It really is all about the Denver Broncos this coming Sunday and that’s OK. Take a spin around the internet and it would appear that only one team is playing in the Mile High City this weekend. The Pittsburgh Steelers will reach the Rocky Mountains almost as depleted as the Donner Party but not quite as eager to cannibalize themselves. The six time Super Bowl champions come into the first round of the playoffs beaten, bruised, and bleeding but are still in contention to punch the clock on Tebow Time and live to fight another week.
Even if the Steelers lose, and I don’t think they will, they will still be the Steelers next season. We will recognize most of the coaches and players. There will be no front office shake up or free agent sell off regardless of how things turn out Sunday.
The Broncos, on the other hoof, are playing against themselves as much as they are playing against the Steelers. The Denver front office and coaching staff are in a real pickle: Lose and you’re done. Your season was interesting for one reason and one reason only (c’mon, you know who). You are a weak team playing in a weak division that is only really competitive amongst itself. You could win this division every year for the next five years and who would care. Denver has a solid O-line, Willis McGahee, and a couple of really good pass rushers. Other than that; holes everywhere. They lose and they release Tim Tebow, all of that attention, positive energy and the handful of wins that came with it. They can say they are moving in another direction and they wish the young man all the best. God Bless. The draft doesn’t really offer much to Denver in the way of an immediate starting quarterback; that handful of Tebow miracles took them out of the Luck sweepstakes. The Bronco Brain Trust will hit the QB free agent crap shoot with deep pockets even though that free agent will have no one to throw to and a shaky pass defense to protect any lead he may amass. That’s how Elway wants it and John will get what John wants.
But winning the game Sunday could be even worse for the Broncos. Here is John Elway’s reoccurring nightmare this week: Denver’s defense keeps the score close and Pittsburgh’s offense helps keep the score close and you know who goes all last minute hero and the Broncos pull out a playoff win at home. Please, please show a camera shot of Elway’s luxury box if Tim Tebow wins the game Sunday on a Steve Young looking scramble as time expires. Show the world how Johnny Horse Teeth and Pat Bowlen fake big old crazy looking Gary Busey smiles and awkwardly embrace each other; all the while knowing, in their minds, that this victory has just doomed their franchise for the short term. Catastrophe for Mr. Toothy and his plan of hanging this forgettable season on Tebow’s halo and moving on to find another mediocre quarterback. They would be handcuffed to Tebow for another season at least and that’s not what John Elway wants.
The Steelers are entering this post season in poor health physically: They have injuries in the offensive backfield, defensive backfield, offensive line, linebacker, and special teams. John Clay has been activated from the practice squad and will see, I believe, a lot of snaps in Denver. Anthony Madison was resigned this week and will see action on special teams. Their statistical health isn’t robust either: Giving up tons of sacks and scoring like they were Michael Moore at a Michelle Bachman fundraiser.
The Steelers finished the regular season at 12-4 and their window of opportunity is still open. Open because Pittsburgh is stubbornly steadfast in all phases of their organization. Steelers ownership is rooted in old school family values but has embraced the future of the NFL with enthusiasm; it ain’t called the Rooney Rule for nothin’. They scout new talent very well and draft strongly for the immediate future, the near future, and the future future. They sign their own talented free agents when appropriate and don’t chase crazy free agents the way teams in, let’s say, New York do. The Steelers coaching staff prepares the team for each opponent of the regular season and understands that the same teaching principles that got you into the playoffs will help you win in the playoffs unlike, let’s say, teams in New York do. The Steelers hire and retain coaches for the long haul and can be proud of the coaching tree they have planted in the NFL. The only knock I could put on the Tomlin coaching era would be some in-game clock management issues that have maybe left a few points on the field at semi-crucial times. Even Pittsburgh’s medical staff is top notch! They seem to understand that the game is played by human beings that will need all their faculties as they grow to, hopefully, ripe old ages. For the most part the Pittsburgh Steelers players are as good off the field as they are on it. There have been a few exceptions but most of those exceptions soon find themselves playing or sitting on the bench of other teams in, let’s say, New York.
The Steelers off season, whenever that begins, should be spent retooling the team to win on the road and making sure that one of those road wins is against the Ravens (TCSFB) each and every year. Tomlin is “Glad to still have a horse in this race”, and this week it’s a Bronco. As usual, it is far better to be a Steelers fan!