NFL: Manning, Broncos defeat Steelers 31-19
Denver • After 611 days away, Peyton Manning couldn't wait to get back on the field. Ben Roethlisberger seemed determined to keep him on the sideline Sunday night.
Manning overcame Pittsburgh's 10-minute advantage in time of possession and led a hurry-up offense that helped the Broncos beat the Steelers 31-19 in his Denver debut.
"It's just one game. I try to keep it in perspective," Manning said. "I know how hard I've worked to get to this point. I know how much help that I've gotten along the way, from a lot of people. I'm very grateful for that. It's special. I will definitely say it's special."
The four-time MVP coming off four neck surgeries completed 19 of 26 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns. He was sacked twice and bounced up both times without trouble.
Manning got a big assist from another big-time free agent, cornerback Tracy Porter, whose 43-yard interception return of Roethlisberger's pass with 2 minutes left sealed the victory.
Manning, jettisoned by the Indianapolis Colts in March after missing all of last season with a nerve injury that weakened his throwing arm, took just two snaps in the third quarter. But one was a 71-yard touchdown throw to Demaryius Thomas, Manning's first as a Bronco and the 400th of his career.
Manning, who hadn't played in a game that counted since Jan. 8, 2011, spent much of his night on the sideline as Roethlisberger led a clock-chewing offense that had Denver's defenders gassed and Manning antsy.
At one point, Roethlisberger had taken 30 snaps to Manning's one a kneel-down during two monstrous drives that spanned halftime.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said playing keep-away from Manning was the game plan.
"That was our intention," he said. "We need to possess the ball, we needed to get stops and time of possession is just that, though you look at the scoreboard, they got it done, we didn't. The plan didn't come to fruition." Broncos 31, Steelers 19
Pittsburgh 0 10 3 6 19
Denver 0 7 7 17 31
Pit • FG Suisham 21, 10:10.
Den • Moreno 7 run (Prater kick), 5:16.
Pit • Miller 4 pass from Roethlisberger (Suisham kick), :28.
Pit • FG Suisham 35, 6:05.
Den • D.Thomas 71 pass from Manning (Prater kick), 5:29.
Pit • Wallace 3 pass from Roethlisberger (pass failed), 14:11.
Den • Tamme 1 pass from Manning (McGahee pass from Manning), 9:23.
Den • FG Prater 26, 3:00.
Den • Porter 43 interception return (run failed), 1:58.
First downs 19 20
Total Net Yards 284 334
Rushes-yards 26-75 27-94
Passing 209 240
Punt Returns 2-23 2-22
Kickoff Returns 1-27 0-0
Interceptions Ret. 0-0 1-43
Comp-Att-Int 22-40-1 19-26-0
Sacked-Yards Lost 5-36 2-13
Punts 3-47.3 2-45.0
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 1-1
Penalties-yards 8-52 6-49
Time of Possession 35:05 24:55
Rushing • Pittsburgh, Dwyer 9-43, Redman 11-20, Rainey 2-5, Roethlisberger 2-4, A.Brown 1-4, B.Batch 1-(minus 1). Denver, McGahee 16-64, Ball 2-14, Moreno 5-13, Manning 4-3.
Passing • Pittsburgh, Roethlisberger 22-40-1-245. Denver, Manning 19-26-0-253.
Receiving • Pittsburgh, A.Brown 4-74, Sanders 4-55, Miller 4-50, Wallace 4-37, Dwyer 2-11, Redman 2-7, W.Johnson 1-12, Rainey 1-(minus 1). Denver, D.Thomas 5-110, Decker 5-54, Tamme 5-43, Stokley 2-26, Willis 1-14, Dreessen 1-6.
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