And just like that, the season is over. For as much as everyone wants to be an expert, us here included, the playoffs are unpredictable. After all, who expected Tim Tebow to come out and get a triple digit passer rating? Who thought that the loss of Ryan Clark would make the whole defensive backfield fail to cover anyone? Let's face it. The Steelers were outcoached and outplayed. They looked like they were taking the Broncos lightly, and when you take a team lightly at this point in the year, your season ends pretty abruptly.
You can point fingers. You can try to decide what Kevin Colbert has to do to the roster this spring. You could buy a Tim Tebow jersey because you confidently declared that if Tim Tebow came out and beat the Steelers, you would. You could do any number of things, but none of it changes the fact that losing sucks, and now we'll join the likes of the Browns, Panthers, Seahawks, and Vikings, watching the important games being played on without us, wondering where we go from here. One thing we do hope you'll do is jump in and read the recap.
Matt Prater hit the crossbar on the kickoff. Heath Miller gets the offense moving to start the game with a couple first down catches. Mike Wallace gets stopped on a bubble screen and fans begin their teeth-gnashing.
Suisham boots one from 45. 3-0.
Tebow takes his first snap against the Steelers' defense and he gets half a yard. Then McGahee fumbles and a lineman recovers. Tebow fires a ball low and outside of his receiver. Awful throw. Broncos punt. You think the Steelers are going to cruise.
Mike Wallace gets open in front of the immortal Champ Bailey. Cotchery drops a rare pass and Jeremy Kapinos punts it away.
Hampton and Keisel leave the game. Lawrence Timmons blows up McGahee in the backfield. Tebow rolls out and just barely overthrows a receiver who had gotten behind Polamalu. Punt. You're less confident after seeing that receiver get open, but it's just a fluke play, right?
Ben finds Heath and misses Wallace. Heath throws a nice block to open space for Redman. Redman gets a bunch of yards after contact. A couple passes get missed and Suisham comes back out. 6-0.
Eric Decker catches a pass and James Harrison tackles him low just like the Fuhrer wants him too. Decker blows out his knee. The catch is later overturned.
Tim Tebow rolls out and makes the only throw he could make in college: The deep ball. Then Eddie Royal makes an unreasonable catch in the end zone around William Gay. 7-6.
For a guy who can't throw, he looked pretty good on that drive.
Ben answers with a long bomb to Mike Wallace. Wallace couldn't control the ball and it's incomplete. Ho hum, punt.
Tebow fires downfield again and gets it to Thomas. Broncos are exploiting a clear weakness in the secondary. St. Timothy punches it in himself. 14-6.
What can you say? This kid is a heck of a football player.
Ben throws an interception deep in his own territory. Then Harrison bumps Tim Tebow and gets the flag Goodell wanted for his hit on Decker. The defense finally makes some amount of stop and Denver has to settle for 3. 17-6.
Another Roethlisberger interception is overturned on an offside call. Kapinos punts. Denver takes over and Tebow slings another one deep downfield. No coverage at all. Then Polamalu has to bring down McGahee after another first down run.
The defense bends but doesn't break and Matt Prater kicks another short field goal. 20-6.
Ben gets rolling with a deep shot to Brown. Sanders gets the offense into Broncos' territory and then into field goal range.
Legursky snaps a ball over Ben's head. Heath recovers it for a 17 yard loss. Kapinos has to punt. Tebow takes a knee.
The Steeler defense tightens up on the running game but Tebow hits a few passes. McGahee gets stopped on 3rd & 5 and the Broncos finally punt again.
Heath Miller makes another reliable catch. Antonio Brown just barely gets a first down (surprise). Mike Wallace drops a lateral pass and John Fox tries to challenge.
Fox is correctly advised that video replay will not be able to award Denver a clear and obvious fumble recovery. Tough break for the Broncos but it's the most correct interpretation of the rule.
Antonio Brown comes around on a reverse and generates some nice yardage. Isaac Redman plunges into the teeth of the Broncos' front 7. Then he blasts himself through the defense and outruns everyone. He gets tripped at the goal line and the ball is placed at the 1.
If you're a Denver fan, you are rightfully outraged that the Steelers scored after that non-fumble.
Ike Taylor takes a pass interference penalty to continue the worst game of his career. Reminder: Taylor lost his starting job to Bryant McFadden in 2006 after a game in Denver. Just not a good place for Steeler DBs. It isn't even worth mentioning that James Harrison is being held on every play. Tebow scrambles for first downs at will.
Some Willis dude takes a weak penalty to erase a first down near the goal line. Cam Heyward makes an embarrassing tackle on Lance Ball and Matt Prater kicks another easy one. 23-13.
Antonio Brown makes another big time catch.
What a player.
Redman busts through for another big run and jukes out Champ Bailey. Ben's allegedly gimpy ankle runs the ball for 9 yards. The offense stalls and Suisham comes out for a field goal. 23-16.
Tim Tebow unsurprisingly gets a first down on a designed run. He breaks out of a few tackles and gets a pass downfield. He has a look about him that some other big, mobile quarterback had when he was younger...
McGahee fumbles and LaMarr Woodley picks up the ball. John Fox challenges because it's such a huge shift in momentum that he basically has to. The play stands.
Ben takes a sack. Redman gets some first downs anyway. Champ Bailey drops and interception in the end zone.
There's a lucky break. Bailey's no slouch.
Ben goes right back to the end zone. Jerricho Cotchery makes up for his first quarter drop.
All tied up at 23.
It looked like the Steelers were one big play away from sealing the comeback.
The Broncos go three-and-out. Woodley gets away with a facemask on Tebow but it goes uncalled. Steelers getting some officiating breaks that no yinzers will remember.
A few sideline passes to the boys of Young Money move the Steelers almost in field goal range.
Ben gets sacked a couple times and we reach the end of regulation.
And that's how the 2011 Pittsburgh Steelers' season ended.
Podcast tomorrow night/Wednesday.