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Defense clamps down as Steelers rally past Broncos

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Ben Roethlisberger threw for 380 yards and three touchdowns, the Steelers' defense blanked the Broncos in the second half and Pittsburgh scored 24 unanswered points to beat Denver 34-27 and move into the sixth playoff spot in the AFC.

PITTSBURGH—Neither Pittsburgh nor Denver had very much success running the ball on Sunday, so both teams resorted to an air show instead.

Ben Roethlisberger completed 40 passes on 55 attempts for 380 yards and three touchdowns, and Brock Osweiler completed 21 passes on 44 attempts for 296 yards and three touchdowns. In the end, Roethlisberger and the Steelers prevailed in a 34-27 come-from-behind win in a tale of two halves at Heinz Field.

“This was our last game at Heinz Field [this year]. We wanted to go out and give our fans a show,” Roethlisberger said. “I think they got their moneys’ worth.”

Denver (10-4) could do no wrong in the first half as Osweiler picked apart the Steelers’ (9-5) secondary in leading the Broncos to a 27-13 lead at the break. The Steelers managed to convert a field goal drive to end the half and cut into the Broncos’ lead. Roethlisberger credited Denver’s defense after the game.

“There’s a reason [Denver] is the number one defense,” Roethlisberger said. “We needed to make plays today.”

The game completely flipped after halftime as the Steelers rode that momentum on both sides of the ball into the second half and scored two unanswered touchdowns to tie the score 27-27 early in the fourth quarter. They took their first lead of the game with 3:24 left when Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown for a 23-yard touchdown and the Steelers held on for the 34-27 win.

“Great win for us, obviously,” Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin said. “I thought the belief in the face of adversity was the common thread that allowed us to make the necessary plays to get out of the stadium [with a win].”

The win was not as easy as all that though, as the Broncos kept fighting and had opportunities to tie or win the game in the final minutes.

Denver was driving on its own 27 yard line after forcing a punt when Ryan Shazier intercepted an Osweiler pass at the Bronco 37 yard line. The Steelers took advantage of the short field and Roethlisberger hit Brown for the go-ahead touchdown.

“It feels great to get the win. I’ll do whatever I can to help our team win," Shazier said. "In the second half we knew we had to put everything on the line. We had better communications in the second half. We needed to calm down and focus more. That’s what we did in the second half."

Shazier described his key play. The pass was intended for former Steelers receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who had a whale of a game himself with 10 catches for 189 yards in his return to Heinz Field.

"I was just watching my guy. I turned my head back around and I saw he was getting ready to throw the ball," Shazier said. "I just said that this was my opportunity and I need to get the ball and give our offense a close opportunity."

The Steelers’ defense allowed Denver to convert a perfect 8-for-8 attempts on third down in the first half but held the Broncos to 1-for-9 on third down in the second half. After giving up 27 points in the first half, Pittsburgh's defense pitched a shutout in the second half.

The Broncos appeared to crack the scoreboard late in the third quarter after a Steelers punt. The ball seemed to be downed by Pittsburgh on the Denver 33 yard line, but Jordan Norwood picked up the ball and returned it for a touchdown against a confused Steelers punt team.

However, the play also confused the Broncos offense, as they started taking the field when they thought the ball was downed and were caught on the field while the punt return was still in progress. The penalty for too many men on the field nullified the punt return touchdown and the Broncos would not see the end zone the rest of the game.

The Steelers defense rose to the occasion in the final three minutes. The offense was trying to run out the clock and Roethlisberger hurried a pass down the left sideline but Brandon Marshall picked it off to set up the Broncos on the Pittsburgh 42-yard line.

"I was trying to make something happen. You just got to be smart," Roethlisberger said. "Our defense bailed us out."

The defense forced three Osweiler incomplete passes to snuff out Denver's scoring opportunity. The offense took over once again to put the game away and faced third down and five near midfield. Roethlisberger did not hesitate to tempt fate again and attempted another pass to get a first down and ice the game. This time, it worked.

Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown for an 8-yard gain and a first down with 1:30 left to ice the game. Denver had no timeouts left so Roethlisberger took two knees to run out the clock.

"When you fall off the horse, you have to get back on it. We knew we had to get a first down," Roethlisberger said. "I was glad they called a pass. I saw the coverage and the look I wanted and I went to my guy [brown]. He made a play."

Brown finished the game with 16 catches for 189 yards and two touchdowns.

"AB was AB.  Period," Roethlisberger said. "

Brown commented after the game that the team did not give up hope after the lopsided first half.

"There's going to be adversity against a good team like the Broncos. The first half was the first half. We knew it would be a fight to the finish. You can't get worried or frustrated. We worked on staying positive," Brown said. "Over the quest of a football game, things aren’t always going to turn out the way you want. If you want to be the best, you gotta beat the best. We had to play great offense against a great defense."Steelers Jarvis Jones Stephon Tiutt

STAT of the GAME
According to some reports, Denver cornerback Chris Harris had not given up a touchdown in two years. Brown was not intimidated by Harris' reputation, as he caught two touchdowns on Sunday against him.

"I don’t worry about guys' stats. Obviously, it was a great matchup today. They were a great defense," Brown said. "I just try to run my assignments the best I can. It was a great day for us."

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