Teams are ready – crowd is amped and they're serving meatloaf in the media room – what's wrong with this picture?
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Orton out of the gate goes to the air – 15-yarder to Royal for the first – lot better start than last week… McD's opened up the playbook for this one – out of the shotgun Orton goes back to Royal for another 14. Impressive drive – Orton to Royal for the trifecta – drive marches down to the 22 where Matt Prater connects on a 40-yard field goal to light the board early. Nine plays – 56-yards and things are rocking in the 5280… the question is for how long?
Another good sign – Prater finds the end zone on the kick and the Steelers bring it out to the 17. Here comes Big Ben - and here comes the Broncos defense. Five plays later Big Ben gets nailed by Dumervil and Reid and the punting unit takes the field… Royal lets it roll to the Denver 18.
Orton to Marshall good for fifteen and a first – back to Marshall for 4 and they're mixing it up. Moreno on the ground – loss of two brings up third and eight. Out of the shotgun – crossing route to Marshall and they're moving the chains again.
Broncos move it out to midfield but the drive stalls and Berger sails it in the end zone on his first punt. Despite the fact they came up empty they're looking good and Orton's doing a decent job of mixing it up. Steelers take it at the 20.
Gotta love this "D" – just when Ben gets it rolling they tighten it up and nail down another sack – that's two in the first quarter. Drive stalls on the Steelers 40 and Sepulveda's in to punt – Royal fields it and the Broncos take over at their own 18 as the first winds to a close.
Keeping it grounded – Buckhalter picks up an easy seven around the outside… nothing up the middle brings up third and two – out of the shotgun Orton find Royal for a sweet 11 and another first…
Disaster strikes – Orton looks down the middle – finds Steelers safety Tyrone Carter who goes untouched 48-yards for the score. First huge mistake for the neck beard… Stellers light the board with a 7-3 lead.
Let's try it again… Broncos drive starts on their own 21. Three plays later, with a sack in the middle, Orton hits Marshall on the cross who takes it down to the 36 for a first. Keeping it rolling Gaffney gets in on the action – down the middle to Graham moves it across midfield – eighteen-yard completion and it's first and ten from the Steelers 44.
I love Orton – he's kinda like that weird cousin that you really don't know that well, but he brings a bunch a beer to the party… right now he's moving it… toss to Gaffney on the sideling is ruled incomplete – McD throws the flag…
No go… brings up fourth and five from the 39…Orton to Stokley coming across is good for a first – crowd goes crazy…WAIT – zebras bring it back – holding on Ben Hamilton – that's a punch to the package – Berger's out to punt – 26-yarder to the Steelers 23.
Broncos D comes through again –Steelers are forced to punt – Orton will take it at their own 16 and the crowd creeps back into it...
Keeping it conservative – ground work leaves them facing third and one from the 25 at the two-minute warning… I think I need a drink.
Beautiful play – everyone gets suckered up the middle – Orton hits Marshall for a sweet fifteen – who would have thought… Two plays later they're looking at third and thirteen from the 40. Buckhalter on the ground? That's lame – fourth and eight and Berger's back to punt… I'm baffled – eighteen seconds on the clock and I'm sitting through a TV timeout…
Quick shot of luck – Berger get nailed on the kick – flags fly… penalties on both sides – Steelers retain possession deep in their own territory…Big Ben kneels it… first half comes to a close with the Steelers holding a 7-3 lead… I gotta burn one
Steelers come out strong – Ben's mixing it up nicely crossing midfield – connects with Holmes to the Broncos 33 for a first. Here comes the guns – Kenny Peterson nails Roethlisberger from the blind side – ball is fumbled – Ayers brings it back 54-yards untouched – Prater nails the kick and Denver rolls out with a 10-7 third quarter lead. Longest fumble returned for a touchdown by a rookie in Bronco history.
Steelers Take Two – BR keeps them rolling… Long drive - Mendenhall around right end for a huge gain – down the the Broncos 38…back to the air BR hits Holmes deep – out of bounds at the three and it's first and goal. BR to Ward for and easy seven… Steelers back on top 14-10…Four plays – 80-yards in 2:07 – sad part is they made it look easy.
