ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- On a Steelers third-down play at the edge of field-goal range, rookie defensive end Derek Wolfe dove and grabbed on to the leg of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as he looked to scramble out of the pocket.
"I just grabbed hold of the foot and held on," said Wolfe, who finished with three solo tackles and the sack. "That's about all you can do. If you look, I probably had five or six yards on each side of me to cover. It was one of those plays where I just reacted to it and grabbed his foot, and just got lucky."
The play resulted in Wolfe's first career sack as he became just the sixth rookie in Broncos history (since sacks became an official statistic in 1982) to record a sack in the team's season opener. It also stopped Pittsburgh from capitalizing on Denver's lone turnover of the game. The Steelers had recovered a fumble and were set up inside the 50-yard line, but the play forced a Pittsburgh punt without gaining a first down on the drive.
Wolfe doles out credit to defensive tackle Mitch Unrein, who "did a great job of picking the center" and allowed the rookie to "come around free."
He also credits the coaching staff in preparing him so well that he knew he would have an opportunity for a sack on the play.
"We schemed all through camp about what was going to work on these guys," Wolfe said. "I knew what we were running and knew what was going to happen. We had been watching it on film and knew it was going to work. I almost knew, like, 'Okay, I'm going to get a sack on this play so I have to be ready.'"
Still, Wolfe knows that he has room to improve.
"In my dream (leading up to the game), I think I made more plays," he laughed. "The first sack felt good, but there were a couple opportunities to get him down again and I missed it."
OFFENSIVE TEMPO LEADS TO FOURTH-QUARTER POINTS
Although the Steelers won the time-of-possession battle on Sunday night, it was the Broncos who controlled the ball and dictated the pace of play in the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Peyton Manning and the offense possessed the ball for 10:48 in the fourth quarter. Of the three separate possessions Denver had in the quarter, its first two each resulted in a score – a touchdown to take the lead and a field goal to extend it – and the third featured just two plays from the victory formation.
Players said the offensive efficiency was a direct effect of a quickened tempo that gave them an edge over the Steelers defense.
"You could tell they were getting a little tired, but we got in a good rhythm and we were able to keep them on their heels a little bit," wide receiver Brandon Stokley said. "When you do that, good things happen."
Utilizing the no-huddle offense, a well-known tool of Manning's, helped establish the rhythm.
"It's something that we pull out every once in a while," Head Coach John Fox said. "(Manning) is definitely smart enough and mature enough as a quarterback to do it and he probably does it as well as anybody. It's a huge weapon."
Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas echoed his coach, adding that preparation made the no-huddle operate so smoothly.
"We went over it in OTAs and minicamp, so we were used to it," Thomas said. "We saw some things they were doing and let No. 18 take it over. It just kept clicking and clicking."
With Denver's offensive efficiency in the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh's well-respected defense couldn't keep pace.
"When you get in that rhythm, it doesn't matter what a defense can do," Stokley said. "You feel like you're unstoppable."
BRONCOS THANK FANS VIA TWITTER
Following the win, players took to Twitter to thank fans for their help and express their feelings about the victory. The crowd of 76,823 was the fourth-largest to ever watch a Broncos home game.
Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway expressed his gratitude for the fans' effort in creating a favorable atmosphere for the Broncos.
Elway (@JohnElway): "I've never seen so much orange in our stadium - An incredible crowd & homefield advantage. Thanks to the best fans in the NFL!"
Below are some of the players' post-game tweets.
Running back Lance Ball (@LanceBall35): "The next day always feels better when you get that W!"
Thomas (@DemaryiusT): "Great start last night ... Still a lot to work on but, proud to be a BRONCO"
Wolfe (@DerekWolfe95): "Thanks for all the support #BroncosCountry"
Cornerback Omar Bolden: (@Os_Island): Mannnnnnn..... #BroncosUp s/o to #BroncosCountry for having the stadium ROCKIN tonight!!!"
Tackle Orlando Franklin (@OFranklin74): "Great team effort tonight to get the W. Love every one have a blessed night"