Week one has thus far been riddled with sub-par and inconsistent officiating, and tonight’s matchup against the Denver Broncos was no exception. However, the officials didn’t force quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to toss a mind-blowing, late-game interception that all but hammered the nail into the coffin for the Steel City.
Between Big Ben’s errant fourth quarter pick, pitched neatly into the hands of Bronco cornerback Tracy Porter, and a pair of last minute Denver sacks ensured the Steelers’ fledgling comeback assault would falter. Had it not been for these, Roethlisberger’s performance would have been hailed league-wide as top-notch.
The Steeler QB tossed a total of 40 aerials, completing 22 of them to a range of different receiving targets, recent ex-holdout Mike Wallace included, and finished Sunday’s game with two touchdowns and an interception. Furthermore, the 6’5, 241-pound Roethlisberger displayed his trademark nimble ability to escape pocket pressure. The quarterback’s efforts showed, as the Steelers held a tight grip on the lead until the fourth quarter.
Among the positive aspects of Sunday night’s game was the revolving carousel of the Steelers’ backfield. With former-starter Rashard Mendenhall limited to the sidelines by an injury, the ground-work fell upon the shoulders of backups Isaac Redman, (10 carries, 21 yards,) Jonathan Dwyer, (9 carries, 43 yards,) and even diminutive Chris Rainey contributed time during the matchup in the Mile High City.
Dwyer’s play was of particular note, as the stalky 5’11 tailback flashed moments of brilliant in contact situations, tossing away Denver defenders on multiple occasions.
Wallace, competing in his first game of any kind since the end of the 2011-2012 season, reeled in a meager four balls, tallying a total of 37 yards. However, defensive pressure in the pocket on Roethlisberger could explain away the paper thin stats produced by the Steeler receiving corps.
The play of four-time MVP Peyton Manning quieted the doubts of naysayers who claimed the injury that rendered him useless last season would hinder his play in 2012-2013. Manning contributed 2 touchdown passes to Denver’s winning cause by completing 19 of his 26 passing attempts. Despite solid defensive play from the Steelers’ end during the first half, and an extended bit of sideline time during the third quarter as Pittsburgh controlled the ball and the clock for much of the third, Manning repeatedly singled out Eric Dekcer and Jacob Tamme as offensive targets. Manning would add a few completions to Demarius Thomas in here and there for good measure.
Despite a mountain of optimism entering tonight’s matchup, the Steelers fell once again to the gritty spirit of the Broncos, and while the naysayers shall surely emerge in force after the disappointing Steelers effort, hope for improvement remains eternal in Pittsburgh, especially with Dwyer’s presence looming in the backfield.
The Steelers (0-1) will be back in action as they welcome the New York Jets (1-0) into Heinz Field next Sunday.
Photo Credits: NFL.com