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Tag:Pittsburgh Steelers
Posted on: January 6, 2012 2:15 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 5:44 pm
 

Super Bowl Odds: Pre-Playoffs Gambling Guide

Who's got the best odds to win the Super Bowl? (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

You might think gamblers are degenerates. And you might be right. But the guys who create the lines (read: "Vegas") are usually pretty good with their NFL-related accuracy. Let's take a look at what Vegas thinks about the various Super Bowl contenders.

In the meantime, check out a special edition of the Pick-Six Podcast with Paul Bessire of PredictionMachine.com, where we break down the best bets for Wild-Card Weekend as well as the Super Bowl favorites:

Team: Green Bay Packers
Super Bowl Odds
: +160
How it Ranks with Other Odds: 5
What Has to Happen: The Packers only have to win three games, two at Lambeau Field and one in Indy. They'll have to beat, if the seeds hold up, some combo of the Falcons/Giants and Saints/49ers. What makes things problematic for the Packers is that every single team in the NFC playoffs, with the exception of the 49ers, has to the firepower to keep pace with them offensively. The defense needs to get hot and commit turnovers. And Greg Jennings and the offensive line need to get healthy quickly. On the bright side, three of the other five playoff teams are dome teams; Lambeau is not the friendliest place for them.
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: Super Bowl (re) Matchup of Packers vs. Steelers at +700. Because the NFL will make this happen just to take care of all the fans who got screwed out of their seats in last year's game.

Team: New England Patriots
Super Bowl Odds: +350
1-12 Scale Value of Bet: 6
What Has to Happen: The Pats defense has to get much better than it was in the regular season. An upset would be a huge help for the Patriots, since they'd get either the Bengals or the Broncos, instead of having to play both the Steelers and (most likely) the Ravens in order to get to the Super Bowl. A team that can score and play defense is kind of nightmare for New England.
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: Super Bowl (re) Matchup of Patriots vs. Giants at +1900. Then you can email your favorite Boston sports fan clips of "The Catch" for two consecutive weeks.

Team: New Orleans Saints
Super Bowl Odds: +500
1-2 Scale Value of Bet: 7
What Has to Happen: The Saints have to win three games, and two of them could be on the road and outdoors. So it's a little nuts that they have better odds than the Ravens and 49ers, both of whom are No. 2 seeds in their respective conferences. That's partially playing to the public, though, as well as
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: Longest touchdown will be OVER 55.5 yards. The odds on this are basically even (-115) and you could argue that under's a much better bet. But this means for 60 minutes, every time Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford start to uncork a pass you're going to be screaming your face off. And that's always fun. Oh, also: MEGATRON.

Team: Baltimore Ravens
Super Bowl Odds: +600
1-12 Scale Value of Bet: 9
What Has to Happen: Just two games and a couple things stand out. 1) If Houston can hang on, Baltimore will probably only play the Texans and the Steelers or Patriots to get to Indy. 2) They only have to play two games! 3) They're 8-0 at home in 2011. 4) They've either beaten everyone who's in the playoffs (twice in the case of the Steelers and Bengals) or they match up well with those teams.
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: The OVER of the Super Bowl at 53 ... without knowing who's there. Even if the Ravens only give up 16.6 points per game on defense, we'll gamble they end up in shootout with the Saints/Packers/Lions. If the 49ers and Broncos play, this blows up in your face.

Team: Pittsburgh Steelers
Super Bowl Odds: +1000
Value of Bet: 8
What Has to Happen: Three games on the road with a gimpy Ben Roethlisberger? Yeah, that seems impossible but consider this: Pittsburgh has to beat Denver in Denver (which should happen), then travel to New England and Baltimore in some order. They've got the personnel to beat the Patriots and are the Ravens really taking down the Steelers three times in one year?
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: A non-touchdown score to happen first in Steelers-Broncos, which pays off at +115. The under of this game (which I love as well) is already down to 33.5. You're telling me people won't be cranking field goals in Mile High Stadium? Lock it up!

