Broncos celebrate a second time
The Denver Broncos celebrated Sunday for the second time in as many days.Less than 24 hours after ending New England’s quest for its third straight Super Bowl victory, Pittsburgh held on to beat Indianapolis 21-18. That ensured that not only will the Broncos will be home for the AFC title game next Sunday, but that they won’t have to visit the RCA Dome, where they allowed 90 points in playoff losses to the Colts the past two seasons.This will be Pittsburgh’s sixth AFC title game in 12 seasons.But this also will be its first of those on the road, not necessarily a bad thing, considering that the Steelers are 1-4 at home in those previous championships. They are the first sixth-seeded team to reach a championship game since the NFL went to the current lineup of six playoff teams from each conference in 1990.But they are no ordinary sixth seed.Remember that they were 15-1 last season and lost to New England in the championship game at Heinz Field, no disgrace given what the Patriots have been doing this century. And remember that they started 7-2, and seemed headed for a division title and no worse than a second or third seed when Ben Roethlisberger hurt a knee and then a thumb and they lost three straight.Roethlisberger was a hero Sunday on both offense AND defense, making what was probably a game-saving tackle when Nick Harper seemed headed for a touchdown after picking up Jerome Bettis’ fumble in the wacky final minutes of the win in Indy.Hopefully, he’ll be limited to offense next Sunday against the Broncos in what could be a quick game – Denver was second in the NFL in rushing this season and Pittsburgh was fifth.The Broncos (14-3) may also be a tougher test for Pittsburgh (13-5).The Steelers beat an Indianapolis team that hadn’t played a meaningful game in a month. The rust showed early as Pittsburgh jumped to a 21-3 lead and kept Peyton Manning out of his rhythm until two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter.Denver is fresh and Jake Plummer is coming off his first playoff win as a Bronco. Playoff experience can mean a lot to a quarterback, as Roethlisberger has shown this year after five interceptions in two postseason games as a rookie last season.Yes, Denver is a tough place to play. But so was Indy and the Steelers already have shown they aren’t especially good in title games at home.So they might as well be on the road.
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