DENVER (AP) — For a man who tips the scales at close to 300 pounds, nose tackle Shelby Harris sure gets overlooked a lot.
Ben Roethlisberger didn’t see him Sunday when Harris intercepted his pass to Antonio Brown from the Denver 2 with 1:03 remaining, sealing the Broncos’ 24-17 win that snapped the Pittsburgh Steelers’ six-game winning streak.
“Of all the interceptions I’ve thrown it’s one of the most fluky I’ve been associated with,” Roethlisberger said. “I never thought in a million years a defensive lineman would get blocked off the ball that far, right into an interception.”
The Broncos (5-6), who ended the Chargers’ six-game winning streak last week, weren’t surprised by Harris’ big play.
After getting cut seven times by the Raiders, Jets and Cowboys, Harris has finally made a name for himself in the last year and a half in Denver.
“I love Shelby. He’s worked his tail off,” teammate Chris Harris Jr. said. “He’s a guy that came out of nowhere and people kept cutting him and cutting him and he just kept fighting, man. I love Shelby and the effort that he has. He always makes plays for us.”
Not like this.
“I got to prove to everyone that I have the best hands on the team,” Harris said of his first career interception, which came 48 hours after he missed Friday’s practice for the birth of his daughter.
Maybe Roethlisberger didn’t see him, Shelby Harris said, “but the ball saw me.”
“All I saw,” Brown said, “was an interception.”
Harris kept the football and said he would take it with him to the hospital to see his wife and newborn afterward.
The Broncos used four takeaways to counter a 97-yard touchdown toss from Roethlisberger to JuJu Smith-Schuster and hand the Steelers (7-3-1) their first loss since September.
“It’s going to be a quiet plane ride home,” said Smith-Schuster, whose 13 catches for 189 yards weren’t enough to keep Pittsburgh from losing for just the second time in its last 18 regular-season road games.
Cornerback Bradley Roby and safety Darian Stewart were burned on Smith-Schuster’s long touchdown grab, but they made up for it when they teamed up on the final play of the third quarter for Denver’s third takeaway .
“I knew I had to do something,” said Roby, who forced James Connor to cough up the football after a 23-yard gain. Stewart recovered it at the Denver 21.
The Broncos then went 79 yards in 11 plays with Phillip Lindsay , who gained 110 yards on just 14 carries, taking it in from the 2 to break a 17-17 tie.
Roethlisberger was 41 of 56 for 462 yards, extending his NFL record with his sixth 450-yard passing game.
His only TD came in a highly unlikely situation, with the Steelers backed up at their 3. Backpedaling, Roethlisberger uncorked his pass just as Shelby Harris knocked him on his back in the end zone.
“They got pressure really quick,” Roethlisberger said. “I saw JuJu went inside and I just let it go.”
Smith-Schuster, who raced past Roby, hauled it in at the Pittsburgh 35, cut toward the Broncos’ sideline and stiff-armed Stewart on his way to breaking a 10-10 tie.
His 97-yard TD matched the longest pass play in franchise history, and was one yard shy of the longest TD the Broncos had ever surrendered, a 98-yard run by Green Bay’s Ahman Green in 2003.
“That’s a great quarterback making a great play to a great receiver,” Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe said. “You’ve just got to bounce back and figure out a way to get past it, and we did.”
FAKE FIELD GOAL
Roethlisberger had 25 completions by halftime, the most in the first half in the regular season by a Steelers QB since 1960, but it took a fake field goal for Pittsburgh to reach the end zone.
Kicker Chris Boswell threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to left tackle Alejandro Villanueva to tie it at 10.
Boswell took the direct snap and threw a perfect pass to a wide-open Villanueva — who was a receiver and tight end at Army and became the first Steelers O-lineman to catch a touchdown pass since Ray Pinney against the Browns in 1983.
“It was cool to see all the guys get excited like that for me, especially because I think I dropped it in practice last week,” Villanueva said.
The Steelers frittered away a shot at 10 more points in the first half.
Justin Simmons blocked Boswell’s 48-yard field goal attempt and safety Will Parks punched away the football just as tight end Xavier Grimble was about to score on a 24-yard catch-and-run. The ball went out of bounds in the end zone for a touchback.
Steelers: T.J. Watt (wrist) and TE Vance McDonald (hip) left the game but both returned.
Broncos: CB Tramaine Brock (ribs), TE Jeff Heuerman (torso) and OLB Shaq Barrett (hip) didn’t return to action after getting hurt.
Steelers: Return home to host the Chargers in another must-see matchup.
Broncos: Travel to Cincinnati to face the league’s worst defense.