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Broncos' second-half struggles continue vs. Steelers

PITTSBURGH -- The Denver Broncos need better orange slices, different speeches or maybe they just need to stay on the field and skip halftime.

Because whatever is going on in the Broncos’ locker room between the second and third quarters, especially with the team’s offense, it just ain’t working.

"We’re having something where we just come out in the second half and we play bad," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. “I don’t know what type of funk it is … it’s just something we have to fix.’’

In the end Sunday night, the Broncos lost, 34-27, to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Heinz Field.

The Broncos could do no wrong in the first half with four touchdown drives on offense as their defense held the high-powered Steelers, a team that had put up 500 yards three times in the five previous games, to 10 points and 185 yards.

But the Broncos went in at halftime looking like an AFC powerhouse and came back out and looked like what they are this morning -- a team clinging to a wafer-thin lead in their own division. The offense didn’t score a second-half point for the third consecutive game.

And quarterback Brock Osweiler -- who put himself into Broncos' history, along with John Elway’s and Peyton Manning -- by throwing for three touchdowns and running for another score in the game, did not lead a scoring drive in the second half. The Broncos offense didn’t get even into Steelers’ territory in second half until 3 minutes, 24 seconds remained in the game.

“Offensively in the second half we didn’t make any of the plays we made the in the first half," Kubiak said. " … That’s this business, you better be built for four quarters."

Osweiler said: "It needs to be better, it needs to be fixed and as a group, we’ll get it fixed."

That’s not to say the team’s defense, now No. 4 in scoring defense after entering the game at No. 1, can toss confetti around the meeting room this week. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger didn’t just become the first quarterback to top 300 yards passing against the Broncos this season, he went all the way to 380 yards with three touchdowns.

Antonio Brown finished with 16 catches for 189 yards and two of those Roethlisberger touchdown passes. And if that wasn't enough, DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller each finished without a sack against a quarterback who threw 55 passes in the game.

"Offense, they did enough, man," Harris said. "They scored enough points. ... That’s on the defense, we can’t let them come back."

But Osweiler injured his left shoulder -- his non-throwing shoulder -- on a 7-yard scramble where he failed to slide down with just under seven minutes left in the first half. He stayed in, closing out the drive with his third touchdown pass -- six yards to Demaryius Thomas.

The Broncos sent Osweiler to the locker room following the touchdown pass and rookie Trevor Siemian took a knee on the Broncos’ final play of the first half.

"We still don’t know what happened to my shoulder," Osweiler said. "We are doing some X-rays [Monday] to find out. But my shoulder did not affect my playing in the second half."

Maybe, maybe not. The fact remains the Osweiler was 7-of-26 for 82 yards in the second half.

The Broncos rushed for 16 yards in the second half and they had three holding penalties on running plays in the game. And once again, the Broncos offense couldn’t help close the deal on a day when the defense had all it could handle, and more, in the Steelers' offense.

Throughout this season the Broncos have made their escape in games like Sunday’s, when bad things happened they still found a way. But this time they didn’t get the drive they needed, they didn’t get the stop they needed, they didn’t get that one lights-out play with the game on the line that they really, really needed.

And now what was once a cruise-home lead in AFC West is down to a game, with the Broncos at 10-4 and the Kansas City Chiefs, winners of eight in a row, at 9-5.

"Kansas City is playing great," Kubiak said. " ... [They’re] playing exceptional, we lost two in a row right here. ... I know we can be pretty darn good at any given time. We’ve just got to find some consistency in what we’re doing."

And the clock’s ticking.