DENVER, OCT. 14 -- Bubby Brister threw four touchdown passes, three to rookie tight end Eric Green, and the revitalized Pittsburgh Steelers crushed the Broncos today, 34-17, Denver's third straight loss.
Brister's other touchdown pass was a six-yarder to Louis Lipps, and Merril Hoge scored a touchdown on a six-yard run early in the third quarter. After going without an offensive touchdown in their first four games, the Steelers (3-3) have nine.
"It was fun," said Brister, who completed 21 of 28 passes for 353 yards. "Hell, that was more fun playing football than I've had in a long time. I had a blast. We were laughing at times."
Sammy Winder and Steve Sewell ran for first-half touchdowns to give Denver (2-4) a 17-7 lead early in the second quarter, but the Steelers then scored four straight touchdowns against an injury-depleted Denver defense that lost two more starters -- cornerback Wymon Henderson (bruised ribs, could return next week) and end Jim Szymanski (broken fibula, out eight to 10 weeks). The Broncos were without the NFL's leading rusher, Bobby Humphrey (sprained ankle), and cornerback Tyrone Braxton and end Alphonso Carreker, both out for the year with knee injuries.
Denver Coach Dan Reeves said his team couldn't compensate for a "makeshift lineup. We're hurting right now. We could not move the ball and could not stop them. Our effort thus far has not been pretty. The fans don't like it, but we are doing the best we can. I still think we'll be a factor before this season is over."
Pittsburgh started the rally late in the first half, marching 55 yards in five plays for Brister's three-yard scoring pass to Green with 1:14 left.
Pittsburgh then put together scoring drives of 65, 75 and 74 yards. Brister's 23-yard pass to Lipps set up Hoge's go-ahead scoring run with 10:06 left in the third quarter.
The Steelers squandered another scoring chance moments later after a 90-yard pass from Brister to Dwight Stone. Warren Williams was hit and fumbled the ball into the end zone, with Denver's Tim Lucas recovering for a touchback.
Brister found Green again on a 10-yard toss early in the final period, but the extra point failed on a bad snap, leaving the Steelers with a 27-17 lead. On the next series, Brister found Lipps for 33 yards and connected with Green on another three-yarder.
Defensive end Donald Evans returned John Elway's fumble 59 yards to the Denver 11 in the closing seconds, but the Steelers allowed time to expire.