill the clock, preventing any chance of a Denver comeback.
HARRISON LEVELS BUCKHALTER
Perhaps my favorite play of the night occurred after the game was already in hand. With less than a minute remaining, and Denver desperately trying to make the game respectable, Orton threw a short pass over the middle to RB Terrell Buckhalter who turned up field before being absolutely crushed by James Harrison. Buckhalter didn't fall backwards, instead he actually went straight up into the air, spinning like a ballerina before falling to the turf. I'll try to get a video of the hit up as soon as it becomes available.
Here is a little highlight reel of some big hits by #92...