It was a competitive game for one half, then it turned into a Pittsburgh beat down. Let's wrap the Monday nighter from a fantasy perspective.
With the Steelers: It took a half for the Pittsburgh offense to figure out Denver's defense, but man what a tail kicking the Steelers delivered in the second half. Ben Roethlisberger(notes) and friends put up 18 first downs and 321 yards of total offense after intermission, reminding a National TV audience that Pittsburgh deserves to be on anyone's short list of contenders.
Roethlisberger (21-for-29, 233 yards, 3 TDs) is playing far and away the best football of his life right now; other than one loose throw he made on a red-zone interception, it was hard to fault him for much of anything. Santonio Holmes(notes) got free of Champ Bailey(notes) and delivered a strong line (6-93), but it was Hines Ward(notes) (7-44) who got the touchdowns, including the window-dressing score, pictured above, with just 1:22 to play (hope it was good to you). Mike Wallace(notes) (4-69, TD) continues to justify the love as a flex play; he's scored in three of four games and he's averaging 65 yards per game over the last six weeks.
Rashard Mendenhall(notes) once again jumped off the screen, rumbling for 155 yards on 22 carries against one of the better defenses in the league. Mendenhall wasn't able to score on some late red-zone carries and he did go out of bounds prematurely on a few runs, but let's not nitpick too much. He looks like a star, a combination of power, patience and breakaway ability. The Pittsburgh run blocking has stepped it up in recent weeks as well. Mewelde Moore(notes) picked up four inconsequential carries and Willie Parker(notes) didn't have a touch; it's clear the Pittsburgh running game is hitched to No. 34.
The Steelers defense is back to business as usual with Troy Polamalu(notes) back – three picks, one runback touchdown. Pittsburgh held the hosts to 12 first downs and 242 yards of offense. The challenge gets tougher in Week 10 when the Steelers host Cincinnati; after that, it's a road swing to Kansas City and Baltimore, a home game with Oakland, and a trip to Cleveland (all in all, I'd call that a fantasy-friendly schedule).
With the Broncos: It's painful to watch the Broncos try to play offense right now. Kyle Orton(notes) had some success early in the night throwing short on the Steelers, but this team refuses to take any deep shots down the field and it won't be successful down the road if it doesn't find a way to stretch defenses vertically. Orton's game completely fell apart in the second half and he finished the evening with 221 passing yards, no TD passes, three interceptions (though one came on an inadvertent referee pick) and a 43.9 rating.
Brandon Marshall(notes) was the apple of Orton's eye (11 catches, 112 yards) but again, it's all hitches and slants, nothing deep. Eddie Royal(notes) (5-74) did some damage in the first half but was quiet afterwards. No one else had more than two catches or 18 yards; Tony Sheffler (1-3) was notably invisible.
The rushing game didn't do a thing to ease the pressure – Knowshon Moreno(notes) was a washout on five carries (three yards) and Correll Buckhalter(notes) wasn't much better (9-24). Perhaps the Broncos will be able to run at Washington next week – the Redskins forgot how to tackle in Atlanta Sunday – but for the most part, this looks like a Denver offense in big trouble. Time for adjustments, Josh McDaniels.
It wasn't the best night for the Broncos defense but let's be fair about this; the unit played superbly for a half and it also had two takeaways and a defensive touchdown in the second half. Part of the second-half collapse can be attributed to fatigue; that's what happens when your offense constantly hangs you out to dry.