By Chad Jensen
DENVER (247 SPORTS) – Ben Roethlisberger can’t catch a break at Mile High. With the Denver Broncos taking down the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-17 in Week 12, Big Ben is now 2-5 all-time in the Mile High City and hasn’t won there since 2009.
As home underdogs, the Broncos put together yet another gritty performance, making just enough plays to come out on top. What did we learn about this team in their fifth win of the season?
Players are fighting for Joseph
When the going got rough, the 2018 Broncos didn’t give up on the season like their 2017 counterparts did. This team is fighting hard for Vance Joseph, sending a blaring message up the chain of command to GM John Elway and the Broncos’ brass.
The Broncos are one missed last-second field goal away from beating three consecutive teams coming off a five-game winning streak or better. Denver will settle for a 2-1 record against such opponents, but it really is quite the achievement.
The Broncos are relevant again and its a testament to the beleaguered Joseph, his coaching staff and the resilience of this roster.
Leadership in spades
This Broncos team continues to battle and its due in large part to the changing of the guard at the key leadership positions. Gone are the old familiars like Trevor Siemian, Aqib Talib, C.J. Anderson and Demaryius Thomas.
In are the likes of Case Keenum, Todd Davis and of course the steadying leadership of Von Miller. Vance Joseph sold himself as a “leader of men” in his job interview almost two years ago.
We’re starting to see that come out in the wash. This team has character. It has integrity.
Come what may, the 2018 Broncos have true grit.
Keenum elevating his play at just the right time
Case Keenum was a turnover machine over the first half of the season, throwing 10 interceptions in the first eight games. And the touchdowns weren’t coming.
However, coming off yet another strong — if unspectacular — performance Keenum’s TD-to-INT ratio sits at 13-10. The Broncos’ veteran QB has now gone three-straight games without a turnover and its no coincidence that the Broncos are 2-1 over that span.
This is the perfect time for a quarterback to get hot. The Broncos are in great position to make a stretch-run.
Lindsay is the engine driving this offense
He cannot be denied. Phillip Lindsay finished Week 12’s tilt vs. Pittsburgh with 110 rushing yards on 14 carries, scoring his fifth rushing touchdown of the season. With 780 yards rushing, Lindsay now holds the franchise record for most rushing yards for an undrafted rookie.
The Steelers entered Week 12 having not relinquished an individual 100-yard rusher on the season. It only took 14 totes to get Lindsay over the hump.
This Broncos offense is benefiting from some savvy and timely play from Case Keenum, but they’re being driven by the electric performance of Phillip Lindsay, who continues his competition against the Giants’ Saquon Barkley for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Harris backs up his vow
The last time Chris Harris, Jr. went against Steelers’ WR Antonio Brown, he relinquished two touchdowns in coverage. Heading into Week 12, Harris vowed that it “won’t be anything like that again”.
Harris backed up his claim, not only by virtue of Denver emerging victorious, but also by finishing the game with a key interception and six solo tackles. Meanwhile, Brown hauled in nine receptions (which sounds like a lot) but he only totaled 67 yards receiving and didn’t find the end zone, which is about as good any team can hope to accomplish against him and Ben Roethlisberger.
Hats off to Harris, who continues his bid for a fourth Pro Bowl berth and is proving with each passing week that he can thrive outside the shadow cast by Aqib Talib.
Speaking of Harrises, Shelby Harris had a strong game himself, finishing with three combined tackles, a half-sack and game-clinching interception in the end zone. After the win, Shelby showered, dressed, hit the podium, and then hopped in the car to make it to the hospital to be with his wife and newborn daughter.