2012 NFL Playoffs: Pittsbugh Steelers Saved from Misery by Tim Tebow, Broncos

Mike StangerCorrespondent IJanuary 11, 2012

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 08:  Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers gets up slowly after throwing an interception to Quinton Carter #28 of the Denver Broncos in the second quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 8, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Steelers 29-23 in overtime of their AFC Wild Card Playoff game.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

For Pittsburgh Steelers fans, the loss to the Denver Broncos should be considered a mercy killing. Losing to the Broncos means that the short-handed Steelers avoided an embarrassing defeat deeper in the playoffs.

Indeed, going into the Broncos game, the Steelers were already low on manpower on offense due to injuries to Rashard Mendenhall (ACL) and Maurkice Pouncey (high ankle sprain).

Furthermore, Ben Roethlisberger was nursing his own high ankle sprain, grossly limiting his mobility.

During the game, Max Starks went down with an injury, which meant that the Steelers were forced to put Jonathan Scott—the human turnstile—at left tackle.

Not wanting to be outdone by their brethren on the offensive side, the defensive line quickly picked up the injury bug as Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel were both out of the game early in the second quarter.

Mike Tomlin could be seen on the sideline calling Joel Steed and Kimo von Oelhoffen out of retirement

As the game progressed, it became apparent that the Steelers were playing on borrowed time and—if they had beaten the Broncos—would have had a severely depleted team going against the New England Patriots.

Confirmation of their infirm condition came with the announcement earlier this week that Starks and Hampton had ACL injuries, and that Keisel had a severe groin injury. All three of them would have been inactive for the rest of the playoffs.

Therefore, moving forward, the Steelers would have been without Mendenhall, Starks, Keisel and Hampton as well as having a gimpy Pouncey and Roethlisberger.

How would the offense have been able to produce the points needed to keep up with the Patriots or—if they miraculously beat the Pats—been able to protect the immobile Roethlisberger from the relentless Baltimore Ravens' or Houston Texans' pass rush?

How would the defense—particularly the dangerously thin defensive line—have been able to stop the high-flying Patriots or to endure the physical running game of either the Ravens or Texans? It couldn't even slow down the Tebow-led Broncos offense.

And if by some divine intervention the Steelers survived the AFC round, a Super Bowl matchup against either the Green Bay Packers or New Orleans Saints would have resembled a Greek tragicomedy.

Yes, Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos did the Steelers a favor by putting them out of their misery last Sunday.

Otherwise, Steelers fans more than likely would have needed the Terrible Towel to wipe away their tears and to hide their faces after another embarrassing playoff loss to the Patriots.