Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Broncos/Steelers playoff history

The Broncos are in the playoffs for the first time since January 2006. All time Denver and Pittsburgh are 3-3 in the playoffs in their matchups. A look back at those games:

Dec. 24, 1977 - AFC Divisional - Denver 34, Pittsburgh 21

This is the one I wrote about on Christmas Eve, and still one of my favorite Bronco playoff wins. Why? Because it was the first, and because the 70's Pittsburgh team was one of the best in NFL history.

Dec. 30, 1978 - AFC Divisional - Pittsburgh 33, Denver 10

The rematch the next year. This one wasn't even close, and Pittsburgh went on to win the Super Bowl. I remember an awful official's call in this one. Broncos cornerback Steve Foley goes up with the Steeler's John Stallworth at the back of the end zone to contest a Terry Bradshaw throw. Both players were out of bounds. The ref ruled Foley pushed Stallworth out and called it a td. Foley was going for the ball, not pushing Stallworth. Still this call didn't matter in the big picture. The Steelers were clearly the better team.

Dec. 30, 1984 - AFC Divisional - Pittsburgh 24, Denver 17

John Elway's first home playoff game as the Broncos won the division that year. This one was a bit of an upset, in a playoff series filled with surprises. I remember Elway throwing an interception close to the goal line and chasing down the Steeler player, tackling him before reaching the other goal line. Even though the Broncos lost, that play showed me Elway's heart for the game.

Jan. 7, 1990 - AFC Divisional - Denver 24, Pittsburgh 23

On paper this looks like one of the best games of the series, yet it didn't have the impact on me as the other five Bronco/Steeler playoff contests. Playing at home, the Broncos fell behind early 10-0. The Steelers were led by future Bronco QB Bubby Brister and current Tebow critic Merril Hoge (Hoge had a good game with 120 rushing yards, a td, and 8 receptions). The Broncos came back to win this one in the 4th quarter.

Jan. 11, 1998 - AFC Championship - Denver 24, Pittsburgh 21

The best game of the series for this Bronco fan. The Broncos were underdogs going into this AFC title game in Pittsburgh and with good reason. Denver had lost to the Steelers 35-24 in December and not many expected the Broncos to win in the same venue only a few weeks later. But led by Terrell Davis' 139 rushing yards and some clutch throws by Elway in the 4th quarter, the Broncos won.

Jan. 22, 2006 - AFC Championship - Pittsburgh 34, Denver 17

One of the most significant losses in Bronco history, and a game that still has ramifications to the current day. The Broncos were favored, Big Ben was hurting for the Steelers, and whoever won was going to beat the Seahawks in the Super Bowl 2 weeks later. The Broncos lost, which led to Denver drafting Jay Cutler to eventually replace Jake Plummer at quarterback. If Mike Shanahan wins this game, and goes on to win the Super Bowl, does Pat Bowlen fire him after a disappointing 2008 season? I think not. 3 Super Bowl rings would have given Shanahan another year.

Today I see while the Steelers are favored the Broncos always have a chance playing at home. I also don't think this Pittsburgh team is as strong as the Super Bowl runnerup Steeler team of last year, or the great Steeler teams of the past. Could we see another surprise playoff result in this series? Stay tuned.

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