Manning sharp as Broncos beat Steelers
Denver, CO (Sports Network) - Peyton Manning threw for 253 yards and two touchdowns in his first game in almost two years to lead the Denver Broncos to a 31-19 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Manning, who missed all of the 2011 season after undergoing neck surgery, completed 19-of-26 passes for the Broncos (1-0).
Prior to last season, Manning had played 208 consecutive games over 13 years with the Indianapolis Colts without missing a contest.
"He's a great player. A lot has been made of the injury and those types of things, but we are just glad that he is on our team," Broncos coach John Fox said about Manning.
Demaryius Thomas caught five passes for 110 yards and a touchdown, while Willis McGahee carried the ball 16 times for 64 yards in the victory.
Ben Roethlisberger went 22-for-40 through the air for 245 yards, two touchdowns and an interception for Pittsburgh (0-1).
Antonio Brown paced all Steelers receivers with 74 yards on four catches.
Pittsburgh received the ball to start the second half holding a 10-7 lead and put together a 16-play, 64-yard drive that ate up nearly nine minutes of clock and was capped with Shaun Suisham's 35-yard field goal.
Two plays later, Manning threw a quick screen to Thomas on the left side of the field and he raced 71 yards into the end zone to give the Broncos a 14-13 advantage.
But the Steelers kept their offensive momentum going on their ensuing possession with another time-consuming drive that Roethlisberger kept alive with a 23-yard strike to Heath Miller on a 3rd-and-18 at the Pittsburgh 27- yard line
After Jonathan Dwyer later had an 11-yard touchdown run overturned on a review as his knee was seen to hit the ground at the two, Mike Wallace hauled in a three-yard score on the second play of the fourth quarter to put the Steelers back on top, 19-14, following a failed two-point conversion.
The back-and-forth affair continued with a 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive by Denver that did not include a third down and was finished off with a one-yard TD grab by Jacob Tamme on the left side of the end zone.
The Broncos, though, were able to convert their two-point attempt when Manning scrambled to his right before finding McGahee with a pass for a 22-19 edge.
Denver then drove down to the Pittsburgh 8-yard line with the help of an 18- yard catch by Tamme and a defensive pass interference call after the Steelers failed to record a first down on their next touch. But the Broncos could not push the ball across the goal line and had to settle for Matt Prater's 26-yard field goal with 3:00 left in the game, giving the Steelers a chance for a game-winning drive.
However, Tracy Porter stepped in front of a Roethlisberger pass on the third play of the drive and returned it 43 yards for a score to seal the win for the Broncos despite a failed two-point conversion attempt.
"We beat a good team tonight," Manning said. "I think there is a lot of things you can build on that happened tonight."
Denver took over on offense at its own 40-yard line after the teams traded punts over the first two possessions of the game, but McGahee had the ball stripped from him three plays later and Pittsburgh's LaMarr Woodley recovered the ball at the Broncos' 47.
The Steelers would manage just one first down, though, and were forced to punt after Derek Wolfe sacked Roethlisberger for a nine-yard loss on a 3rd-and-13 at the Denver 36-yard line.
The Broncos punted from deep inside their own territory on their next touch after Drew Butler's punt was downed at the Denver 1-yard line, and Brown's 23- yard return down the right sideline gave Pittsburgh the ball at the Denver 38.
Pittsburgh was able to move down to the Denver 3-yard line on a 10-play drive that stretched into the second quarter, but Roethlisberger could not connect on three pass attempts and the Steelers had to settle for a 21-yard field goal by Suisham.
Denver then switched to a no-huddle offense on its ensuing drive and Manning found Thomas for a 20-yard gain to highlight a 12-play, 80-yard march that Knowshon Moreno capped with a seven-yard run into the end zone to give the Broncos a 7-3 lead with 5:16 left in the half.
The Steelers answered with a no-huddle march of their own to regain the lead as Pittsburgh converted four third downs on a 14-play, 79-yard drive, including Roethlisberger finding Miller over the middle for a four-yard touchdown within the final minute of the second quarter to make it a 10-7 game at the break.
"We had planned to do that, not specifically how it unfolded but game circumstances change things sometimes," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said about the no-huddle offense. "I was comfortable with the no-huddle attack and what we were doing in it."
Thomas recorded his third career 100-yard receiving game ... Denver leads the all-time series between the teams, 14-7-1 ... Steelers coach Mike Tomlin fell to 4-2 in season openers ... The Broncos improved to 39-13-1 in home openers ... Dwyer finished with a team-high 43 yards on nine carries ... Denver's defense had five sacks, compared to two for the Steelers ... Manning's touchdown passes were the 400th and 401st of his career.