Team: San Francisco 49ers
Super Bowl Odds: +1200
Value of Bet: 10
What Has to Happen: OK, look, this is the "best value bet" on the board, but that doesn't mean I love it. The Niners probably have to beat the Saints, Packers and then someone from the AFC to win the Super Bowl. But a No. 2 seed with a shot at two home games (if the Packers are upset), a stifling defense, a strong run game and only needing two games to get to Indy with 12:1 odds to win the Super Bowl? That's kind of silly.
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: OVER on number of Gatorade baths given to members of the Harbaugh family at 2.5*. Jim might dunk himself twice if the Lions upset the Saints and he gets to spend a week smack-talking Jim Schwartz.

Team: New York Giants
Super Bowl Odds: +2000
Value of Bet: 11
What Has to Happen: The Giants have to win three games, and the road could very well go through Green Bay and New Orleans. But they've played everyone seeded above them and kept it close against the 49ers and Packers so we know they can play with the best teams. (I think they're losing to the Falcons but that doesn't make it a bad value play.) But remember 2007? Yeah, never forget.
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: Longest touchdown score OVER at 45.5. Any time you have Victor Cruz and Julio Jones in the same game, the over is a reasonable bet here.

Team: Houston Texans
Super Bowl Odds: +3500
Value of Bet: 3
What Has to Happen: Matt Schaub has to hire Kobe Bryant's doctor. The Texans rushing game and defense is great, and it's possible they could get a second home game (beat the Bengals, beat the Ravens, play Denver/Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship Game), but the odds just aren't great for Houston to make it to Indy.
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: UNDER for T.J. Yates pass attempts (29.5) and completions (16.5). Both pay good money (-115 and even, respectively) and there are two ways to win: a Texans blowout and tons of rushing attempts, or a Bengals blowout and Yates getting yanked for Jake Delhomme.

Team: Atlanta Falcons
Super Bowl Odds: +4000
Value of Bet: 4
What Has to Happen: A casual stroll into New York, New Orleans AND Green Bay, provided the seeds hold up. Consider this: they only played five games this year that weren't in a dome, thanks to convenient scheduling. Those were: a loss at Chicago, a loss at Tampa Bay, a loss at Houston, a two-point win at Seattle and an eight-point win at Carolina. Yikes.
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: Tony Gonzalez to score the first touchdown at +1500. Um, really? Because last I checked Matt Ryan kind of likes him in the red zone.

Team: Detroit Lions
Super Bowl Odds: +5000
Value of Bet: 12
What Has to Happen: As the No. 6 seed, the Lions are guaranteed to be on the road for three games if they make it to the Super Bowl. And they have to play the Saints first. But they've kept things tight with the 49ers, the Saints, the Packers and the Falcons. Matthew Stafford's as hot as anyone and they have the defensive line to pressure opposing elite quarterbacks. They can score in a dome or on the road (see: at Denver, at Green Bay, at Dallas). And they're a fun story.
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: Calvin Johnson OVER receptions at 6.5 and UNDER receiving yards at 98.5. This is a hedging combo, because if he goes over 6.5 he could go over 98.5 as well. But Johnson caught six balls for 69 yards the last time against the Saints, primarily because he was dealing with double teams. Stafford will still look his way but maybe

Team: Denver Broncos
Super Bowl Odds: +6000
Value of Bet: 1
What Has to Happen: Remember that ridiculous stretch of games where the Broncos won an (un?) holy six straight games to climb into first place in the AFC West thanks to great defense, some ridiculous luck and clutch play by Tim Tebow in the fourth quarter? That needs to happen again.
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: Tim Tebow over on passing attempts at 24.5. Yeah, that's a bunch, but if the Broncos are down he'll have to be winging it. Plus, you get the bonus of getting comedic value on your bet even if you lose.

Team: Cincinnati Bengals
Super Bowl Odds: +7000
Value of Bet: 2
What Has to Happen: Andy Dalton needs to stop pooping himself first of all; with Dalton feeling awful, it's kind of tough to back the Bengals even making it past the Texans (though I am). And then the Bengals need to win three road games despite posting victories against teams with a winning percentage of like 37.5 percent (or thereabouts). The Bengals are a great story but they're not going to the Super Bowl.
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: Will A.J. Green score a touchdown at +130 and the over on Greens' receiving yards at 65.5. I don't care that Johnathan Joseph is covering him. He gets his.

