The Steelers put together their best second half of the season and by far their best fourth quarter to hand the Denver Broncos their second loss, setting up their biggest game of the season against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Broncos controlled the first half but still trailed 7-3 as a result of a Tyrone Carter 48-yard interception for a touchdown.
|AGELESS—Hines Ward celebrates with offensive tackle Willie Colon after Ward caught a touchdown pass against the Denver Broncos during the fourth quarter of the Steelers’ 28-10 victory in Denver.
Then came the second half and an entirely new Steelers offense took the field, well, after Ben Roethlisberger threw a touchdown pass to the wrong team to give Denver a 10-7 lead. But then he came back in just four plays to get that touchdown back, passing for 56 yards, with Rashard Mendenhall adding 24 on the ground leading to a 3-yard touchdown reception by Hines Ward to take a 14-10 lead. The Steelers never looked back from that point as the defense, behind James Harrison and Troy Polamalu, dominated the Broncos, holding them to three and out while picking up two interceptions, one by Polamalu and a second by Carter.
If it had not been for the two miscues by Roethlisberger, the game probably would have been a blowout. On one play he was stripped of the ball leading to a 54-yard touchdown by D.J. Williams, and the other play was after driving down to the 15 yard line where he threw the ball behind Ward, which led to an interception-killing the drive.
The offense, however, looked very impressive in the second half as the Steelers controlled the ball with a time of possession of 24 minutes to Denver’s 7. Roethlisberger was 21 of 29 for 233 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, evenly distributing the ball to his three wide receivers, although he didn’t go to tight end Heath Miller as much as in the past. After only one reception in the previous game, Ward had seven receptions for 44 yards and two touchdowns, Santonio Holmes had six for 93 yards and rookie sensation Mike Wallace had four for 69 yards and one touchdown. Miller only had three for 18 yards.
The key to the game, however, was the blocking of the right side of the line led by Willie Colon, Trai Essex and Justin Hartwig, who not only protected the quarterback, but opened big holes for Mendenhall who took full advantage of any little crease as he had his second best game of his short career with 156 yards on 22 carries. This was against the number one defense in the league entering the game.
While the Steelers were accumulating 173 yards rushing they held the league-leading Broncos to just 27. Kyle Orton was 23 of 38 for 221 yards passing and was forced into three interceptions, after giving up only only one coming into the game. Brandon Marshall did look impressive with 11 catches for 112 yards but most were in the middle of the field, and none turned into a touchdown.
Now the 6-2 Steelers will face the surprising Bengals in Heinz Field this Sunday with first place in the AFC North on the line. The Bengals kept the pressure on the Steelers Sunday by defeating the Baltimore Ravens 17-7 in a game that was much more lopsided than the score indicates. Carson Palmer is looking impressive and he and Chad Ochocinco are really beginning to click as he was 20 of 33 for 224 yards and one touchdown, with Ochocinco grabbing five for 66 yards and Laveranues Coles six for 72 yards. One huge loss for Cincinnati is the other wide receiver, Chris Henry, who is out for the season with a broken arm. This will put a lot more pressure on Ochocinco to produce against double teams. Someone else will have to step up.
The Bengals not only have an impressive passing game but Cedric Benson is second in the league in rushing as he picked up 117 yards on 34 carries against the stiff Baltimore defense. They are no longer a one-dimensional team; their defensive unit is just as impressive as the offense, holding a potent Ravens offense that had been averaging 30 points a game to just 7 points.
The winner will have sole passion of first place in the division and pretty much be in the driver’s seat.
In the next four games the Steelers will face the Kansas City Chiefs (1-7), the Baltimore Ravens (4-4), Oakland Raiders (2-6) and the Cleveland Browns (1-7). The Bengals will face the Raiders, the Browns, the Detroit Lions (1-7) and the Minnesota Vikings (7-1).
Note: Tyrone Clark did not play due to health reasons. The fact that he considered playing is amazing. One game or an entire season is not worth your life.