Story of the game ...
The Steelers began the game with a 41 percent chance to win, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index, but after a number of big plays, they increased their win probability to 51 percent by the half.
After a few more big gains, the Steelers' chance to win peaked at 74 percent before a game-changing fumble with 10 minutes remaining. The Broncos would capitalize on the fumble and ultimately defeat the Steelers 23-16.
Below are the five most impactful plays of the game (as measured by ESPN’s win probability model) ordered chronologically.
12:52 2nd quarter: Darrius Heyward-Bey 58-yard reception
Win probability change: From 45 percent to 59 percent (plus-14 WPA)
On third-and-5, Ben Roethlisberger completed a deep pass to Heyward-Bey, who ran 33 yards after the catch to the Broncos’ 22. That play gave Pittsburgh a greater than 50 percent chance to win for the first time in the game.
11:48 3rd quarter: Martavis Bryant 52-yard reception
Win probability change: From 51 percent to 65 percent (plus-14 WPA)
The Steelers’ biggest WPA play of the game came on a 52-yard catch and run by Bryant to the Denver 27. Pittsburgh would later kick a field goal on this drive to extend its lead to four.
10:00 4th quarter: Fitz Toussaint’s fumble
Win probability change: From 74 percent to 54 percent (minus-20 WPA)
With the Steelers leading by one and driving for another score, Bradley Roby forced a Toussaint fumble on the Denver 31. Based on how each play impacted each team’s chance to win, this was the most impactful play of the game.
8:37 4th quarter: Bennie Fowler’s 31-yard reception
Win probability change: From 36 percent to 51 percent (plus-15 WPA)
Four plays after the Broncos recovered the fumble, Peyton Manning completed a 31-yard pass to Fowler to the Pittsburgh 36.
3:04 4th quarter: C.J. Anderson’s go-ahead touchdown
Win probability change: From 65 percent to 81 percent (plus-16 WPA)
A few minutes later, Anderson converted the fumble and deep completion into a 1-yard go-ahead touchdown. After Denver converted its 2-point attempt, the Broncos' win probability would remain above 80 percent for the remainder of the game.