DENVER (KDKA/AP) — The Steelers headed into Denver this weekend hoping to start the season off right and seek a little revenge for their loss in last year’s postseason, but Peyton Manning and the Broncos had other ideas.
There is a reason why Denver shelled out $96 million for Manning, a four-time MVP.
Despite missing 20 months and enduring four neck surgeries, Manning, at age 36, looked like the same quarterback who had manned the Indianapolis Colts’ huddle for 14 years.
And the Steelers defense, despite not being on the field that much, really had no answer for the Broncos.
Manning completed 19 of 26 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns.
He got a big assist from another free agent, cornerback Tracy Porter, whose 43-yard interception return of Ben Roethlisberger’s pass with two minutes left sealed the win.
Manning, jettisoned by the Colts in March after missing all of last season with a nerve injury that weakened his throwing arm, hit Demaryius Thomas with a 71-yard touchdown toss for his first score as a Bronco. It was his 400th career TD toss.
Manning spent much of his night on the sideline as Roethlisberger led a clock-chewing offense that had the ball for 10 minutes longer than Denver did. At one point, Roethlisberger had taken 30 snaps to Manning’s one — a kneel-down — during two monstrous drives that spanned halftime.
But Manning led Denver on three straight 80-yard touchdown drives and had the Broncos at the Steelers 8 when his next drive stalled and they settled for Matt Prater’s short field goal and a 25-19 lead with 3 minutes left.
Porter stepped in front of Emmanuel Sanders and returned an interception 43 yards for the score a minute later, and Roethlisberger was sacked three times on his last possession after going down just twice all night.
Coach John Fox called Porter’s pick “the biggest play of the game.”
The Steelers converted some very long third downs as Denver’s defense grew fatigued.
Manning was sacked twice and both times bounced right up with no issues.
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