*Made-up prop

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Posted on: January 6, 2012 12:27 pm
 

Wild-Card Weekend podcast preview

By Will Brinson & Ryan Wilson

It's playoff preview time and that means our full-on Wild-Card Weekend preview.

Before we dive into the games, we debate the Penn State hire of Bill O'Brien (and wonder what the hell is wrong with all these members of the Penn State "family" who are ripping the hire publicly), discuss the possibility of Ray Horton going to St. Louis and some other coaching moves.

Then we dive into the games and ask all the important questions: Are the Bengals and Texans too similar? Can Johnathan Joseph keep A.J. Green in check? Will the Bengals rush defense show up on Saturday?

How about the Lions? Did Wilson really pick them to win? Can Ndamukong Suh make a difference? Are the Falcons the worst nightmare for Eli Manning? Will the Giants pass rush show up on Sunday? And, of course, will Tebowmania finally die?

(Did we mention that you should subscribe to the podcast via iTunes? And if you can't listen to the podcast below, download it here. And if you'd like to keep working while listening in your browser, pop that puppy out in a new tab here.)


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Posted on: January 6, 2012 11:20 am
Edited on: January 6, 2012 11:34 am
 

Steelers RB coach Kirby Wilson burned in fire

By Will Brinson

On eve of the wild-card weekend, there's some horrible news out of Pittsburgh, as Steelers running backs coach Kirby Wilson was 'badly burned in a house fire' according to WPXI news.

The Steelers released a statement earlier Friday confirming that Wilson was at least involved in a bad accident.

"First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with Kirby and his entire family," Steelers President Art Rooney said in a statement. "We are saddened to hear about this unfortunate situation but we know that he has the best medical care in the country treating him. The entire organization is praying for Kirby to have a full recovery and we will be by his side through this difficult time."

According to WXPI, the fire occurred in Seven Fields, Butler County at around 3 a.m. ET.

"About 2:45 a.m., I was awoken by a number of pounding on doors," said neighbor David Sebesta, according to WXPI. "[I] looked out my window, and there was policemen, about five or six, going down this row of houses, waking people up. I could smell burning. Fire trucks came and pulled a man out, looked like he was pretty badly burned, and carted him off to a hospital."

Wilson was reportedly flown to a Pittsburgh-area hospital and as of right now, his condition is unknown.

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Posted on: January 6, 2012 9:32 am
 

Film Room: Broncos vs. Steelers wild-card preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit


It hardly seems fair that a 12-win team has to go on the road to face an eight-win team, but the NFL’s playoff seeding system is designed to reward division champions. That includes the rare division champion that enters the postseason on a three-game losing streak.

Here’s a breakdown of what many expect to be a massacre.


1. Broncos offense has no prayer
We covered everything there is to know about the Broncos’ offense last week in preparation for their Week 17 bout with the Chiefs. Nothing has changed. It’s clear that press-man coverage can overwhelm Denver’s passing attack, as the receivers don’t have the quickness to separate and Tim Tebow doesn’t have the mechanics, timing or confidence to fit balls into tight windows.

It’s rare to see the zone-based Steelers play press-man coverage, though they did so with great success against the Patriots in Week 8. Usually, shutdown corner Ike Taylor (yes, SHUTDOWN corner) plays press coverage against the opposing team’s top wideout (in this case, Demaryius Thomas), while William Gay, Keenan Lewis and/or Bryant McFadden play a variation of zone on the other side.

If Dick LeBeau wants to bait Tebow into interceptions, the Steelers may still stick with their traditional approach:

This shot from Super Bowl XLV illustrates the Steelers’ traditional approach to coverage: Ike Taylor playing press-man against the opposing team’s top receiver (Greg Jennings) on one side, with the rest of the secondary playing zone on the other (you can tell it’s zone by how cornerback Bryant McFadden is lined up off the line and with his body open slightly towards the inside).

The Broncos don’t have a threatening tight end, so Tebow would be throwing into heavy zones against athletic corners. If LeBeau wants to pressure Tebow with James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley and bait him into the usual slew of incompletions, he can play man-to-man. Whatever LeBeau chooses will work; we’re talking about the league’s top-ranked pass defense against the league’s most inept passing quarterback.

