DENVER -- The Steelers are trailing the Broncos, 20-6, at halftime because their strategy against Tim Tebow is backfiring.
Pittsburgh dared the Broncos quarterback to throw by playing man-to-man coverage with no help over the top, and Tebow has hurt the NFL's top-ranked pass defense with several deep passes.
After zero passing yards in the first quarter, Tebow lit up the Steelers for 185 yards passing in the second. The Steelers, who had allowed an NFL-low two passes of 40 yards or more in the regular season, gave up three of them to the once-struggling quarterback.
Tebow followed up a 51-yard pass down the left sideline (which came against cornerback Ike Taylor) with a 30-yard touchdown toss down the right one (against cornerback William Gay, who didn't turn around). That put the Broncos up, 7-6.
On the Broncos' next series, Tebow connected on a 58-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas, whose stutter step faked out Taylor. Tebow scored on an 8-yard quarterback draw, running over safety Ryan Mundy at the goal line. Mundy is replacing the Steelers' leading tackler Ryan Clark, who isn't playing because of a blood condition.
Tebow's 185 yards passing in the first half surpasses what the Steelers allow per game (171.9).
Here are some other halftime observations:
The Steelers moved the ball early but had to settle for two field goals to go up 6-0. The first drive ended when the Steelers made a surprising wide receiver screen to the outside on third-and-7. The second one stopped when Antonio Brown couldn't break free after a lot of contact with a Broncos defender.
Ben Roethlisberger (11-of-23 for 134 yards in the first half) hasn't been accurate on many of his downfield throws, but he hasn't been helped out by his receivers. The Steelers dropped three passes in the first half, and the interception occurred when tight end Heath Miller didn't turn around (letting the pass sail pass him over the middle).
The Steelers offense showed some life at the end of the first half and got within field-goal range at the Denver 32-yard line. But center Doug Legursky, who was replacing injured Maurkice Pouncey, snapped the ball over Roethlisberger's head in the shotgun to push Pittsburgh back in its own territory.