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The Week 15 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos marked the final regular season game at Heinz Field for the 2015 regular season, and also an extremely significant matchup in regards to the AFC Playoff Picture for both teams.
The Broncos won the opening coin toss and elected to defer to the second half, giving the Steelers the first drive of the football game. Pittsburgh's opening drive stalled at midfield and forced an early punt from Jordan Berry to former Steelers WR Emmanuel Sanders.
The Broncos started their first possession on their own 10-yard line, and the second play from scrimmage resulted in a fumble by running back Ronnie Hillman which was recovered by Mike Mitchell to give the ball back to Pittsburgh at the 21-yard line. It only took a screen pass to DeAngelo Williams to set up the Steelers in a first and goal situation. Williams finished the job with a two-yard touchdown plunge to make the score 7-0 after the Chris Boswell extra point.
The Broncos and Brock Osweiler took over at their own 15-yard line and put together an impressive 85-yard drive which was orchestrated by Osweiler moving the football with ease on the porous Pittsburgh secondary. The drive resulted in an Osweiler touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas to tie the game with 4:41 left in the first quarter.
The Steelers did nothing with their third offensive possession, and Berry punted the football back to the Broncos with 3:16 left in the opening quarter. On the next play from scrimmage, Osweiler hit Emmanuel Sanders wide open for a 61-yard touchdown pass. The Brandon McManus extra point made it 14-7 with 3:08 left in the quarter.
Pittsburgh's next possession didn't last long before Ben Roethlisberger was intercepted by Josh Bush to give Denver their third possession, this time starting at midfield, their best field position of the game. Osweiler again orchestrated a touchdown drive, this time it ended in an Osweiler 7-yard touchdown run. McManus missed the extra point, giving the Broncos a 20-7 lead with 11:30 left in the half.
The Steelers' next drive went for 12-plays and into the red-zone, but stalled and resulted in a Chris Boswell 24-yard field goal to make the score 20-10 in favor of Denver with 7:33 left in the second quarter. Other than the opening turnover for the Broncos, the Steelers defense had yet to stop Osweiler and company on third down.
The Pittsburgh defense continued to be unable to stop the Denver offense, and Osweiler orchestrated his fourth consecutive scoring drive with a touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas. The drive was 80-yards and after the McManus extra point made the score 27-10 with 1:56 left in the first half.
Ben Roethlisberger orchestrated the 2-minute drill to perfection, and moved the ball into Denver territory for a 41-yard Boswell field goal to narrow the deficit to 14-points. Denver held a 27-13 lead heading into halftime, and would receive the opening kickoff of the second half.
To start the second half, Pittsburgh was able to stop Denver on third down for the first time in the game, forcing Britton Colquitt's first punt of the game. The Steelers and Broncos exchanged punts before Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown carried the Steelers into the red-zone on a pass interference call on Chris Harris Jr. The next play was a touchdown pass to Brown from Roethlisberger, and after the Boswell extra point narrowed the lead further. The Broncos still led 27-20 with 7:16 left in the third quarter.
The Pittsburgh defense continued to stand tall in the second half, and against forced another Colquitt punt, which put the ball back in Roethlisberger's hands with a chance to tie the game. After a couple first downs, the Denver defense stopped the drive, but the short drive was enough to flip the field before Berry punted back to Osweiler and company.
The Broncos did nothing with their next possession, and had managed just one first down in the second half before punting the ball back to the Steelers. Roethlisberger moved the ball with ease into the Broncos' red-zone, and it was a strike to Markus Wheaton followed by a Boswell extra point to tie the game at 27-27 with 12:34 left in the fourth quarter.
The Broncos again were stopped on third down, and had to punt the ball back to Pittsburgh with 11:11 left in the fourth quarter. Pittsburgh started the drive at their 37-yard line. Denver's defense stood tall, forcing another Berry punt to put the ball back into Osweiler's hands with 9:05 left in the game. Another 3-and-out gave Pittsburgh great field position at their 45-yard line, but another failed third down conversion gave the ball back to Denver with 5:35 left in the game.
The next Denver serious was the first mistake by Brock Osweiler as his pass intended for Emmanuel Sanders was intercepted by Ryan Shazier, giving Pittsburgh the ball at the Denver 37-yard line. It took 3 plays for Roethlisberger to hit Antonio Brown for the go-ahead score. The Boswell extra point made the score 34-27 with 3:24 left in the fourth quarter.
Denver's third down drought ended on their next drive, but on 4th and 5 they failed to convert, giving Pittsburgh the ball back with 2:14 left, and a chance to ice the game with one first down. Instead, on second down Roethlisberger threw an interception on a pass intended for DeAngelo Williams. The Broncos took over with 2:01 left in the game and their best field position of the half at the Pittsburgh 41-yard line.
The Pittsburgh defense, which could do nothing right in the first half, stood tall in the second half when it mattered the most. Denver was unable to gain a yard and turned the ball over on downs to the Steelers with 1:40 left in the game. A first down pass to Antonio Brown sealed the victory for the Steelers at Heinz Field.
The Pittsburgh Steelers record moves to 9-5, and keeps them in the thick of the AFC Playoff race, as they prepare for back-to-back games on the road. First, a trip to Baltimore to play the Baltimore Ravens followed by the regular season finale in Cleveland against the Browns. I