I'm pretty sure that the loss in Super Bowl XLV last February was probably the most painful loss that the Pittsburgh Steelers and their fans have had to endure in the past few years, but today's heart-wrenching 29-23 overtime loss against the Denver Broncos is probably a close second.
Going into the game, virtually anyone who had any kind of rooting interest in this particular Wild Card game thought that the Pittsburgh Steelers were the heavy favorite. After all, the Broncos had lost the past three games heading into the playoffs behind a rather anemic offense led by Tim Tebow.
Containing this particular offense should not have been a problem for a defense that was top-ranked for the entire 2011 season. The Steelers' opponents scored the fewest points per game (14.2), passing yards per game (171.9), and total yards per game (271.8). That makes it even more difficult to explain how exactly Denver scored 29 points, accumulated a total of 447 yards, and had Tebow throw for 361 yards.
What has happened to this Steelers defense that, in its biggest games, it falls apart? Is it coaching? Certainly the emphasis today was on stopping the Broncos' top-ranked rushing attack (164.5 yards/game) and the Steelers accomplished that by holding Denver to 131 yards of offense. The Steelers frequently loaded everyone up in the box and were able to stop the frequent run plays, especially those called on first down.
If the Steelers' game plan was to stop the run and force Tim Tebow to pass, then they succeeded. Unfortunately for the Steelers, so did Tebow. How is it that a guy who averaged only 150 passing yards a start this season threw for more than twice (361 yards) that in his first-ever playoff game? Was it poor play by the Steelers defenders who were unable to either intercept or sack Tebow? How else do you explain the defense giving up four passing plays of 40 or more yards?
There have been a lot of strange things to happen in Broncos games this season with Tim Tebow as quarterback. Opposing teams have seemed to play poorly (Chicago Bears, New York Jets) at times, inexplicably being unable to stop Tim Tebow in the fourth quarter of close games. I am having a difficult time explaining how the 28th-ranked quarterback (by quarterback rating) could have the best game of his year against the most feared defense in the NFL.
Strange things happen in the playoffs all the time, especially in the Wild Card round. That being said, the Steelers loss today will forever be remembered as one of the biggest upsets in playoff history. It will also be a game that Steelers players and fans will try very hard to forget.
Julie is a die-hard NFL fan living in Denver. She roots for the Broncos, but has many friends who are Steelers fans.
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- Sports & Recreation/American Football
- Tim Tebow
- Pittsburgh Steelers