Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio offered no absolution and pulled no punches for starting cornerback Kyle Fuller's performance amid Sunday's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“He got beat. He had a bad day," Fangio bluntly told reporters after the 27-19 affair at Heinz Field, Denver's second consecutive defeat.
Indeed, continuing a season-long trend, Fuller was targeted repeatedly by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who found wide receiver Diontae Johnson for a 50-yard touchdown on Pittsburgh's opening drive. Johnson simply ran past Fuller, who did not have over-the-top safety help, putting the Broncos in an early hole from which they never recovered.
“Just gotta make a play on the ball," Fuller said in his postgame remarks.
Fuller's day would only get worse. Later in the first half, on a 3rd-and-15 from Denver's 18-yard line, the former All-Pro was flagged for pass interference in the end zone. Once again left in single coverage against Johnson, he failed to turn his head with the ball in the air and initiated contact, making it an easy call for the officials — and an easier ensuing score for the Steelers.
“Gotta get my head back around … just too much contact," Fuller conceded after the game, adding, "I have to have a short memory. They were running (an) offense where corners are put in that position (of being attacked)."
In the interest of fairness, Fuller wasn't the only Broncos defensive back that warrants criticism. Justin Simmons, the NFL's third-highest-paid safety, was caught out of position a few times and first-round rookie CB Pat Surtain II whiffed on multiple tackle attempts.
Collectively, the team's secondary surrendered 12 passing first downs and 391 total yards to previously 1-3 Pittsburgh — 253 of which came on the arm of 39-year-old Roethlisberger, who looked like an old, wily QB reborn, completing 15-of-25 passes for 253 yards, two TDs, and zero interceptions.
"We didn't play well enough on defense," Fangio said. "You go on the road and give up 27 points you're not going to win many games."
There's a good chance the Broncos return Ronald Darby in Week 6, a home meeting with Derek Carr and the rival Raiders. If so, look for Darby to retake his CB1 role, mercifully, from Fuller, who's become a defensive liability the club cannot afford to keep exposing.
Follow Zack on Twitter @KelbermanNFL
Subscribe to Mile High Huddle on YouTube for daily Broncos live-stream podcasts!