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Broncos Host Steelers in Wild Card Weekend Finale

Steelers' safety Ryan Clark nearly died last time he played in Denver in 2007. (Photo by Karl Walter/Getty Images)

Last time Steelers’ safety Ryan Clark played in Denver he lost his spleen, gall bladder, and 30 pounds.  Clark has a sickle cell trait that becomes aggravated when he plays at high elevations.  Clark was cleared by doctors to play when Pittsburgh traveled to Denver in 2009, but was held out as a precaution.  Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin won’t take any chances with Clark’s health, and he will be held out in Sunday’s playoff game.

That is just one of the story lines in the finale of Wild Card weekend in the NFL.

The Denver Broncos are returning to the playoffs for the first time in six years.  The Steelers are a perennial playoff team, but seem to be limping into the postseason.  Despite winning six of their final seven games, Pittsburgh has shown little offensive fire power.  Ben Roethlisberger appears to be quarterbacking on one leg, and running back Rashard Mendenhall is out for playoffs with a torn ACL in his right knee.

For Denver, it was a roller coaster season with plenty of highs and lows.  After a 1-4 start Tim Tebow was named starter on Oct. 23rd against the Dolphins.  Tebow started off 7-1 with a series of dramatic fourth quarter wins and a blowout over Oakland.  ”Tebowmania’ was quelled after the Broncos finished the season with three straight losses to back into the playoffs.

One of the criticisms of the NFL playoffs is that teams who win weak divisions get to host playoff games.  It does seem odd that the 8-8 Broncos are hosting the 12-4 Steelers, but ‘them’s the rules.’

Denver will benefit some from getting to host the game, but that can only go so far.  Denver’s defense can make enough plays to keep them it the game but I think Pittsburgh’s experience, talent, and depth will eventually wear the Broncos down.

Game Prediction:  Steelers- 23 Broncos- 14

 

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