Lately, Denver’s read-option run game has still produced yardage, though only because of the high volume of carries. If the Broncos couldn’t muster more than three points by running against Kansas City’s 3-4, they can’t be expected to muster ANY points running against Pittsburgh’s.

A key to Denver’s run game is getting offensive linemen clean to inside linebackers. No three-man defensive line does a better job at protecting its inside linebackers than Pittsburgh’s. That’s why Lawrence Timmons and James Farrior are able to play with their ears pinned back.

2. A roll of the dice
Because it feels a little too simplistic to declare the Broncos’ chances at moving the ball to be zero (even if they are), we’ll use this section to present creative ideas for how the Broncos might – MIGHT – manage to muster a semblance of offense on Sunday.

The first idea is to just throw deep and hope luck tilts your way (a cornerback falls down, a ref calls pass interference, two Steelers collide while going after the same easy interception, etc.). Don’t count on Denver doing this, though. It goes against everything John Fox has stood for since turning to Tebow, and it also requires that, you know, Tebow actually throw downfield accurately.

Another idea is to draw up trick plays. Lots of trick plays. Problem is, a defense as experienced and disciplined as Pittsburgh’s is not going to bite. You might make chance-taker Troy Polamalu pay for a gamble once or twice, but more likely he’ll make YOU pay even more for YOUR gamble.

A third (and stronger) idea is to run the ball outside. In the past, outside running was guaranteed to fail against the Steelers. This season, however, Timmons and Farrior have not been as sharp in lateral run defense. That’s why Pittsburgh has struggled a bit against zone teams. The Broncos no longer have a zone run game (it left shortly after Shanahan departed), but it might not be crazy to hastily install one given that their usual approach will not work anyway.

Denver’s lack of running back speed is an issue here, but again: their usual approach will not work anyway!

3. Pittsburgh’s passing attack
As lopsided as this matchup seems, the final score could be tight given that Pittsburgh’s offense might have trouble against John Fox’s and Dennis Allen’s defense. Don’t be surprised if the Steelers come out throwing in an effort to build a quick lead that forces the Broncos to go to the air early.
 
Against the Browns last week, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians chose to spread the field with 3 x 2 empty backfield sets on passing downs. This may have been to get the ball out quickly so that Ben Roethlisberger would not have to make plays on his bum ankle. Though Roethlisberger has gotten much better in his presnap reads and sudden decision making, his natural inclination is still to extend the play. Thus, Big Ben still held the ball plenty long last week.

He won’t be able to do that this week, though – not under the same gameplan, anyway. Offensive tackles Max Starks and Marcus Gilbert may have been be able to handle Browns defensive ends Jayme Mitchell and Jabaal Sheard on an island (Sheard just barely, actually), but they won’t have a snowball’s chance against Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller.

If Roethlisberger is to buy time for his receivers downfield, his offensive tackles will need running backs and tight ends to chip-block, if not stay in completely and double-team. Something else to keep in mind: Miller, D.J. Williams and Brian Dawkins all excel as inside blitzers. Blitz pickup is an area in which the Steelers interior line, particularly left guard Chris Kemoeatu, struggles.

Brown's emerged as one of Pittsburgh's best receiving options. (Getty Images)

4. The passing matchups
Even though protection could be a problem, it’s possible the Steelers will still spread the field and let Roethlisberger run around and make plays. We’ve seen them before give up piles of sacks this way but make up for it with big plays.

The Broncos have a good secondary now that undrafted rookie Chris Harris has blossomed at nickel corner, but they’re thin and inexperienced at safety and vulnerable with Jonathan Wilhite at dime corner.

If the Broncos decide to eliminate Antonio Brown (Pittsburgh’s new No. 1 receiver) with Champ Bailey, there will be big-play opportunities for Mike Wallace against the limited-ranged safeties. If Bailey defends Wallace, Andre Goodman can spar with Brown but probably not for as long as Roethlisberger can extend the play. Chris Harris will be tested by Emmanuel Sanders’ speed, and Wilhite will have fits trying to defend Jerricho Cotchery underneath.

