Steelers’ last playoff visit to Denver was Tim Tebow’s finest NFL hour

Tim Tebow was the hero of the Broncos’ wild-card victory over the Steelers four years ago. Ron Chenoy/US Presswire
2:04 PM ET

  • Jeff LegwoldESPN Staff Writer

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — When it was all said and done, former Denver Broncos coach John Fox had described it as “football is football … (but) it’s a little unique to the National Football League.”

What Fox described as “unique” happened when the Pittsburgh Steelerslast visited Denver for a playoff game — Jan. 8, 2012. That day Tim Tebow had the performance of his NFL career and the Broncos won in what was the second-to-last start of Tebow’s tenure in Denver.

The Broncos had switched to a read-option offense after Tebow had struggled in a more traditional set. Standing 8-8 heading into the playoffs, they won 29-23 in overtime when Tebow hit Demaryius Thomas for a 15-yard slant that turned into an 80-yard catch-and-run touchdown on the first play from scrimmage.

The 11-second play ended the shortest overtime in NFL history against a Steelers team that had finished No. 1 in total defense and scoring defense. The Steelers’ leading tackler, Ryan Clark, didn’t play in the game because of Denver’s altitude. Clark has sickle-cell trait, which is exacerbated at high altitude.

Tebow finished with a career-best 316 yards passing on 10 completions. Thomas had 204 yards receiving on four catches. Tebow had four completions of at least 40 yards in the game.

“We had a lot of big plays in that game,” Thomas said. “It was one of those games where we found some openings, made some big plays. It was a great feeling, running it in to end the game — I remember that I wasn’t sure about the overtime rules right then, but just seeing the crowd, a great feeling.”

The win came just before the Broncos decided to make a drastic change in the course of the franchise. Tebow struggled mightily against the New England Patriots in the AFC divisional round a week later. He was 9-of-26 passing for 136 yards and was sacked five times.

A few weeks later, the Broncos had signed Peyton Manning in free agency. Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway said “Plan B? I don’t have a Plan B, we’re going with Plan A.”

Shortly after Manning was introduced after signing a $96 million contract, Tebow was traded to the Jets. Since Manning’s signing, the team has won four consecutive AFC West titles to add to the division title the team won with Tebow.

Until Manning started two playoff wins for the Broncos in the 2013 season — the Broncos went on to lose the Super Bowl by 35 points to theSeattle Seahawks — it was popular drive-time, sports radio fodder to say Tebow had led the team to one more playoff win than Manning had.

Tebow threw just eight more passes in his career after the Broncos were bounced from the playoffs by the Patriots to close out the 2011 season. He never started another game at quarterback.

Training camp stints with the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles, in 2013 and 2015, respectively, each ended with Tebow being released. He played his last NFL regular-season game, at least to this point, for the Jets on Dec. 30, 2012.

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5 Responses to “Steelers’ last playoff visit to Denver was Tim Tebow’s finest NFL hour”

  1. Andrea says:

    There may be no stopping the Steelers trip to Super Bowl 50 now that the powers that be have blacklisted Tebow.

  2. Sage says:

    Contemporaneous analysis of the Bears game by Broncos fans. Except Marion Barber didn’t “run out of bounds.” He was pushed out by Broncos defenders.

    How easily they forget.

    • ck says:

      Like the part where it states “You have just been TEBOWED” and the fans in the stadium celebrating another win by Tebow (six in a row)!!!:D
      WIN W/TEBOW!!!

  3. ck says:

    How did Bellicheat manage to get a “black eye”? Inquiring minds want to know even if I don’t subscribe! He’s not answering and did not know until someone mentioned that it happened two days ago…hmmmmmm!
    (He must not have treated someone else the right way as well, jmo.)

    On another note, can’t believe the 49ers hired someone that was fired for not “being good enough” and guess it makes a whole lot of sense when you read what Sage posted!

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