Denver improves to 5-1


DENVER (AP) -- The defense gave the Denver Broncos a chance to
win. Jason Elam took advantage.

Elam hit a 47-yard field goal on the final play of the game
Sunday to lift Denver past Pittsburgh 17-14, the Steelers' third
straight loss.

Question on the Steelers: What has happened to the offense the past three weeks?
This team has offensive-line problems, but the biggest problem has been QB Tommy Maddox's play. Maddox isn't handling the pressure of being the starting QB well. This year with no running game, he's been very loose with the football and hasn't supplied the Steelers with the rhythm pinpoint passing they need.

Question on the Broncos: How big was this win going into next week's contest at Minnesota?
This was a big win for the Broncos. For them to defeat a quality opponent like the Steelers with their backup quarterback is a big confidence booster. There are four or five teams in the NFL that are the cream of the crop and the Broncos may have entered that echelon with this victory.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

"It wasn't a pretty game, but we didn't expect it to be
pretty," Broncos defensive tackle Bert Berry said. "We knew it
was going to be a battle, and there wouldn't be a moment where we
could have a letdown."

Denver (5-1) rebounded from last week's loss to Kansas City and
came out on top of a tight game between the AFC's top two defenses.

Pittsburgh (2-4) tied it at 14-all on Jerome Bettis' 1-yard dive
and an improbable 2-point conversion, but the Broncos got the ball
back at their 20 with 2:41 left.

Steve Beuerlein struggled in place of injured starter Jake
Plummer, but was 5-for-8 for 44 yards on the final drive. He also
got a break when Pittsburgh safety Brent Alexander dropped an
interception at the Steelers' 20 with 44 seconds left.

Elam trotted out four plays later and lined up with 5 seconds
left. He hesitated for a bit after the kick, then raised his arms
as the ball curled just inside the right upright.

It was his 13th career field goal that won or tied a game.

"I still get nervous on extra points in the preseason, but it's
fun to be put in that situation," Elam said. "That's why we play
the game."

Bettis appeared to have ruined any chance for the Steelers when
he fumbled at Denver's 48-yard line. That led to an 11-yard pass
from Beuerlein to Rod Smith, who beat Dewayne Washington on the
touchdown -- and on a 34-yard over-the-shoulder catch two plays

But the Bus made up for it on the next drive.

Pittsburgh moved 74 yards on 13 plays, capping it with a 1-yard
dive by Bettis. On the 2-point conversion, Denver's Kelly Herndon
tripped up Bettis, who fell on the back of guard Alan Faneca's legs
and was towed into the end zone.

The side judge initially ruled that Bettis didn't get in, but
the call was changed after the officials huddled for about a
minute. Denver challenged the call, but referee Mike Carey upheld
it after a long review.

Under league rules, a player isn't considered down until he hits
the ground. Bettis landed on Faneca around the 2, but Carey ruled
he didn't fall off until after the ball crossed the goal line.
Bettis also fumbled as he fell into the end zone, but Carey said it
also was after he crossed the line.

"We knew that we had to go down there and score, and we got
it," Steelers receiver Plaxico Burress said.

The Steelers managed just 215 total yards, and their makeshift
line had a hard time keeping the Broncos off quarterback Tommy Maddox. Pittsburgh also failed to reach 100 yards rushing (85) for
the third straight game and managed just 19 yards on 21 plays on
Denver's side of the field.

Pittsburgh heads into a bye week with its longest losing skid
since 2000.

"We have to sit back and look at who we are at the bye,"
Steelers coach Bill Cowher said. "We've got to play with the same
sense of urgency from here on out."

Maddox avoided throwing an interception for the first time in
five games, but was sacked seven times in his first game in Denver
since starting his career there. He hasn't thrown a touchdown pass
since Week 3.

"I was trying to make the right decisions," said Maddox, who
spent his first two seasons as John Elway's backup. "When you are
under pressure, you don't want to throw any ill-advised throws."

Beuerlein made a few of those.

He threw an interception on his first pass and had another in
the second quarter that led to a field goal. Beuerlein did hit
Shannon Sharpe on a 10-yard touchdown in the second quarter, but he
also had an interception called back because of a penalty.

Plummer didn't play after aggravating a shoulder injury against
Kansas City.

"I wasn't in a rhythm at all, for whatever reason," said
Beuerlein, 17-for-28 for 172 yards. "Against a defense like that,
if you don't play 100 percent, then they'll definitely make you pay
for it."

Beuerlein certainly wasn't the only one who struggled against
Pittsburgh's D, which came into the game No. 1 in the NFL.

The Broncos entered with the league's third-best rushing
offense, but managed just 77 yards on 18 carries. Clinton Portis
had 47 yards on 15 carries and lost a fumble at Pittsburgh's
25-yard line in the third quarter.

Denver had three turnovers and managed just 242 yards.

"We were stymied most of the game," Broncos coach Mike
Shanahan said.

Game notes
Broncos LB Ian Gold tore a knee ligament while covering a
punt in the first quarter. ... Denver failed to score in the first
quarter for the first time this season. ... Steelers LB Joey Porter
was in Denver for the first time since being shot in the leg
outside a nightclub on Labor Day weekend. He had six tackles. ...
The Broncos are 16-4 following a loss since 2000. ... Smith has
caught a pass in 67 straight games, one short of Ed McCaffrey's
team record.


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