NFL: Steelers Battle Broncos in Playoff Showdown!

Al Dannity | Updated Jan 04, 2012

Will Tim Tebow be the real wildcard on Sunday? Al Dannity looks at the prospects for the NFL’s most discussed quarterback and breaks down the key battles between Pittsburgh and Denver.

Steelers must work around missing parts Pittsburgh’s ground game leaned heavily on Rashard Mendenhall through the regular season but they will have to make do without him against Denver on Sunday. Without their star running back, NFL betting fans should expect the Steelers to shift the focus more to the passing game. Isaac Redman showed enough promise in the regular season to prove a decent alternative on the ground and the recently activated John Clay could be a useful back-up.

Ryan Clark’s health concerns mean he won’t be available at safety for Pittsburgh on Sunday. Clark has sat out of the trip to Denver on each of Pittsburgh’s last two road games against the Broncos. Given Tim Tebow and the Denver offense tend to focus more on the ground, this is pretty much the one game where Clark’s absence won’t hurt Pittsburgh.

Speaking of Superman Tim Tebow may not be terribly good at passing but he is going to be immortalized in a Marvel comic. Heroism can only get a signal caller so far. Tebow is comfortably the lowest ranked of any starting quarterback in the playoffs this season, based on Pro Football Focus’ rating system. When he replaced Kyle Orton the former Heisman winner was the right man at the right time. Against a Pittsburgh team with a clear talent advantage, he is the wrong man at the wrong time. A quarterback who offered a legitimate passing threat backed up by the mean Denver defense could give the Broncos a chance in this fight. Denver will still have that big D when they take the field on Sunday but Tebow will hurt them in the battle for field position.

The verdict There is often one game in the post-season where the result shocks fans, one match-up where an unlikely underdog pulls off a big win to stun an opponent. Last year it was the Seahawks beating the Saints. In 2008 it was the Cardinals in pretty much all three of their wins. Could it be the Denver Broncos this season? I really doubt it. Bad as those Seahawks were last year, they benefitted from topping New Orleans in the one area where they knew they could hurt the Saints. This Sunday Pittsburgh will walk into Denver below strength in the secondary. They will not however be facing a team designed to expose that flaw. Tebow time is over. I like the Steelers to win on Sunday.