The Denver Broncos snapped the Pittsburgh Steelers' six-game winning streak, defeating the Steelers 24-17 at home Sunday.
Phillip Lindsay ran for a career-high 110 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, while Case Keenum threw for 197 yards and two scores.
Ben Roethlisberger threw for 462 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Broncos defensive end Shelby Harris intercepted a Roethlisberger pass in the end zone with 1:07 left in the game to seal the victory.
JuJu Smith-Schuster became the fourth player in NFL history with two receiving touchdowns of 95 yards or more in his career, per NFL Research. Smith-Schuster helped put the Steelers ahead 17-10 with a 97-yard touchdown reception with 10:32 left in the third quarter.
Steelers Must Fix Turnover Problems Before It's Too Late
The Steelers should've won this game. They out-gained the Broncos 527-308 and averaged 6.9 yards per play compared to 5.8 for Denver. Pittsburgh lost in large part because it was minus-four in the turnover battle.
No turnover was worse than Xavier Grimble's fumble at the Broncos' 1-yard line. Broncos safety Will Parks jarred the ball loose just before Grimble was about to cross the goal line on Pittsburgh's second possession of the game.
Rather than having a first down at the goal line, the Steelers gave the ball back to the Broncos.
Then came Roethlisberger's second interception as Pittsburgh was trying to get the game-tying score. The six-time Pro Bowler tried to hit Antonio Brown with a quick pass but didn't see Harris in a position to step in front of the throw.
Sunday's game wasn't an isolated incident for the Steelers. They entered Week 12 tied for 21st in turnover margin (minus-three). To add some perspective, only one team on track to make the playoffs (the Baltimore Ravens) has a worse turnover differential.
Pittsburgh has the talent to win a seventh Super Bowl, but the team can't afford to shoot itself in the foot so many times.
The Steelers can survive three turnovers against the Jacksonville Jaguars and still win, and they nearly pushed Sunday's game to overtime despite four giveaways. Playing that sloppily is a recipe for disaster in the postseason, when the margin for error becomes much smaller.
Solving the issue won't be easy. Turnovers to some extent simply come down to luck, and coaches can only do so much work in practice to ensure their players are more careful with the ball.
Still, this problem has the potential to derail Pittsburgh's season if things don't improve.
Broncos's Long-Shot Odds of Making Postseason Rest on Phillip Lindsay
According to ESPN.com, the Broncos own the most difficult schedule in the league, with a .579 combined opponent winning percentage. The good news for Denver is that things will level off a bit in the final five weeks of the regular season.
If the Broncos beat the odds and climb into a wild-card place, then Lindsay will likely be a big reason why.
Fans who have watched Denver for most of the year were familiar with the undrafted rookie. By running for a career high against a likely playoff team, Lindsay ended whatever anonymity he still enjoyed.
The Broncos need Lindsay to keep this up in order to carry them to the finish line because the ceiling for the passing game only goes so high.
Keenum is what he is, and Courtland Sutton hasn't stepped up to fill the void Demaryius Thomas left when Denver traded him to the Houston Texans. Keenum's last 300-yard passing game was Oct. 14 against the Los Angeles Rams, when Thomas was still on the roster.
Getting Lindsay going on the ground would not only help move the chains for Denver but also take some pressure off Keenum.
More than anything, increasing Lindsay's role makes strategic sense.
The Broncos have the Cincinnati Bengals, San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers the rest of the way. Those teams ranked 30th, 14th, 26th, 25th and 18th in run defense DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) prior to Week 12, per Football Outsiders.
By playing to one of its offensive strengths, Denver would be exploiting a clear area of weakness for its final five opponents.
The Broncos hit the road for a game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on Dec. 2. The Steelers head home for a matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 13.