This Sunday, the Denver Broncosface a familiar Playoff foe in the Pittsburgh Steelers. These two teams have a rich Playoff history that can teach us something about our current situation. These teams have met with the AFC Championship on the line twice in recent history. Both of these meetings demonstrate a valuable lesson in Playoff expectations.
The 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers were Superbowl Champions. To get to the Superbowl, the Steelers would have a tough road as a Wildcard and second place team in the North. In the Wild-card match up, they faced a familiar foe in the Cincinnati Bengals on the road. They stunned the Bengals 31-17 and advanced to play the number one seed, Indianapolis Colts. They then beat the Colts in a close contest, 21-18 to advance to the AFC Championship game against our beloved Denver Broncos. The Broncos uncharacteristically turned the ball over four times en route to a 17-34 loss at home. It was hard to imagine at the time, but these teams were headed in opposite directions. The Steelers were headed towards Playoff prominence, and the Broncos were headed towards oblivion.
The 1997 Denver Broncos were also Superbowl Champions. They also entered the Playoffs as a Wildcard in what we now affectionately call the "Revenge Tour". Their first stop on the revenge tour was a home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the team that knocked them out in the first round the year before. The Broncos exorcised their demons from the 1996 season and destroyed the Jags 42-17. The next stop would be Arrowhead Stadium and the AFC West Champion Kansas City Chiefs. The Broncos stunned the Chiefs, 14-10 to advance to the AFC Championship game against a familiar foe, the AFC Central Champion Pittsburgh Steelers. This was another close affair, but the Broncos prevailed 24-21 en route to their first ever Superbowl win. The Broncos stunned a team that physically man-handled them in the regular season to the tune of 24-35. This was an unlikely run, not unlike the Tebow Magic run we seen earlier this season. None of the so called experts gave that Bronco team a chance and they went on to knock off the defending champion Packers.
These two past Playoff appearances are a valuable history lesson for us today. This Broncos team sort of back doored their way into the tournament, but how we got here is not as important as what we do while we are here. The so called experts already have this team counted out and for good reason. How soon they forget the 2010 Seattle Seahawks knocked off the defending Superbowl Champion New Orleans Saints, or a Wild card Packer team that shocked the world. How soon they forget about the 2005 Steelers, and how soon they forget the Revenge Tour of 1997. Anything can happen in the Playoffs. This is a new season for the Broncos. We all need to forget about the 8-8 regular season and focus on how we can win against a beat up Steelers team. It's going to be tough, but that is situation normal. A Superbowl birth is unlikely for this team, but it is not impossible. Just maybe the Mile High/Tebow Magic will make another appearance during the Playoffs. Stranger things have happened, just look at how we ended up here?