The Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos have a rich history in the postseason. The winner of this game usually has the inside track to the Super Bowl.
The two teams have met six times in the playoffs, each winning three games. The winner has gone on to reach the Super Bowl in all but one of these occasions. The most recent dual happened in 2006. The Steelers defeated the Broncos 34-17 in the AFC championship game and went on to win Super Bowl XL over Seattle, 21-10.
In 1998, the Broncos, led by John Elway, traveled to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers in the AFC championship game. Denver won the game 24-21, and defeated the Packers 31-24 in Super Bowl XXXII.
Fast forward to this weekend’s match-up between these two teams. The Steelers come into the game rolling. Pittsburgh finished the season with a 12-4 mark, and have won 8 of the their last 10 games. All of their loses came against playoff teams, two of those being to the hated Baltimore Ravens.
The Steelers will be without running back Rashard Mendenhall, who tore his ACL against Cleveland during the last week of the regular season. Safety Ryan Clark will also be out because of a sickle-cell condition that acts up when he plays in Denver, due to the altitude.
Denver has had a tumultuous season. They started the season 1-4 and made a switch at quarterback after Kyle Orton was struggling. In comes Tim Tebow, leading Denver to six straight wins. Their winning streak hit a roadblock when New England came to town in week 15, and have lost three straight since that point. Denver finished the season with a record of 8-8.
Both teams have stingy and hard-hitting defenses. Rookie linebacker Von Miller has brought a toughness to Denver that they have lacked for sometime. Miller recorded 11.5 sacks this season along with 2 forced fumbles. Miller and fellow pass rusher Elvis Dumervil will need to pressure Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger if they have any chance of pulling off the upset.
The guys in Vegas have the Steelers as 8.5 favorites over the Broncos. That is an unusually large spread for a road team in the playoffs.
Kickoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. this Sunday at Invesco Field at Mile High.