Nice return – Spencer Larsen brings it out to the 40… Orton to Royal (my new best friend) for 16. Moreno on the ground is pointless – loss of one – back to the drawing board. Oh oh….clusterbust – Orton avoids a sack by tossing it underhand to Graham – ball falls to the ground –fumbled by several different players and finally rules as an incomplete pass. Third down fares no better – Orton under pressure under throws his receiver… Look out – it's Berger to punt. Best kick of his Bronco career (which may be shortlived if he doesn't get it together). Ball falls dead at the three – BR's back out.
Here comes the NOISE…. Up the middle to Mendenhall for three. Quick toss to Heath Miller give them some breathing room – 1st and 10 from the 20. Broncos can't stop it around the right side – it's Mendenhall for another huge gain – 28-yards moves it to the 48. "D" looks like it's getting tired – BR's looking at third and six from the 48… More NOISE – McD calls time…
So much for the Broncos being a second half team - Steelers are completely outplaying them…No huddle by BR is killing Denver – very slow to react… Ball is down to the Broncos 15 for first and ten. BR out of the shotgun gets picked by Andre Goodman – flags on the return… ball is brought back to the 15 (illegal block to the back) Broncos ball.
,br> Orton goes to the air – hits Marshall for 15 – Sheffler for three – Buckhalter on the ground for two brings up third and five… out of the shotgun – Orton finds Stokley but it looks short by about one. 4th and one – Berger boots it… returned to the 30-yard line as the quarter comes to a close.
More props to the "D" – Steelers go three and out and the Broncos will start their drive on their own 33 thanks to a nice Eddie Royal return…This drive is key – let's see how it shapes out…
Incomplete to Marshall (near pick), bounces it off the ground to Graham, but does connect with Marshall, unfortunately it's seven-yards short of a first and a beautiful defensive effort goes for nothing. Berger sails it 24-yards to a series of boos…. Why is it we got rid of Brett Kern?
Not sure how long the "D" can keep bailing them out… BR's had too many chances – moves it out near midfiels and it's third and six from the 44. out of the shotgun – incomplet to Meller down the middle… Broncos get another shot at it with just over nine to go in the game.
Nothing more exciting than watching a mascot video on the jumbotron during timeouts...way to pump the crowd.
Keeping it on the ground to Buckhalter - no gain - Polamalu was in the backfield before Buckhalter. Orton to the air - perfect strike to Polamalu - INT #2 - Steelers have a 25-yard field and total control at this stage...
Roethlisberger scrambles – bullet to Mike Wallace and with just over seven minutes remaining the Steelers open up a 21-10 lead…
Almost afraid of what could happen next…
Broncos return to the 26… More pressure on Orton – ball is thrown away. 2nd and ten – incomplete to Royal – Orton looks shell shocked. Out of the shotgun – ball is tipped – ruled a 14-yard sack… McD challenges…
No sack - incomplete pass - Berger's back out to punt... Steelers nearly break it - flags fly...
BR and Co. will take it at their own 26 and it's up to the "D" to see if they can salvage any of the madness. More flags - Pitt's moving backwards - false start has them moved back to the 18. Mendenhall off tackle for 36-yards down the sideline – something tells me this isn't going to come out pretty. Ball is at midfield and the clock continues to run – just under four at this point. Another huge gain on the ground – down to the Broncos 33…
This looks like a wrap – not that I don't like hanging in the Press Box but I'm bailing for the locker… this should be fun.
Post game notes and quotes to follow.
Michael John Schon has covered the National Football League and the Denver Broncos for the past twelve-years. As a member of the Pro Football Writers Association he has published and syndicated columns to both newspapers and magazines throughout the United States and Canada. His syndicated radio broadcast: "Schon Live" airs weekly on various radio and Internet stations around the country. You can follow all of Schon's updates on Twitter or drop him an email at Michael John Schon
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