Onto the second half, which, unfortunately, didn't go as well as the first half did. A 10-7 halftime lead disappeared quickly, thanks in part to a Demaryius Thomas 71-yard touchdown catch-and-run, and Peyton Manning's surgeon-like dissection of the Steelers' defense.
There are some good things, too. It may not be Shangri-La right now in SteelerNation, but it's not Baghdad either.
Here are some thoughts...
- Ben Roethlisberger's use of the no-huddle isn't much different than what the Broncos are doing. The main difference is the Steelers are much more aggressive with their defensive play-calling, and much of that is predicated off presnap movement. Roethlisberger has a hard count somewhere around nine seconds left on the play clock but the Broncos aren't going anywhere. Any adjustments Roethlisberger makes at this point appear to be hunches more than anything else.
- It's not that Roethlisberger is wrong, it's just that the Broncos aren't ever cheating out of position. And hat-on-hat, the Steelers aren't winning individual match-ups up front.
- Mike Wallace was used in the short passing game consistently, and he did pretty well. He isn't exactly looking to catch-and-run like his much larger counterpart, Thomas, is, but he runs sharp routes and looks the ball into his body (be nice if he caught it with his hands and turned to try to make a play, but a completion is a completion. Contrary to popular opinion, Wallace's decision to act as if he weighs 230 pounds and take on linebackers straight up may not be the best idea).
- Denver's defensive backs are doing a great job denying the Steelers' receivers the ball down the field. Cornerback Champ Bailey made a nice play on Wallace at the goal line in the first half, and now, safety Mike Adams denies Brown a catch in the end zone. Great job by the Steelers' offensive line on that play. Ben threw a good pass, Adams just recovered in time to get his hand on the ball.
- Adams' reward? Getting trucked by Jonathan Dwyer on the next play. He hangs on to make the tackle, but Dwyer hit him hard. But perhaps not as hard as left guard Willie Colon drilled linebacker Joe Mays (product of North Dakota State University) in the hole. When you've got a guard who can pull, why do you need a fullback?
- Right guard Doug Legursky is struggling - STRUGGLING - in this game. Ramon Foster playing with one eye doesn't seem so bad anymore.
- Comeback route after comeback route, it's as if the Steelers' secondary is waiting in vain for a double-move that never comes. A very disciplined approach for the Broncos offense. Take Thomas's catch out of this game, Manning is 18-for-24 with 182 yards passing. Definitely a strong game, but not as lethal as it seems. The Steelers led the league allowing 171 yards passing last season.
- And Thomas's catch came one yard behind the line of scrimmage. He isn't touched. Chris Carter showed blitz, and Manning changes the play to a quick screen. Carter bites on the play fake as he's running to Manning, which gets him out of the passing lane. Timmons appears to either be run-blitzing, or just wandering into the line of scrimmage with Larry Foote, so the Broncos have a 4-on-2 situation, including the guy with the ball. Polamalu is blown out of the play, Ryan Mundy runs himself out of the play, and since Timmons got sucked into the play fake, there's no one there to make the tackle.
- Roethlisberger's adrenaline is going now, and he fires a bullet downfield intended for Brown. Very close to being intercepted. The short passes were effective, but they were out of the playbook in the second half. On second down of that drive, Roethlisberger is almost picked off again. On third down, Emmanuel Sanders drops what would have been a first down. Fortunately for the Steelers, but not at all fortunately for Sanders, he's cracked in the head by safety Rahim Moore. Not sure how even the most ardent of aggressive football could argue with the penalty. Just a blatant cheap shot. That will be at least $15,000.
- Legursky has spent so much time in the backfield, I really thought he was the fullback for a minute.
- Even if his knee was down, it was a great run by Dwyer. Great vision in bouncing it outside, almost made the play of the Steelers' day. I really don't see how the Steelers can keep him off the field. Redman looked injured. Didn't run nearly as hard as we're used to seeing. Dwyer just produced. Nothing more to it.
- I enjoy watching replays of the Jim Harbaugh vs. Jim Schwartz post-game handshake. You won't find many who despise Schwartz as much as I do, but Harbaugh acted like a complete a-hole. Schwartz should have dropped him where he stood. Throw his brother into that trifecta, and you have my least favorite coaches in all of sports.
- I went into this game thinking Ryan Mundy and Keenan Lewis would be ok. I was wrong. It appears as if they're in man, twins to the defensive left side. The receivers, Jacob Tamme on the inside, Eric Decker on the outside, covered by Mundy (inside on Tamme) and Lewis (outside on Decker). Tamme runs a simple rub route (the "pick play"), and Lewis should simply just switch over to Tamme. Mundy picks up Decker the way he should, but Lewis is covering him as well, leaving Tamme with about eight yards of space, right at the sticks. That's a problem, but that's not the really bad part. Tamme catches the ball, and falls to the ground about a half yard short of the first down marker. Mundy and Lewis are jogging over to him, He's on the ground, a simple touch makes it 3rd-and-short. Tamme seems surprised no one is there, and he's able to stand up, turn around and run back inside, evading both Lewis and Mundy's weak efforts to tackle. He's able to pick up enough for the first down before Timmons puts him on the ground.
- Lewis and Mundy should be ashamed of themselves after that play.
- Lewis gives up a completion to Decker on the next play, backpeddling until Decker reaches him. When he does, Lewis continues to backpeddle despite the end zone being about four yards from him. Easy catch for Decker. Lewis makes the tackle at the one-yard line - a great play if there was no time left on the clock. First and goal.
- To finish it off, Tamme beats Mundy on a quick out for the score. Poor series for both Mundy and Lewis.
- Tracy Porter really played a great game in coverage. Wallace had him by a step deep, dove and got his hand on the ball. Great throw, Wallace had it, Porter just stepped up.
- He stepped up again on the next play. While Roethlisberger is getting crucified for missing a streaking Wallace down the field, the reality is he had two linemen and a collapsing pocket in his face. There's no way he could have stepped into a throw for Wallace that far down the field. He was trying to escape pressure by the time Wallace (who looked lost and confused) realized he was that open. No chance he could have made that throw.
- Broncos ball, and they exploit a rub route for the third time in the second half, this time, it's Lewis on the outside with Cortez Allen inside. Lewis again sticks with the outside man even after he comes in. Allen gets picked, and Tamme is wide open down the sideline. A complete lack of communication. Rest assured, the Jets will be running twin formations often in Week 2.
- Then Lewis gets pass interference on Decker at the goal line. First and goal. They go after him again on third down, he holds his own, but Decker could have made that catch. He didn't miss it by much.
- Porter picks Roethlisberger off, game, set, match. He finally got the interception he could have had three times prior to it. Roethlisberger is staring down Sanders, and judging by the route run on the back side by Antonio Brown, and the fact Wallace was run blocking, Sanders appeared to be the only passing option on the play. It was initially a quick slant, Ben held on, Sanders cut back and ran out, Roethlisberger forced it. Porter had little choice but to intercept the ball. For whatever reason, he didn't throw the slant as the play was constructed. Tough way to end a game.
- Well, not as tough as three sacks in the next four plays. Tough game overall, how's that?