As much as the Broncos might like their secondary, they can’t expect it to be the league’s first unit that sustains coverage against the Steelers’ prolonged improvisational plays. Thus, when the Broncos do blitz, don’t be surprised if they bring the kitchen sink to ensure that Roethlisberger goes down or throws hot.

5. Steelers run game
Rashard Mendenhall will be missed, but the Steelers can tread water with Isaac Redman. The third-year running back doesn’t have Mendenhall’s corner-turning speed and acceleration, but in confined areas he shows looser hips than you’d guess. Where Pittsburgh’s backfield woes will really show up is in the pass game. Mewelde Moore’s absence (foot injury) leaves them without a prominent openfield dumpoff receiver.

But this is a relatively minor issue. The primary job of the Steelers’ backfield is to pound the rock when called upon, which Redman and straight-line back John Clay are capable of doing. Also, Pittsburgh’s offensive line, especially with the superb pull-blocking skills of Kemoeatu, is capable of moving the pile down the stretch.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all the wild-card games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: January 5, 2012 7:25 pm
 

Expect a lot of Steelers fans in Denver Sunday

Pittsburgh's Terrible-towel-waving faithful will be well represented this weekend in Denver. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

When it comes to fans infiltrating an opposing team's stadium, no one packs them in like Steelers' faithful. Depending on your allegiances, the Terrible-Towel waving black and gold spectacle is either a testament to just how important football is to the region or reminiscent of the pervasive nature of the cockroach.

(It's not completely accurate to say Steelers fans travel well. That's partly true, but they're also everywhere. Many of them have roots in western Pennsylvania but their families left the area in the '70s and '80s after the steel mills closed and unemployment rose. Either way, if there's a football game, they're showing up.)

So come Sunday at 4:30 p.m. ET, expect Sports Authority Field to be littered with Steelers fans and Terrible Towels. Never mind that this is the Broncos' first postseason appearance since 2005 (the Steelers knocked them out of the AFC Championship game that year), or that Tebowmania is still alive. As of Thursday morning, there were 3,900 seats available on StubHub and 5,700 ready for purchase on Ticketexchange. Even if those tickets remain unsold, history suggests that it's fair to expect Steelers fans to number in the tens of thousands.


Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers will go up against Tim Tebow and the Broncos on Sunday in this AFC wild-card matchup. Join NFL.com's Pat Kirwan and Jason Horowitz as they preview this upcoming game. Watch the game on CBS at 4:30 PM ET.

"I'm amazed at how many season ticket holders got tickets and don't want to go," ticket broker Candy Lewis told Tammy Vigil of Colorado's KWGN 2.

In fact, according to Lewis, a lot of season ticket-holders are selling their seats. Which means they could end up in the hands of eager Steelers fans. That's exactly what happened during that AFC Championship game following the 2005 season.

"It was terrible in a way because we lost. But mainly because more than half the stadium were Steelers fans," Lewis said.

In a speech Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis annually delievered to Bengals fans, Denver head coach John Fox is imploring season ticket holders to show up Sunday.

"I would encourage all fans to keep their seats, so to speak, and not sell to Pittsburgh fan, so our stadium remains as active and loud as its been and more blue and orange, rather than yellow and gold," Fox said Monday.

For hobbled Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the sight never gets old.

“I think it kind of blows most people away,” he said. “When you’re on the road and you have guys on other teams that aren’t used to seeing that, and all of a sudden they see the Steeler fans come in and their like, ‘Holy cow, what’s going on?’ It’s a pretty neat feeling.”

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin added: “I’m continually surprised and awed by that, particularly when we’re out west. We’ve got world championship-caliber fans, and that’s why we work so hard to produce results on the field for them.”

Part of the problem? Maybe Tebowmania isn't quite so much alive as on life support. After winning six in a row and getting the Broncos to 8-5, Denver backed into the playoffs after three uninspiring losses. The last, a 7-3 effort against the Chiefs that saw the Broncos punt three times for each point they scored, was the last straw for some fans.

“That game was one step above watching paint dry,” said longtime season holder Todd Tenenbaum (via the Associated Press). “To watch the running back and quarterback bump into each other to see who can get up the middle first is just boring. I’d rather stay home and watch ‘Wizards of Waverly Place’ with my kids.”

And that, folks, is how you end up with a stadium filled with Steelers fans. (In related news: we're guessing this won't help.)

