The Pittsburgh Steelers saw their 2011 season come to an abrupt end Sunday in Denver with 29-23 overtime loss to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Wild Card game.
Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow hit wide receiver Demaryius Thomas on the first play in overtime for a game-winning 80-yard touchdown pass to give the Broncos the win. Tebow had 316 passing yards and two touchdowns in the game and the Broncos now advance to play the New England Patriots in a divisional playoff game Saturday night in Foxboro.
The Broncos finished with 447 total yards against the Steelers No. 1 defense that allowed an average of 272 yards per game in the regular season. Tebow finished 10 of 21 passing in the win and rushed for 50 more yards with a touchdown on 10 carries.
The Steelers jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the game following field goals of 45 and 38 yards by kicker Shaun Suisham. The Broncos answered with 20 straight points that included a 30 yard touchdown reception by Eddie Royal, an 8 yard run by Tebow and two Matt Prater field goals of 20 and 28 yards.
The Steelers lost defensive end Brett Keisel and nose tackle Casey Hampton early in the game due to a groin and knee injury respectively. Neither returned to the game and rookie Cameron Heyward played the rest of the game at right defensive end with Steve McLendon taking over at nose tackle.
The Steelers came out of the halftime down 20-6 but crawled back within a touchdown following a 11 play 88 yard scoring drive on their first possession of the second half as Mike Wallace scored from 1 yard out on an end around following a 32 yard run by running back Isaac Redman. Redman was making just his second career start due to the season ending knee injury suffered by Rashard Mendenhall last week in Cleveland. Redman finished with 121 yards on 17 carries.
Both teams traded fourth quarter field goals and the Broncos were driving again around mid field when running back Willis McGahee fumbled on a strip by Steelers safety Ryan Mundy. Linebacker LaMarr Woodley recovered the fumble and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger led the team on a 7 play, 56 yard drive that culminated with 31 yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery that tied the game at 23 with 3:48 left in regulation.
On the first play of overtime Tebow hit Thomas in stride on the left side and inside Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor. Thomas, who finished with four catches for 204 yards, outran a couple of Steelers defenders for the game-winning score.
The loss means the Steelers finish the 2011 season at 12-5 and they will now have the 24th pick in the 2012 NFL draft.
I will have an extended breakdown and recap of the game later tonight after I go back through the game. You can listen to the Mike Tomlin post game press conference here.