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Steelers vs. Broncos: 10 Observations from Pittsburgh's Wild Card Loss

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Steelers vs. Broncos: 10 Observations from Pittsburgh's Wild Card Loss
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

The defending AFC Champions officially lost their throne on Sunday Night as the Pittsburgh Steelers fell in a 29-23 overtime loss to the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

After dominating the early play, the Men of Steel were caught in a whirlwind of Denver momentum in the second quarter.  Downfield strikes by former Florida Gator Tim Tebow and stagnation on offense by the Steelers were catalysts for a complete role reversal, and Pittsburgh’s early 6-0 lead evaporated into a two touchdown deficit at intermission.

The Black and Gold rallied in the second half, cutting the score to 20-13 on an end-around run by receiver Mike Wallace.  After exchanging field goals, the tying touchdown was set up courtesy of a Willis McGahee fumble in the final minutes.  Ben Roethlisberger capitalized with a magnificent touchdown strike to receiver Jericho Cotchery, tying the score at 23-23.

With thousands of Terrible Towels whipping in the stands once again, Pittsburgh had an opportunity to win the game at the end of regulation.  However, on that final drive into Denver territory,
questionable clock management, pressure on Ben Roethlisberger, an inopportune delay of game penalty and a quarterback fumble showcased the lack of clutch play that ultimately separated these Steelers from their championship prestige.

The setbacks served as a microcosm of Pittsburgh’s recent miscues on the road, as well as their challenges in 2011, and the opportunity to win would not present itself again.

Following the last in an evening of touchbacks, Denver took control from their own 20-yard line.  Tim Tebow received the game’s final snap from center J.D. Walton after the Steelers defense crowded the
box.  As the football whistled over the middle of the field from southpaw to receiver, it nestled perfectly into the hands of Demaryius Thomas, who was behind Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor with only green
grass ahead of him.

As Thomas’ perfectly timed stiff arm sprung himself loose for the walk off score, fans in Pittsburgh realized that the Steelers’ 2011-12 season had just been effectively “Tebow’ed.”

Here are 10 observations following the Black and Gold’s sudden season-ending defeat in the Wild Card Playoffs.

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