Updated: November 9, 2009 at 12:00 am
DENVER - Everything that worked so well for the Denver Broncos during the first six weeks of the season has abandoned them.
The offense can’t find the end zone. The defense has shown some vulnerability. And the team has been pummeled in the second half — the part of the game the Broncos previously had dominated.
And that 3.5-game lead in the AFC West they built three weeks ago? It’s down to one game over San Diego.
Denver is 6-2, but things seem a lot less stable after a second straight loss — this one a 28-10 defeat to Pittsburgh on Monday at Invesco Field at Mile High.
Still, the players maintained their confidence.
“We’re disappointed with the two losses, but we’re not down,” receiver Jabar Gaffney said. “We’re still in first place, have a chance to do some good things. There’s a long season to go. We all know that.
“We’re not going to panic; we’re going to keep playing. Just try to get it fixed.”
The most shocking turnaround Monday was the way the Steelers took over after halftime. In the first half, the Broncos defense played very well, allowing only 54 yards. Pittsburgh’s only points came on an interception return by safety Tyrone Carter.
Then Denver couldn’t move the ball after halftime — gaining only 59 yards — and the defense had a hard time getting off the field. Pittsburgh gained 321 yards in the second half.
“They made some really good adjustments, and we didn’t have an answer,” linebacker Andra Davis said. “We didn’t execute what we were supposed to do.”
In the third quarter, two big plays by the Broncos defense kept them close. Kenny Peterson hit quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and forced a fumble that was returned for a touchdown by rookie Robert Ayers.
After a Hines Ward touchdown catch gave the Steelers the lead back, Roethlisberger threw an interception in the end zone to cornerback Andre Goodman, which kept Pittsburgh’s lead at 14-10. The Steelers had 199 yards in the third quarter but scored only seven.
Denver couldn’t take advantage. Orton threw another interception — on an overthrown pass — to safety Troy Polamalu. That was cashed in by Pittsburgh for a touchdown.
The Broncos managed a field goal on their opening drive, but that was it. Denver gained only 27 yards rushing, including 4 after halftime. Denver has one offensive touchdown in its past two games.
The Steelers added a touchdown with 82 seconds remaining when Ward hurdled cornerback Champ Bailey for a 3-yard touchdown. Orton threw his third interception on the team’s final drive.
“They played much better than we did for 60 minutes,” coach Josh McDaniels said.