- Bill Williamson, ESPN Staff Writer
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1. Backing in: The Broncos aren’t exactly storming into the playoffs after a six-year break. Denver has lost three straight games after turning around its season with a six-game winning streak. The Broncos are the seventh team in NFL history to make the playoffs on the heels of a three-game skid to end the season. Denver made the playoffs because the San Diego Chargers beat the Oakland Raiders on the road. Denver, Oakland and San Diego all finished 8-8. The Broncos advance to the postseason against the 12-4 Steelers on the merits of a tiebreaker. Unless Denver’s offense and beleaguered quarterback Tim Tebow get out of its doldrums, it will be short postseason ride in the Rockies.
2. Steelers are banged up: The best thing Denver, who lost standout guard Chris Kuper to a potentially bad lower-leg injury Sunday, has going for it is the Steelers are hurting, too. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is not completely healed from an ankle injury. Running back Rashard Mendenhall injured his knee Sunday and will miss the playoff game. Pittsburgh may also be without safety Ryan Clark, who has a rare sickle-cell trait that is affected by high altitudes. He missed a game in Denver in 2009 because he became violently ill during a game against the Broncos in 2007.
3. Bad playoff memories: The last time Denver played in the playoffs was a home loss to the Steelers in the 2005 AFC championship game. The Steelers ran away from Denver early and the game was never close. The Broncos have long rued that blown opportunity to go to the Super Bowl at home. Now, they will try to rekindle their playoff dreams against the same team.