PIT-DEN grades: Peyton provides just enough in Broncos’ win

Here are the top takeaways from Denver's playoff win over Pittsburgh.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

PIT-DEN grades: Peyton provides just enough in Broncos’ win

Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Broncos’ 23-16 divisional-round win over the Steelers:

Denver Broncos

–Quarterback Peyton Manning (-0.9 PFF game grade) had an unspectacular performance in this one, but it was a big step in the right direction compared to the last start he had (Week 10 versus Kansas City). Outside of one poor pass on which wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders prevented an interception, Manning was able to avoid potential mistakes and allow his receivers to make plays. While Manning only completed 57 percent of his passes, he was actually accurate on 74 percent of them — the disparity was a result of his pass-catchers’ five combined drops.

–The Broncos won this game on the back of their defensive front seven. Only one of the starting front-seven players graded negatively, while the other six all graded above +2.3 — which is a very good number. The star of the game was newly re-signed defensive end Derek Wolfe (+3.3), who recorded seven total pressures (two sacks, five hurries). The other dominant pass-rusher for the Broncos was edge rusher Von Miller (+3.1 pass-rush grade). Like Wolfe, Miller also recorded seven total pressures.

–WR Emmanuel Sanders was unable to get going in the first half versus the Steelers, but in the second half he was able to give the Broncos enough of a threat on the outside to get them over the edge on offense. He finished the game with five catches on eight targets for 85 yards. The most important play from Sanders, however, was in the fourth quarter when Manning threw a pass that had the look of an easy interception for William Gay (-1.8), but Sanders was able to knock the ball out of Gay’s hands. That ended up being the game-winning touchdown drive.

Top performers:

OL Evan Mathis (+6.3)

DL Derek Wolfe (+3.3)

LB DeMarcus Ware (+2.9)

LB Von Miller (+2.7)

OL Michael Schofield (+2.7)


Pittsburgh Steelers

–With QB Ben Roethlisberger (+1.1) coming into the game with a shoulder injury, it was uncertain as to how limited he would be. As it turned out, Roethlisberger seemed to be at close to full strength in terms of his throwing ability, but Denver did a much better job of defending him than during the teams’ regular-season meeting. After Roethlisberger torched the Broncos earlier in the season, they decided to play a lot more zone and not give up the big play — a strategy to largely proved effective. They were also limited in how often they blitzed him, but were effective when they did. Roethlisberger completed 76 percent of his passes for 326 yards when he wasn’t blitzed, but managed just 13 total yards on the 10 plays when the Broncos did blitz him.

–Over the course of the season, the Steelers offensive line was a strength, grading out as one of the better pass-protecting groups in the league. However, the line really struggled against the Broncos. The only player to grade above -1.0 was guard Ramon Foster (-0.1). In particular, Marcus Gilbert (-5.3) had major difficulties in dealing with the duo of Von Miller and Derek Wolfe.

–The Steelers defense had some issues playing the Broncos’ outside-zone running attack, but one player who made a major impact was Stephon Tuitt (+4.1). He was consistently able to blow up the point of attack with his combination of strength and quickness, both rocking the Broncos’ offensive linemen back and causing them to whiff as he ran passed them.

Top performers

DL Stephon Tuitt (+4.1)

LB James Harrison (+1.9)

WR Martavis Bryant (+1.5)

DB Will Allen (+1.2)

QB Ben Roethlisberger (+1.1)

WR Sammie Coates (+1.1)

  • DeLante Poocho Odom

    How did the oline grade negative for the Steelers when for a greater part of the game they looked in control on offense. The fumble was the blow they couldn’t overcome. The offense was driving on the #1 defense. I really thought this team was hot and had the Broncos number, but a great defensive play sealed their fate.

    • Lisa Legs

      Couldnt run the ball

    • ElwayIsGod7

      Yup; the lady-steelers couldn’t run at all vs. Denver’s front 7. Most of their yards came early on that reverse.

    • George McDowell

      You did read the part where Derek Wolfe and Von Miller combined for 14 pressures, right? And the part where only one of the Broncos front seven rated negatively?

      Or do you just watch the game and make assumptions that have absolutely no basis in fact?

    • theflanman420420 .

      You must have done really well in reading comprehension as a kid.

