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Big second half lifts Steelers to MNF victory

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Scott Brown
Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2009
 

DENVER — Not much has come easy for the Steelers during their tour as reigning Super Bowl champions.

They nonetheless arrived at the midway point of the season with a five-game winning streak in tow.

Ben Roethlisberger threw for 233 yards and three touchdowns and the Steelers' defense scored more TDs than it gave up Monday night in front of an announced crowd of 76,108 at Invesco Field.

As a result, the Steelers won a regular-season game in Denver for the first time since 1990. Their resounding 28-10 victory also set up a showdown with the Bengals on Sunday at Heinz Field with sole possession of first place in the AFC North on the line.

The Steelers (6-2) got to this point in large part because the defense scored the first touchdown of the game and shut down the Broncos in the second half when the outcome still hung in the balance.

Free safety Tyrone Carter returned an interception 48 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter to get the Steelers on the scoreboard. Strong safety Troy Polamalu helped put the Broncos (6-2) away by intercepting Kyle Orton deep in Steelers' territory in the fourth quarter.

That set up Roethlisberger's 25-yard touchdown pass to rookie wideout Mike Wallace on a third-and-10 play with just over seven minutes left in the game. It allowed the Steelers to open up an 11-point lead.

That touchdown pass proved to be one of the biggest plays in the second half. The Steelers also got several big runs by Rashard Mendenhall, who rushed for 130 of his game-high 155 yards after halftime.

"I think everybody helped contribute, it wasn't just one guy" said Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward, who caught a pair of touchdown passes. "Right now, we're just playing with a lot of confidence."

The Broncos outgained the Steelers by more than 100 yards in the first half. Denver, however, trailed at halftime because of Carter's big play.

Down by four points at the start of the third quarter, the Broncos wasted little time in stopping a promising Steelers drive — and answering Carter's big defensive play.

Kenny Peterson forced a fumble when he sacked Roethlisberger from the blind side. Robert Ayers scooped up the loose ball and returned it 54 yards for a touchdown.

The Broncos didn't hold the lead for long, as Roethlisberger needed a little more than two minutes to drive the Steelers 80 yards for a touchdown.

The Steelers were driving for another score near the end of the quarter, but Andre Goodman intercepted Roethlisberger in the end zone.

It was Roethlisberger's only incompletion in the third quarter.

The Broncos never seriously threatened following the turnover because of the stifling Steelers' defense, which allowed only one first down in the fourth quarter.

"It's a good win for us, but I'm not satisfied," said Roethlisberger, who threw a pair of touchdown passes in the fourth quarter. "I think, offensively, we've got a long way to go. We have to keep searching for the ceiling."

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