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Ben Roethlisberger's arm looks stronger than ever in Denver

DENVER -- Well, the old cannon looks just fine for Ben Roethlisberger, who has made several strong throws early in the AFC divisional playoff.

The Steelers lead 10-9 over the Broncos.

In fact, if it weren’t for drops by Heath Miller, Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant on difficult but catchable plays, Roethlisberger (9-of-15) would have more than 132 yards passing.

Not sure what the Steelers and Roethlisberger did before the game, but that shoulder injury is a non-issue. He’s throwing with confidence, letting it rip for 50 yards on the game’s first play (a bullet of an overthrow) and throwing a convincing deep ball to Darrius Heyward-Bey for a 58-yard gain.

More importantly, the Steelers are playing loose and confident.

The formula to win is firmly in place. The Broncos looked tight for much of the first half. Their zone defense was bad. Their quarterback play was mostly bad. Their receivers weren’t making plays.

The Denver defense sacking Roethlisberger twice is about the only positive for the Broncos.

The Steelers are taking advantage of this with big plays on offense and a stingy defense that’s doing exactly what it wants -- stopping the run.

Players said it during the week. Peyton Manning was No. 2 on the scouting report. The Broncos’ running attack was No. 1. Through the game’s first 25 minutes, the Broncos managed 22 yards on eight attempts. C.J. Anderson finally broke through with a 34-yard gain late in the second quarter.

Stephon Tuitt and Jarvis Jones have anchored the run-stopping efforts. The rest of the defense has done just enough, aided by Manning and his receivers missing several easy ones.

And when Manning's offense started knocking on the door in the final minute, a timely safety blitz by Will Allen knocked Manning down, sparking two straight incompletions.

The Steelers are a big-play offense, which explains why Denver is playing way off the receivers in zone coverage. Despite those efforts, the Steelers still got three plays of 37 or more yards, including a 40-yard rush by Bryant and a 37-yard reception by Sammie Coates, who caught one pass all year.

Everyone’s contributing with Antonio Brown out. That must continue to secure a win.