  • MyHomiesSTEEL

    This rating is crap!! Im guessing you’re only judging from the fumble on?? Because Steelers dominated majority of the game with a WOUNDED offense and a STRUGGLING secondary. Not to mention playing on the road against the “number 1″ defense…. Denver looked HORRIBLE! and it baffles me how you nit-pick the numbers to find some positivity in Peyton’s play. Who you foolin?! Bottom line… Roby’s forced fumble was the turning point of the game and the ONLY notable play for their Defense. Other than that, the steelers offense could do whatever they wanted. Couldn’t run??? how’s about you toss in your 3rd & 4th string RBs who’ve both hardly ever played and see what happens…. Oh and don’t forget the fact that Talib got away with more PI calls then any DB should. Even the play where Peyton’s panty ass gave himself up on a sack and the whistle wasn’t blown. Come on Bronco fans just keep it real, Steelers offense could move the ball without 4 of their starters…. NE is currently Healthy.. You do the math.

    • Autocephallus

      Have a lovely off-season!

      • MyHomiesSTEEL

        Go steelers!

        • WICKED

          Yea go home and watch the rest of the playoffs on the couch.

          • MyHomiesSTEEL

            I am! So move over and thanks for keeping it warm for me! Hahaha!

    • davechave .

      Yeah the Steelers did whatever they wanted except score any TDs. Denvers defense bent but didn’t break. Manning’s game grade was -0.9 not sure why you think they gave him a positive grade, but he would have looked way better without the 5 drops. DEN offense did look horrible though getting all those possessions in PITT territory only to come out with FGs, not to mention going 3-15 on 3rd down. DEN held PITT to 2-12 on 3rd down too btw. Other key Defensive plays by Denver: 4th down sack by Ware on PITTs final possession, Antonio Smith sack in 3rd quarter paired with the 5 yard loss by Todman put PITT out of FG range. PITT also got lucky that the Wheaton’s muffed punt didn’t result in a Broncos TD.

      • MyHomiesSTEEL

        And DEN got “lucky” Talib didn’t get called for PI twice in the endzone (Stevie wonder seen that foul) and dont forget mannings slide, get up and throw play…. Both plays would’ve been game changers….. But look, imma realist, it’s obvious to point out the plays that resulted in the Broncos winning the game. They capitalized on a unforgiving TO and turnovers lose games. And I’m not making no excuses for my steelers but DEN’s “#1″ defense bent against an offense missing four key starters and played with a banged up QB. But the real problem is the inconsistency of these idiots officials. They have one job and they can’t even do it right! Nonetheless I will be cheering for DEN to beat NE… But sadly looks like I’m on the losing side again this week. Go steelers! lol

        • WICKED

          Your tears are delicious.

          • MyHomiesSTEEL

            Your replies are simple and bland…. Tasteless!

        • Nick doucher

          Now I’m embrassed for you!

        • davechave .

          You know I’ll be honest, on both Talib plays I thought I was going to see a flag but was praying they would just let them play. And true that Manning slide was pretty lucky I thought they’d rule he gave himself up because we have seen him do that plenty over the last few years. As far as DEN #1 defense you make some valid points. If AB had played it would have been pretty scary for DEN but Big Ben is damn good and kept making plays with a still very talented WR core. Not to make excuses for Denver’s D but they were trying to mix up the coverage and play more zone which they had done very little of over the course of the season and obviously aren’t very good at right now. I would really like to see Manning get a win over the Pats as well PFM deserves it the freaking Pats have had enough! lol

    • Nick doucher

      i think you need to watch the game again. You sound a little salty

      • MyHomiesSTEEL

        Hey seems your last name suits you appropriately… But are you serious?! Denver had absolutely nothing to cheer about til that fumble, so idk what game you were watching. But I’m not salty just disgusted at Broncos fans acting like they wasn’t pretty much dominated 3/4’s of the whole game against a wounded offense and questionable defense. DEN capitalized on toussaints fumble and rode the momentum swing from there on. That’s the reality of the game, so maybe you should watch the game over…. Maybe twice even!

        • Nick doucher

          I’ve watched the game plenty of times. It was a close game all along. steelers kept making mistakes and dodging bullets. It finally caught up with them. The better team won

  • crosseyedlemon

    A lot of sloppy play by both teams in this game which at times looked more like a pre-season match than a playoff encounter.