DENVER — The Broncos may be finding their stride.
For the second consecutive week, Denver found a way to earn a comeback win against a team in playoff position. And this time, the victory came against a division leader.
Second-half scores from Emmanuel Sanders and Phillip Lindsay, a trio of key takeaways in the second half and a late goal-line stand led the Broncos on Sunday to a 24-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers that improved Denver’s record to 5-6.
In their first meeting with the Steelers since a 2015 AFC Divisional Round game, the Broncos found a way to earn another win in a game that nearly matched the excitement of that playoff contest.
When it was over, the Broncos had earned two wins in a row for the first time since September. As the playoff stretch run begins, it couldn’t feel more valuable.
These were the moments and players that mattered in the Broncos’ win over the Steelers.
Last week, when the Broncos needed a big defensive play to swing the game, Von Miller intercepted Philip Rivers to give the Broncos a chance.
This week, Chris Harris Jr. did the honors.
After Ben Roethlisberger connected with JuJu Smith-Schuster on a 97-yard touchdown to give Pittsburgh a 17-10 lead — and the Broncos responded by going three-and-out — Denver appeared in danger of falling behind by two possessions.
Instead, with 6:19 to play in the third quarter, Harris stepped in front of an overthrown Roethlisberger pass and gave the Broncos the opportunity they needed.
Case Keenum hit Emmanuel Sanders for a 38-yard gain on the next play and then found Sanders in the back of the end zone for a 5-yard score that tied the game.
The Broncos would never trail again.
Against a team as talented as the Steelers, the Broncos were going to need to play a clean game to have a chance to earn a win. The Broncos did that on offense, as Keenum didn’t throw an interception for the third consecutive week, and the team didn’t lose a fumble. Defensively, the Broncos made life difficult for the Steelers. While the 97-yard touchdown to Smith-Schuster and a touchdown off a fake field goal before halftime both hurt Denver’s cause, the Broncos were able to make plays in key moments. Three times, they forced turnovers. In the second quarter, safety Will Parks didn’t give up on a play and forced Steelers tight end Xavier Grimble to fumble out of the back of the end zone. The turnover resulted in a Broncos touchback. The second turnover — a Harris interception — led to a Sanders touchdown. On the final play of the third quarter, Bradley Roby forced a James Conner fumble, and Darian Stewart recovered to prevent another touchdown. And then — perhaps most important of all — Shelby Harris recorded an interception in the end zone as the Steelers challenged from the 2-yard line. The defensive lineman’s interception sealed Denver’s win.
The Steelers appeared poised to take a first-half lead against the Broncos when Grimble caught a pass off a beautifully executed Roethlisberger play-action fake. But Parks was giving chase from behind, and he wasn’t going to allow Grimble to score without being challenged. Parks caught up to Grimble right before the pylon and delivered a hit that was big enough to knock the ball free. The play did more than just save points. It set the tone for the rest of the game.
Running back Phillip Lindsay just continues to make plays. The undrafted running back carried the ball 14 times for 110 yards and a touchdown as he helped carry Denver to a win. In the process, Lindsay also passed Selvin Young for the most rushing yards by an undrafted rookie in team history. Facing his former team, Emmanuel Sanders also posted a strong game. The veteran wide receiver caught seven passes for 86 yards and a touchdown — and also went over the 7,000-yard mark for his career. Sanders said earlier in the week that it would be an emotional game for him, and he played his best under the circumstances. Without Sanders’ 38-yard reception and ensuing touchdown catch, it’s hard to see how the Broncos could have earned a win Sunday. Chris Harris Jr., Bradley Roby, Will Parks and Shelby Harris all earn recognition for forcing key turnovers that gave Denver the win.