Both Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger have had better days than they are having in Denver on Sunday, but Roethlisberger’s Steelers made more big plays on offense in the first half and have a 10-9 lead over the Broncos to show for it.
Martavis Bryant had a 40-yard run to set up a touchdown and Roethlisberger hit a totally uncovered Darrius Heyward-Bey for a 58-yard gain that led to a Chris Boswell field goal in the second quarter. Those plays account for 98 of the 195 yards that the Steelers picked up in the first half on a windy afternoon in Denver. Roethlisberger is 9-of-15 for 132 yards overall and has been sacked twice.
Manning hasn’t been sacked, although he took a big hit from Will Allen just before halftime, and hasn’t been all that sharp, although the day would look much better for Denver if his targets could hold onto the ball. Demaryius Thomas, C.J. Anderson, Emmanuel Sanders and Bennie Fowler have all dropped passes on the way to an 11-of-22, 99-yard first half for Manning.
Those drops contributed to the Broncos going 1-of-8 on third downs and their inability to cash short fields into more points over the course of the half. The Steelers weren’t much better on third down, but those big plays have helped make up for their six failed conversion attempts.
The tempo has been fairly deliberate on both sides and big risks haven’t been part of the game plan on either side. Another touchdown for either side could force that to change with a trip to the AFC title game on the line.