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Posted on: January 4, 2012 4:04 pm
 

Ben Roethlisberger 'tweaked' ankle against Browns

Roethlisberger "tweaked" his ankle on Sunday. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

The Steelers took a gamble on Sunday against the Browns when they ran Ben Roethlisberger out to play on a high-ankle sprain, hoping the Ravens would lose and Pittsburgh would win the AFC North.

The Ravens did not lose. And in worse news, according to our Steelers Rapid Reporter Chuck Finder, Roethlisberger "tweaked" his ankle in the win over Cleveland and suffered a "setback" in advance of Pittsburgh's wild-card game in Denver on Sunday.

"I felt pretty good going in and moved around pretty good," Roethlisberger said. "[But] we got set back about a week. I don't know if I hit the ground wrong or got hit. We'll be all right."

Now, this is Ben Roethlisberger, so injuries don't mean as much as they would with any other player. I'm sorry, but the dude just plays hurt (and sometimes better when he's injured).

But this gets back to the point of risking him on the field: the Steelers, over the final three weeks, didn't play things conservatively enough at all. Putting him on the field against San Francisco was worth the risk, but not leaving him out there. Sitting him against the Rams was smart. And leaving him on the bench against the Browns would've been the wise move too, even if the Bengals had a shot at unseating the Ravens. Charlie Batch couldn't have gone 23 for 40 for 221 yards? He probably could have.

Whatever, his ankle's worse off now for playing. That means, without their top running back, the Steelers have to figure out how to protect Roethlisberger against a ferocious Broncos pass rush.

Denver recorded 41 sacks in 2011 (10th in the league; just nine behind the Vikings and Eagles) and the best example of what could happen against a good defense who can rush the passer is the loss to the 49ers.

In that game, Roethlisberger wasn't mobile, was constantly under attack and the Steelers struggled to move the ball. Granted, the 49ers are just a flat-out sick defense, but the Broncos are pretty good too.

For Pittsburgh to avoid a shocking upset at Mile High on Sunday, they'll need to make sure their gameplan doesn't involve Von Miller putting Ben on his back. Or worse, on his ankle.

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Posted on: January 3, 2012 12:59 pm
Edited on: January 3, 2012 1:05 pm
 

Tomlin: Ryan Clark won't play in Denver

Pittsburgh will be short-handed in the secondary when they face Denver Sunday. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

The Steelers will face the Broncos in the wild-card round Sunday at 4:30 p.m. ET and they'll do it without two of their best players. Running back Rashard Mendenhall tore his ACL against the Browns in Week 17 and his season is over. Safety Ryan Clark is healthy, at least as sea level, but a sickle-cell trait that is triggered at high altitudes will keep him on the bench in Denver (elevation 5,280 feet).

According to CBSSports.com Rapid Reporter Chuck Finder, head coach Mike Tomlin said during his Tuesday press conference that playing Clark wasn’t worth the risk, especially since Clark lost a spleen and gall bladder after playing in Denver in 2007.

Pittsburgh's coach called it an "easy decision," adding “I met with Ryan Clark yesterday and informed him I’m not going to let him play for obvious reasons. It is a big game for us, but it is a game. We’ll keep it in perspective.”

Clark tweeted Tuesday: "Well I guess we all know now. I will not be playing. Glad that it's out now. So no more questions to ask. Thanks for your concern!"

Ryan Mundy, the team's 2008 sixth-round pick out of West Virginia, is expected to fill in for Clark. Mundy has two career starts, both coming in 2010 filling in for an injured Troy Polamalu. He has one career interception, which came in Week 12 against the Chiefs, as well as a 33-yard reception on a fake punt earlier this season against the Titans.

The Steelers traveled to Denver for a 2010 preseason game and Clark didn't play then, either. He worked out on the field before kickoff without incident but the fear of damage to his brain and/or heart clearly wasn't worth the potential consequences.

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Posted on: January 3, 2012 10:00 am
 

Tracking Tebow, Week 17: Stuck in reverse

We're Tracking Tebow … because it's impossible not to watch. 

