DENVER - The Denver Broncos took the city's minds off the Colorado Rockies for a few hours last night.
"However we can take it," Jason Elam said after his 49-yard field goal as time expired beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, 31-28. "We want to do this whole Rockies thing, 21 out of 22, that works for us."
It's a start.
Rookie Tim Crowder had a 50-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown, Jay Cutler threw three TD passes, and the Broncos (3-3), coming off their worst home loss in 41 years, looked nothing like the troubled team that had lost playmakers on both sides of the ball and whose season was threatening to unravel before the leaves had finished falling.
Suddenly able to get to the passer despite Champ Bailey (thigh) missing a game for just the third time in his career and fellow Pro Bowl cornerback Dre' Bly injuring his right shoulder on a first-half interception, the Broncos forced three turnovers and sacked Ben Roethlisberger four times.
Bly stayed in the game and broke up several of Big Ben's passes.
The Steelers (4-2), who had allowed just five touchdowns all season, surrendered four, including Cutler's throws of 15 yards to Brandon Stokley and 1 yard each to Tony Scheffler and Cecil Sapp.
Elam, who has the game-winner in all three of the Broncos' wins so far, nailed his kick to cap a seven-play, 49-yard drive that covered the final 1:10 after Pittsburgh had rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit to tie it.
"He's a darn good closer," safety John Lynch said. "You wouldn't want anyone else in that position. You have a sense of calm when he's booting it. He's very good at what he does. No question, right down the middle.
"This is the first step in turning this thing around."
The Broncos, who lost running back Travis Henry for the night with bruised ribs in the third quarter, snapped a three-game skid.
Pittsburgh rallied from a 28-14 second-half deficit with a 94-yard drive capped by Matt Spaeth's 13-yard TD grab and another long drive in which Roethlisberger completed 8 of 8 passes for 80 yards, including a 12-yard strike to tight end Health Miller, his second touchdown of the night.
Then, it was Cutler's turn.
"That's where you make your money," Cutler said. "That's where the fun is."
The drive started with Scheffler catching a 16-yard pass and then hopping off the field with an apparent right foot injury. He broke that foot in the summer and only recently returned to full strength.
Brandon Marshall caught a 9-yard pass and an offside call put the ball on the 50. Glenn Martinez caught an 11-yard pass and tight end Daniel Graham caught another 9-yarder with 20 seconds to go on a play that was initially ruled an incompletion before a booth-ordered replay overturned the call.
Selvin Young lost a yard and, after a timeout, Elam split the uprights.
The Broncos seized the momentum with their first touchdown by a defensive lineman since Ellis Johnson's interception return against Oakland Nov. 28, 2004.
Elvis Dumervil split blockers Marvel Smith and Alan Faneca and dumped Roethlisberger for a 12-yard loss, while stripping the ball from the quarterback's grasp.
"The play clock was running down," Roethlisberger said. "Looking back, I probably should have called timeout, but I didn't. When I bent down to pick it up I looked up and there were guys all around me."
All of them were thinking the same thing.
"We were all trying to get it," said Crowder, who scooped it up and raced half the length of the field for a 21-7 lead just 90 seconds after Sapp's 1-yard touchdown grab had given Denver its first lead.
"Elvis saw me and he just kicked it out to me and I picked it up and took off. I have to remind people that I can run, too."
Denver is last in the NFL in stopping the run and the Steelers have the league's second-best rushing offense. Yet, Pittsburgh running back Willie Parker (93 yards on 21 carries) had only three rushes for 10 yards in the first quarter.
"At times it looked like they had nine or 10 guys at the line of scrimmage," Roethlisberger said.
The Broncos became the first team this season to score on Pittsburgh's defense in the first half when Stokley caught a 15-yard pass from Cutler to tie the game at 7 in the first quarter.
The night began with a ceremony to honor cornerback Darrent Williams and running back Damien Nash, two 24-year-old Broncos who died last winter. Williams was killed in a drive-by shooting in downtown Denver on New Year's Day and Nash died two months later after a charity basketball game in St. Louis.
"We talked a lot about honoring our teammates," by playing well, Lynch said, "and I think we did."