By Mark Schiff
This year marks the 10th anniversary of Denver’s 2005 team, which went 13-3 and got the No. 2 seed en route to pulling off one of the team’s most memorable playoff wins in the divisional round over New England. With the Broncos clinging to a 10-7 lead in the third quarter, the Patriots were looking for the go-ahead score when Champ Bailey jumped in front of a Tom Brady touchdown pass and returned it 100 yards before he got blown up by Patriots tight end Benjamin Watson at the one. Denver turned it into a score and tallied five turnovers in Tom Brady’s first career playoff loss, a 27-13 victory for the Broncos.
Their opponent the next week in the AFC Championship game? The Pittsburgh Steelers. But you’ll have to look up that game recap on your own. Here are your divisional round team headlines.
Roethlisberger at practice but Landry takes the majority of snaps
Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger practiced Wednesday in spite of his injured right shoulder, but backup quarterback Landry Jones took the majority snaps with the starters. Although he remarked that “You want to be a tough guy,” Roethlisberger acknowledged that his injury could keep him out of the game.
“I want to be out there (Sunday), unless I’m going to hurt the team,” Roethlisberger said. “If you can’t throw the ball 25, 30 yards downfield, I think you’re hurting your team. So, I don’t think we put ourselves in that situation. But if we can find any way possible to get out there, whether it’s with pain medicine, whatever it is, if I can deal with the pain and make plays, even if I have to be in a lot of pain the next day, then I’ll deal with it.”
Jones has played in several games this season in injury relief of Roethlisberger and Michael Vick. Jones has thrown for 513 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions, including his late-game pick against the Bengals that nearly cost the Steelers the game.
Brock Osweiler still isn’t practicing
The injury to backup quarterback Brock Osweiler came as something of a surprise when the team announced it last week and his sprained right knee is still bad enough that he had to work off to the side of the practice field with strength and conditioning coach Luke Richesson. Trevor Siemian split passes with Manning at practice but head coach Gary Kubiak still expects Osweiler to be healthy enough to be in uniform on Sunday.
Manning noted that his own time rehabbing his foot injury has him feeling refreshed for the playoffs.
“I obviously haven’t played a ton here in the last few weeks,” Manning said. “I needed that time in order to get healthy certain parts of my body. At the same time, other parts of your body take advantage of that, right? Not getting hit and not getting pounded on, you try to take advantage of that and feel better for it.”
Players still upset over Cody Wallace’s late hit on Bruton
In Denver’s last meeting with the Steelers, Pittsburgh offensive lineman Cody Wallace was flagged for a (very) late hit on Broncos safety David Bruton. Several Broncos called for Wallace’s suspension and felt that the $23,000 fine levied for the late hit was insufficient. They’re still not backing down from their strong remarks.
Earlier in the week, safety Darian Stewart said that while it wouldn’t be “cheap,” the team was “going to get [Wallace] between the lines.” That comment drew the ire of Steelers guard Ramon Foster, who called them “unnecessary.” As for Wallace, ESPN reports that he “just kind of shrugged at the comments.”
Mark Schiff is a freelance writer and music journalist for AXS.com. In 2013, his coverage of the Seattle Seahawks ended in heartbreak when they defeated the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. Now covering his beloved hometown team, his knowledge and passion for pro football has resulted in multiple fantasy football championships. Find him on Twitter at @mihilites.