Steelers take Broncos for a wild ride
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DENVER -- The Steel Hurtin' defense, playing without three starters, rose up in the mile-high altitude to deliver a crushing victory tonight, their fifth straight.
The Steelers dominated the Broncos and won, 28-10, despite losing two big turnovers of their own, one for a touchdown and another that prevented one.
The victory lifted the Steelers' record to 6-2 and a tie with Cincinnati atop the AFC North Division. The teams meet Sunday in Heinz Field. Denver lost its second straight to go 6-2.
Three times, the Steelers intercepted Kyle Orton, who had thrown just one in his first seven games, and both turnovers led to Steelers touchdowns.
Tyrone Carter, the man who replaced Ryan Clark at free safety in Denver, intercepted Orton twice. His first came in the second quarter when he returned it 48 yards for a touchdown. Clinging to a four-point lead in the fourth quarter, Troy Polamalu intercepted Orton at Denver' 25 and Ben Roethlisberger delivered with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace with 7:03 left.
It was the second of three Roethlisberger touchdown passes. He also threw two to Hines Ward, both for three yards, one in the third quarter and the final with 1:22 left.
Rashard Mendenhall shredded the NFL's No. 1 defense, running 22 times for 155 yards as the Steelers leaned on their ground game more than they have recently. Roethlisberger completed 21 of 29 passes for 233 yards, three TDs and one interception.
Denver, determined to run on the Steelers, was impotent on the ground and Orton had no TDs and two interceptions.
Defensive starters Clark, end Travis Kirschke and linebacker Lawrence Timmons did not play last night because of health issues.
If not for two Roethlisberger turnovers in Denver territory, this game might have been a laugher. The first came when he was sacked and stripped of the ball and rookie linebacker Robert Ayers returned the fumble 54 yards for a touchdown. The second occurred when Roethlisberger threw behind Ward from his 15 into the end zone, where cornerback Andre Goodman intercepted.
Denver, the NFL's top-ranked defense, pulled a play all too familiar to the Steelers to take a 10-7 lead early in the second half.
Unable to generate much on offense in the first half, the Steelers took the opening kick of the second half and moved smartly from their 17 to a first down at the Broncos' 33. Operating in a one-back set, Roethlisberger dropped back to pass, cocked his arm to throw and had it stripped by defensive end Kenny Peterson, who had beaten guard Chris Kemoeatu on the play.
The ball bounced back and Ayers scooped it up and ran untouched 54 yards for a touchdown. It was reminiscent of linebacker LaMarr Woodley's score against the Vikings two weeks ago for the Steelers.
What had been a rather dull first half picked up tempo quickly. It took the Steelers precisely four plays to respond to that Denver touchdown with one of their own. Roethlisbeger completed three passes for 56 yards and Mendenhall ran once for 24. Ward caught the touchdown in the back middle of the end zone on first down with Roethlisberger in a shotgun formation from the three.
It also was the first offensive touchdown since Mike Wallace caught a 40-yard TD pass against Minnesota in the second quarter.
Roethlisberger was in position to throw for another and put his team up by two scores with a first down at Denver's 15 late in the half but his pass for Ward sailed behind him and was intercepted by Goodman.
Carter intercepted a Kyle Orton pass and returned it 48 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter to give the Steelers a 7-3 halftime lead. It was the third defensive touchdown for the Steelers over their past two games and only Orton's second interception this season.
It was the fourth interception by Carter in his past three starts at free safety since 2008 and his second for a touchdown. Clark, dressed in grey Steelers sweatsuit on the sideline, was among the first to greet Carter On the play, intended receiver Knowshon Moreno ran into umpire Garth DeFelice as he came out of his break over the middle or he might have caught the pass. Instead, the perfect ump pick left only Carter wide open and he took off for the touchdown.
Rookie defensive end Ziggy Hood had pressure up the middle on that play, a first down which began at the Denver 42.
That score was the first for the Steelers since their defense scored twice in the fourth quarter to secure a 27-17 victory over Minnesota Oct. 25. Their offense has not scored during that span.
The Steelers offense has now gone four quarters without scoring a touchdown and struggled mightily to move the ball in the first half last night. They managed only three first downs on 18 first-half plays.
Before Carter's interception, Orton had thrown nine touchdowns and his only interception came on a Hail Mary pass.
The Broncos took a 3-0 lead when Matt Prater kicked a 40-yard field goal on the game's first series.
First Published November 9, 2009 9:18 pm