By Ryan Wilson

Here's all you need to know about Tim Tebow's last three regular-season games: he has one touchdown, seven turnovers and the Broncos are 0-3. It's not entirely his fault -- just like the six-game winning streak wasn't wholly Tebow's doing -- but he's Denver's starting quarterback. Expectations are both high and unfair.

Tebowmania reached a crescendo last month, after the Broncos went from 1-4 to 8-5, but now that the new-car smell has worn off and Tebow apparently doesn't possess otherworldly powers, reality has set in. He's a second-year quarterback who struggles with many of the issues second-year quarterbacks face: reading defenses, throwing accurately, getting the ball out on time and leading an offense.

This isn't news, but it's still a problem for the Broncos, who backed into the playoffs because nobody else wanted to win the AFC West. And now Denver hosts one of the league's best defenses when Pittsburgh comes to town Sunday at 4:30 p.m.

Tebow has regressed in recent weeks and Sunday's effort against the Chiefs was his worst performance since he looked absolutely flummoxed against the Lions back in October.

We've talked about it previously, but the concern with Denver's read-option offensive philosophy was that eventually, defenses would catch up to it, as was the case with the wildcat several seasons ago. Unlike the wildcat, however, teams appear to have figured out the option in weeks instead of months.

The result: the Broncos conventional rushing attack, headed by Willis McGahee, is as good as ever. But with each game, Tebow become less a factor in the running game. When you couple that with his erratic passing skills, that makes him something less than one dimensional. (We talked about just that in the Pick-6 Podcast Week 17 recap below.)


Vegas currently has the Steelers favored by nine points which, frankly, is insane given that a) Pittsburgh is the visiting team and b) this is a playoff game. But the Broncos have a few things going for them. For starters, their defense can get after the quarterback, particularly one that likes to throw the ball only after standing in the pocket for three or four beats too long.

Second, if the Steelers' defense has a weakness, it's stopping the run. McGahee has proven adept at beating eight-man fronts, something he will continue to face as long as Denver keeps playing. Expect defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau to look to stop McGahee first and worry later about Tebow beating the Steelers with his arm. It's not an original game plan but it's worked well the last three weeks. No need to change it until Tebow proves otherwise.


                                                   Play by Play



(Note: Below are the plays -- both running and passing -- involving Tebow. You can view the entire play-by-play breakdown here)




                                                        Quotes



"For us to go out there and play the way we did and expect to do anything in the playoffs, it's not going to cut it. We got to get better -- find a way to get better." -- Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey told reporters after the game.

Bailey was asked what exactly needs to get better. "Everything. When we look at our team, we can't say 'this is our strength.' Because everything is mediocre. We gotta get better. … We backed into that thing (the playoffs). It's not the way you want to go in but, hey, we got another shot."

"Well, we're AFC West champs. It doesn't matter how you do it once you get in the dance they can't kick you out. What we do with it will be determined next weekend." -- John Fox


                                                   Audio-Visual




Tim Tebow has always done things the unorthodox way. Making the playoffs was no different. He fell short in his latest comeback bid, yet his Denver Broncos are still going to the playoffs after a 7-3 loss to the Chiefs.

NBC analysts Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison discussed Sunday what teams are doing against Tebow and what he can expect to see from the Steelers next in the playoffs.


Tebow is sacked for a nine-yard loss that knocked the Broncos out of field-goal range.

Here's a screen shot what what the Chiefs did to slow up Tebow all afternoon (click to enlarge).


Dungy: Things don't stay secrets for long in the NFL. Rodney Harrison has been saying for eight weeks, 'This is how you play Tim Tebow.' Romeo Crennel listened to Rodney (in Week 17) … and (Steelers defensive coordinator) Dick LeBeau is going to see the exact same thing. … Tight man-to-man coverage, bump and run on the outside, load the box, and keep your linebackers up the field. This will be James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley next week -- keep Tim Tebow in that box. This is what Kansas City did all day Sunday.

Harrison: You have to understand who you're playing against. These (Denver) receivers are pretty good players but they're not all-star receivers. So you play them tight man-to-man coverage and you force Tim Tebow to make good decisions. The last few weeks, he has not made good decisions.

                                                   Eye on Tebow



Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow (15) is sacked by Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Wallace Gilberry (92) in the third quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012, in Denver. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

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