Offense — D
The Broncos started the game with a delay-of-game penalty. Their initial first down didn’t come until 8:08 left in the first half. They were dismal again on third down (2 of 12). Running back Javonte Williams’ penalty (spiking the football after a long run) derailed a red zone possession. And they didn’t score a touchdown until the fourth quarter. This … offense … is … broken — again. Only when times became desperate did the Broncos show a pulse, posting drives of 75 (touchdown), 72 (touchdown) and 72 (failed fourth down) yards in the fourth quarter to turn a 24-6 game into a 27-19 final. There are system-wide issues that are reminiscent of the past five years. The only bright spot was receiver Courtland Sutton, who overcame a Friday-afternoon ankle injury to catch seven passes for 120 yards.
Defense — D
The biggest indictment for the Broncos’ defense? They were manhandled up front. The Steelers rushed 34 times for 148 yards (not including a kneel-down) and rookie running back Najee Harris led the way with 122 yards on 23 attempts. The front seven had no answer for Harris, who even when bottled up managed to grind his way to a positive play. Cornerback Kyle Fuller’s playing time should be curtailed once Ronald Darby is back from his hamstring injury. The Broncos allowed a 59-yard touchdown (Fuller) and a 50-yard completion (zone coverage), the two longest completions by an opponent this year. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger didn’t leave the pocket yet was sacked only once, by Malik Reed, who forced the lone turnover. Inside linebacker Alexander Johnson dropped two potential interceptions.
Special teams — D
Remember when coach Vic Fangio said it seems like there is one play every week that hurts the special teams? Chapter 5 of that book was Dre’Mont Jones’ leverage penalty that allowed Pittsburgh to take three points off the board and score a touchdown. Mike Ford made a fine play in punt coverage, drawing a penalty and still making the tackle, but he later committed his third special teams penalty of the season. Sam Martin had a 44-yard net average on four attempts, but his 33-yard punt from the Steelers’ 47 wasn’t good enough. Diontae Spencer had two 13-yard punt returns and kick returns of 22 and 18 yards.
Coaching — F
A bad day. Fangio has too much trust in Fuller to excel in man coverage; he isn’t the player Fangio coached in Chicago three years ago. And it will be interesting how Fangio views dropping Von Miller in zone coverage against receiver Chase Claypool looks on tape Monday morning. As for Fangio going for two points in a 24-19 game? The Broncos would have needed to score a touchdown anyway after the Steelers’ field goal. Shurmur didn’t get tight end Noah Fant involved and called two early second-and-long run plays that didn’t produce anything. McMahon’s units continue to be plagued by big mistakes.
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