The Pittsburgh Steelers will face off against the Denver Broncos in the AFC Divisional round. And with two hobbled starting quarterbacks. Ben Roethlisberger with the injured right throwing shoulder, and Peyton Manning with plantar fasciitis that limited him to only 10 games this season.
Pittsburgh won the first meeting of the 2015 season in Heinz Field, 34-27 in week 15 after coming back from a 27-13 halftime deficit. Roethlisberger was threw for 380 yards on 40/55 with 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. But, the Mile High City has been sort of a house of horrors for him and the Steelers in recent memory.
The last time the Steelers were in Denver was back in 2012. Peyton Manning passed for 253 yards and 2 touchdowns on 19/26, leading the Broncos to a 31-19 win in his first game with his new team, after missing all of the previous season. That meeting, came eight months after the Steelers lost to the Broncos 29-23 on the first play of overtime on an 80 yard pass and catch from Tim Tebow to Demaryius Thomas. That was the day in which the Pittsburgh D gave up a career high 316 passing yards and 2 touchdowns to Tebow. See, giving up career high games to quarterbacks has been the norm for the Black & Yellow for a handful of seasons now. Not just the four they allowed this season to Russell Wilson, Johnny Manziel, Aaron McCarron and Ryan Mallet.
Ben Roethlisberger is 3-4 vs. Broncos as a starter in his career. That includes the 2005 AFC Championship victory in Denver. Head coach Mike Tomlin is 2-3 vs Denver in his tenure.
But it’s not all bad for Tomlin, Roethlisberger and company. #7 is 4-0 in divisional games, and moved to 5-0 as the 6th seed with last Saturday’s victory. They’re also the only team to score 30+ points this season on the Broncos fourth ranked scoring D and first ranked in total yards in the NFL.
There are some nuggets that should have Peyton Manning and Bronco fans concerned. Manning, who hasn’t started a game since November 15th against the Kansas City Chiefs when he was benched after throwing 4 interceptions, has been held under 300 yards passing in 4 of 5 meetings all-time against Pittsburgh. Nine times he’s lost the first playoff game, six of them at home. That includes the 2005 Divisional loss to Roethlisberger and the Steelers when Peyton was with the Indianapolis Colts. Manning is 3-2 all-time vs. Steelers, that includes playoffs.
Also, the coaching edge in this matchup has to go to Mike Tomlin. He’s not only a Super Bowl Champion and 2-time AFC Champ, he’s 6-4 in the postseason. While his counterpart on the other sideline, Gary Kubiak is just 2-2 in his postseason career.
At the time of this post, wide receiver Antonio Brown, who had 16 receptions for 189 yards and 2 touchdowns in the week 15 matchup, still hasn’t passed the concussion protocol which would keep him out of Sunday’s game. Running back DeAngelo Williams hasn’t practice since injuring his right ankle against the Cleveland Browns in the regular season ending victory, and could also miss this game. Roethlisberger has yet to test his ability to throw with that injured shoulder in practice. Injuries has been the theme to this Steeler team all season going back to training camp. If their season is to continue, they’ll have to overcome this hurdle once again.
The Steelers are 7 point underdogs, and the over-under is 39.5. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:40 pm on Sunday.