Pittsburgh Steelers: Injuries Too Much To Overcome

Jan 17, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) shakes hands with Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) after the AFC Divisional round playoff game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Denver won 23-16. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 17, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) shakes hands with Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) after the AFC Divisional round playoff game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Denver won 23-16. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

The Pittsburgh Steelers were defeated by the Denver Broncos in yesterdays AFC Divisional Round Playoff game 23-16.

It was a season full of injuries for the Pittsburgh Steelers. First you had the Le’veon Bell suspension followed by his season ending knee injury. Then DeAngelo Williams went out with an ankle injury and was lost for the playoffs. Finally Ben Roethlisberger suffered many injuries during the season including his shoulder injury against the Bengals.

These injuries were just too much for the Steelers to overcome as they fell to the Denver Broncos yesterday 23-16 which eliminated them from the playoffs.

The game did not start out well for the Steelers. On the first play from scrimmage Roethlisberger tried to show off his arm by launching a deep pass that was way over the head of receiver Markus Wheaton. Two plays later the Steelers were forced to punt and the special teams unit had a break down allowing the ball to be returned to the Pittsburgh 30 yard line.

The return set up the first of five field goals kicked by Broncos kicker Brian McManus and gave the Broncos a 3-0 lead. They would stop the Steelers and kick another field goal going up 6-0 late in the first quarter.

On the next drive Martavis Bryant got the Steelers set up in great field position with a 23 yard catch and run followed by a 40 yard end around run putting the Steelers at first and 10 at the Denver 16 yard line.

The deep pass from Ben to Bryant gave Ben 300 career playoff completions making him the first quarterback in Steelers history with that many playoff completions.

Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint finished the drive with a 15 yard run followed by the 1 yard plunge into the end-zone for his first career NFL touchdown, and making the score Steelers 7 Broncos 6. He was very excited about the occasion showing off a little bit of his dance moves.

The teams would exchange field goals one more time before the half making the halftime score Steelers 10 Broncos 9 as the teams entered the locker room.

In the second half of the game, the Steelers offense went stagnant and could not move the ball effectively against the Broncos number one rated defense in the NFL. In the second half they collected 163 yards of total offense but were only able to get two field goals from it.

The turning point of this game came five minutes into the fourth quarter of play. The Steelers were up 13-12 and Pittsburgh was marching down the field. It was a drive that started at the Steelers 25 yard line. Three consecutive completions by Roethlisberger (22 yards to Jesse James, 13 yards to Wheaton, and 6 yards to Darius Heyward-Bey) had set the Steelers up at Denver’s 40 yard line.

Trying to mix things up, Roethlisberger goes with the no huddle offense. He gets the snap and hands off to Toussaint, who has a huge hole on the left side of the offense. Toussaint hits the hole and has one man to beat, unfortunately that man was defensive back Bradley Roby who proceeded to rip the ball from Toussaint and Denver recovered at their own 35 yard line.

The fumble was the first of Toussaint’s young career and it could not have come at a worst time for the Steelers.

Then all Pittsburgh’s offense could do was watch as Peyton Manning lead a methodical 13 play 65 yard drive down the field to what eventually would be the game winning touchdown as C.J Anderson ran into the end-zone for the score giving the Broncos a 18-13 lead. Then Manning completed the two point conversion attempt making the lead an even seven.

The next Steelers drive ended in disaster as on a fourth down and five play Roethlisberger was sacked for a 13 yard loss setting up the Broncos for a chance to pad their lead at their own 30 yard line. The Steelers defense stood strong as it did for most of the day and held Denver to another field goal, the fifth on the day for kicker Brian McManus, making the score Denver 23 Pittsburgh 13 with :53 seconds remaining in the game.

Looking for another miracle, Pittsburgh took the ball and drove 51 yards in 34 seconds kicking a field goal to make the score Denver 23 Pittsburgh 16 with 19 seconds left in regulation. The Steelers would have to try an onside kick if they had any chance of tying the football game.

However, the kick fell short of ten yards and was recovered by the Denver Broncos at their own 39 yard line. All that was left to do was for Manning to take a knee and savor the victory as the Steelers had been defeated.

Players and coaches all expressed there gratitude to the fans and talked about the hard work that was put in to getting where they got that season. Roethlisberger talked about overcoming injuries and what it took to get to this point in his post game interview.

The positive notes for Pittsburgh was the defense playing strong by limiting Denver to field goals and the receievers steped up in the absence of Antonio Brown.

On the receiving side Bryant had the biggest day pulling in nine catches for 154 yards. We also got a taste of what third round draft pick Sammie Coates had to offer as he pulled in 2 catches for 61 yards. The receiving corps looked good running routes well and more often then not finding ways to get open.

However, the big play was never made and that was the difference maker in the game. Denver made one more play than the Steelers did and that lead to the victory.

The defense also stepped up as they were dealing with a short field for most of the day. They only allowed two drives all day of more than 50 yards, and twice the Broncos started at the Steeler 30 and they were held to field goals. The problem the defense had was they could not get to Peyton Manning only having one sack throughout the day.

Up Next: The Off-Season

The Pittsburgh Steelers will head into the off-season after the loss on Sunday. They do so with  three key free agents (Kelvin Beachum, Brandon Boykin, and William Gay).

William Gay has played the most defensive snaps for the Steelers this season and was one of the more consistent Defensive Backs on this Steelers team.

If the Steelers have a “Need to sign free agent,” in my opinion its William Gay. He has been a staple in the Steelers secondary this season with two interceptions and 46 total tackles. A defensive back who can tackle is rare and for the Steelers Gay is a player they need to resign so he can lead the secondary and bring guidance to the young players coming up.

Next: Jamel Artis leads Pitt to 84-61 blowout win over Boston College

While the Steelers season comes to an end, the new and exciting off-season lies ahead. They will have all summer to heal up and be back ready for next season. The Steelers have all of the weapons to be a competitive team in 2016, but only time will tell whats ahead for the Steel Curtain.