Safety Terrell Edmunds broke into the Broncos backfield in a dead sprint to sack 2nd string QB Jeff Driskel, all but sealing a laborious Week 2 victory for the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday afternoon. With 1:51 remaining in the game, Driskel took the shotgun snap on a 4th & 2 and was wrapped up before he could even think about completing a pass downfield. This put a bow on a game that was anything but pretty for the Steelers in their home opener for the 2020 season. Preceding Pittsburgh’s 7th sack of the afternoon, the now 2-0 Steelers allowed the injury-ridden Broncos to stay in the thick of things for the entire 2nd half. The struggle started on the first drive of the 3rd quarter for Pittsburgh when QB Ben Roethlisberger made an ill-advised 3rd down throw right to Broncos safety Justin Simmons, who was able to book a solid return in order to give Denver the ball at the Pittsburgh 40-yard line. They were able to cash in on a field goal later on that drive, but the miscues did not end there.
The Steelers would go on to only score once in the 2nd half, and to make matters worse they were reckless with the football. HC Mike Tomlin’s squad would later turn the ball over on downs, let up a fumble, and punt the football away on the rest of their drives to allow Denver every chance they needed to steal a road victory. One of the biggest blows occurred when RB Benny Snell Jr. coughed up a fumble on the first play of the drive with 10:01 remaining in the 4th quarter. After the Broncos recovered the ball, they embarked on a 6 play, 54-yard touchdown drive that brought them within 5 of the Steelers. Snell Jr’s blunder came immediately after the Steelers Special teams caused a safety after P Sam Martin mishandled the snap in his own endzone. Even on the Broncos mistake, the Steelers left 5 points on the board as two players both tried to pounce on the football for a touchdown, but it managed to squirt out the back of the endzone for the two-point score. However, on a day that the Steelers will want to forget a lot about, they managed to make just enough plays to escape Heinz Field with a perfect record.
The Pittsburgh defense showed up early in the game as they forced a punt on their first drive and forced a fumble on their second. The turnover came on a play where LB TJ Watt tripped up starting QB Drew Lock, and as he tried to catch himself, Watt’s partner in crime Bud Dupree registered his first strip-sack of the year. This play proved costly for Denver as Lock did not return to the game after he injured his shoulder on the hit. However, Jeff Driskel proved to be a quality second option as he ended up throwing for 256 yards and 2 touchdowns against one of the league’s best defensive units. He was under constant duress as the Steelers defense tallied 7 sacks and 11 tackles for a loss, but he was able to stand tall in the pocket and deliver multiple perfect passes on key third-down plays throughout the game. The Broncos had 4 pass catchers tally over 40 yards on Sunday afternoon and Melvin Gordon found some success against a Steelers run defense that held New York RB Saquan Barkley to just 6 yards a week ago.
As for the Pittsburgh offense, there were signs of life that they will look to build off of as the season unfolds. Rookie WR Chase Claypool caught 3 passes for 88 yards, including an 84- yard touchdown grab that required him to walk the tightrope on the Denver sideline. Roethlisberger dropped a dime into Claypool’s hands, and it was off to the races for the Notre Dame product afterwards. WR Diontae Johnson had a great game as well as he reeled in 8 of Big Ben’s passes for 92 yards and a score. On the ground, Mike Tomlin did indeed “leave the light on” for RB James Conner, as he rushed 16 times for 106 yards. Conner was also able to find the end zone in the first half, and later crushed the Broncos’ remaining hopes with a 59-yard game-sealing run. In addition to the strong game on the ground, the former Pitt Panther also caught an additional 2 passes for 15 yards.
It took all four quarters, but the Pittsburgh Steelers were able to avoid dropping a heartbreaker due to their clutch defensive plays as well as a stellar first half output from the offense. HC Mike Tomlin will undoubtedly crackdown on his team for allowing Denver to hang in the game, but it will certainly feel better to preach what could have been instead of what did actually occur. The Steelers will stay home this week as they will host the Houston Texans, led by star quarterback Deshaun Watson as they look to move to 3-0 for the first time since 2010.
QB B. Roethlisberger: 29/41, 311 yards. 2 TDs, 1 INT.
RB J. Conner: 16 rushes, 106 yards, 1 TD. 2 receptions, 15 yards
LB T. Watt: 4 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 4 QB hits.
CB M. Hilton: 8 tackles, 2 TFL. 2 QB hits, 1 PD.
QB Jeff Driskel: 18/34, 256 yards. 2 TDs, 1 INT.
TE N. Fant: 4 receptions, 57 yards. 1 TD.
S Justin Simmons: 8 tackles, 1 TFL. 1 INT, 1 PD.
S Kareem Jackson: 4 tackles, 1 FR.