More Denver Heartbreak: A Week 1 Analysis

The ending of the Steelers’ Sunday night loss may not have been as much as a gut punch as last year’s wild card game in Denver was, but it was awful close.

For most of the game, Pittsburgh seemed in control, and was poised to drive to win the game on the final drive of the quarter, as Big Ben has done so many times before. Instead, Ben made a critical mistake in a game that was filled with them.

Make no mistake; the Broncos deserved to win this game. It’s just aggravating that the Steelers had chance after to chance to put things away for good and squandered them.

It’s easy to blame injuries for the team’s performance, and to some extent, it’s hard to be too disappointed that this banged up team was even able to put up such a valiant effort in a tough road game.

But that doesn’t make it any less frustrating that this ended up as a loss.

Many of the issues that I expected to emerge for this team were prominent last night, most notably the team’s struggles in the red zone. Sure, the team was able to put it away for a TD in the red area twice, but it was their two previous trips that proved devastating.

The team had a pair of beautiful, clock killing drives that, by all accounts, should’ve ended in touchdowns, but didn’t. Most notably, the drive that resulted in the first points of the game sputtered on Denver’s three yard line, and it’s infuriating that they couldn’t put it away. Part of this is due to the run game’s continued issues, and the sterling play of Denver’s DBs, but Ben’s playmaking ability just doesn’t extend to the end zone for some reason, and it really cost the team here.

The same goes for the ending of the drive that chewed up the majority of the third quarter. If that had ended in a TD, rather than just a Suisham kick, the Broncos would’ve been broken. Instead, the secondary’s blown coverage put Denver ahead just seconds after the Steelers worked so hard to regain the lead.

The offensive line issue also reared its ugly head here. There were several injuries along the line, as always, but it was still pretty rough on the line. Ben was able to avoid the worst of the pressure, until that depressing final drive at least, but Ramon Foster and Willie Colon in particular looked pretty rough, while Mike Adams was an outright disaster.

The defensive line was just as bad as their offensive counterparts. They were pretty much the reason Peyton Manning was able to singlehandedly destroy the defense with his no-huddle, as they just didn’t look comfortable when they couldn’t rotate on and off the field. I love Casey Hampton, but he hasn’t been the same for some time, and his deficiencies were really exposed when the team couldn’t take him out in passing situations.

While I had really hoped that the team had acquired enough depth to mitigate his growing ineffectiveness, it just didn’t seem to be the case at all. Here’s hoping that no other teams on the Steelers’ schedule can run the no-huddle or hurry-up as effectively as Manning did, because that positively eviscerated what should be an otherwise strong defense.

Overall, there were still plenty of positives to take from last night’s game. The offense, line issues aside, looked really good. Mike Wallace didn’t seem the least bit out of sorts, and each running back showed flashes at one time or another.

The defense, despite their myriad issues, held the Broncos to under 100 yards rushing (an impressive feat for such a run-heavy team) and held Manning to just 250 yards through the air. The fact that all of this happened without Ryan Clark or James Harrison and with Troy Polamalu playing severely out of position has to be at least a little encouraging.

There will be plenty of people willing to say that this loss means the sky is falling in Pittsburgh. While Denver exposed some of the team’s flaws, I’m confident that this is still a playoff team, and this is just a bump in the road.

Yes, this loss hurt, but it is also not the end of the world. Hopefully, returning home to face the Jets, and the always shaky Mark Sanchez, can cure some of what ails this team.

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