Champion Steelers hard to knock off when firing on all cylinders
Not only does Big Ben have control of the offense, he's Pittsburgh's main weapon
The Broncos should be encouraged about hanging tough with the Steelers
The Steelers defense forced three turnovers and didn't allow one offensive TD
Things we learned from the Steelers' 28-10 win over the Broncos Monday night in Denver ..
1. It's the same old Steelers defense in Pittsburgh. Rumors of the demise of last year's top-ranked defense over the first four weeks of this season were patently premature. For the second game in a row, the Steelers gave up a decent amount of yards -- but no points -- as they went back to their bend-but-don't-break mentality. Even when the Broncos were able to move the football, the Steelers always seemed to be able to make the critical play when they had to, including a pair or sacks by unheralded defensive end Brett Keisel.
And for the second game in a row as well, the Steelers were able to score points defensively. As one might have guessed, the safeties were the playmakers on the back end for Pittsburgh. What was surprising is that out of all of the safeties, it would be Tyrone Carter, filling in for Ryan Clark who was held out because of a rare sickle-cell trait, that would be the one to score the touchdown. Troy Polamalu didn't want to miss out on the fun, however, and his fourth-quarter interception led to a Ben Roethlisberger-to-Mike Wallace touchdown pass which cemented the victory.
2. The Denver Broncos are here to stay. There was a lot of debate and dialogue this past week about how the Broncos would react to getting humbled by the Ravens, after their surprising 6-0 start. Would they lose their swagger and confidence after the defeat, like the Jets and Giants both have done ever since the Saints handled them earlier in the season? Or was the Ravens loss just a temporary setback on the way to a postseason berth?
The Broncos answered that question right from the get-go by firing on all cylinders and dominating the first half statistically, if not on the scoreboard; and that was the problem. The Broncos controlled the action, yet had relatively little to show for it. Kyle Orton was able to spread the football around throughout the game, and especially early, to both Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal. His interceptions were costly, however, leading to 14 Steelers points. The Broncos may have lost the game, but they went toe-to-toe with the defending Super Bowl champs for 53 minutes before caving in the final minutes. The Broncos will be a factor for the rest of this season and likely in the playoffs, as well.
3. Big Ben is in total control of the Pittsburgh offense. His numbers were solid (21-29, 233 yds, 3 TDs, 1 INT), if not eye-popping, but Roethlisberger had great command of Bruce Arians' offense, especially when running the no-huddle offense. This is no longer the young Roethlisberger who simply won games because he happened to be playing under center for a team with a dominant defense and solid running game. Big Ben is now the clear leader and primary weapon offensively for the Steelers. Yes, he still holds onto the football and takes sacks at times, but he makes up for that by extending plays long enough to make a big throw -- like his touchdown pass to Wallace.
4. The Broncos aren't good enough to win if they turn the football over. There are some teams in the NFL -- like the Saints, Colts, and even the Steelers -- that can turn the football over a couple of times yet still win the game because of their talent. The Broncos can't. Their formula for success is very specific and involves playing solid defense, especially against the run, and taking care of the football. The Broncos did neither, yielding 155 rushing yards to Rashard Mendenhall and the Steelers' vastly improved offensive line, while turning the football over three times. Denver has now lost two in a row and needs to find a way to get back to what worked in the first six weeks.
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