Pittsburgh Steelers melt down against Denver in first loss since September
After pulling victory from the jaws of defeat in Jacksonville in Week 11 for their sixth consecutive win, the Pittsburgh Steelers did precisely the opposite in a 24-17 road defeat to the Denver Broncos Sunday.
With all due respect to Vance Joseph’s Broncos, who fought hard to the end with some tremendous individual performances, namely from Phillip Lindsay (110 rushing yards and a TD) Emmanuel Sanders (7-86-1 receiving) and Chris Harris Jr. (three PBUs) along the way, the Steelers beat themselves, and there’s really no way to argue it.
The Steelers had a field goal blocked on their first possession. They fumbled into the Broncos end zone for a touchback on their second possession. Ben Roethlisberger was intercepted twice, including on the Steelers’ final play on offense, with Pittsburgh looking to tie the game on third-and-goal from the 2. James Conner also fumbled with the Steelers driving on Denver’s side of the field late in the third quarter.
That’s a tried and true way to squander amassing more than 500 yards of offense.
The Broncos parlayed Pittsburgh’s five “True Turnovers” into 17 points to win their second consecutive one-score game over a supposed Super Bowl contender and get to 5-6. In the AFC, that’s enough to make things interesting, particularly with a closing slate that takes the Broncos to the free-falling Cincinnati Bengals in Week 13 and 2-11 San Francisco 49ers in Week 14 prior to hosting the Cleveland Browns and L.A. Chargers in Weeks 15 and 17, respectively, with a trip to the woeful Oakland Raiders sandwiched in between.
Meantime, the Steelers, amid a bit of a November swoon, will host the Chargers and the Patriots over the next three weeks and visit perhaps the NFL’s best team, the New Orleans Saints, in Week 16. With Baltimore winning its second consecutive game to improve to 6-5, the 7-3-1 Steelers aren’t out of the AFC North woods just yet.
Roethlisberger has played poorly for the better part of the past two games despite what the numbers show. He tallied 462 yards Sunday but committed a crucial turnover in crunch time. He also limped briefly into the locker room immediately following his awesome 97-yard touchdown to JuJu Smith-Schuster in the second half, begging the question of how healthy he is right now? Conner has cooled off in a big way over the past two games, since Le’Veon Bell’s season officially ended. And Pittsburgh’s ‘D’ that played so well in its six-game surge had its issues Sunday, too.
This was a tough spot for Pittsburgh after the dramatic comeback in Jacksonville a week ago. It’s certainly possible they steady in primetime next Sunday night vs. the Chargers following a wobbly performance. But more tough spots await, and the way the Steelers played Sunday suddenly calls into question whether they’re ready for this difficult stretch drive.