47° Good Evening
47° Good Evening
SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

NFL hot reads, playoff edition

Their last playoff meeting, on Jan. 22, 2006,

Their last playoff meeting, on Jan. 22, 2006, sent the Steelers and Broncos on divergent paths. Now, they meet again in an AFC wild-card game in snowy Denver. (Dec. 19, 2011) Photo Credit: AP

Broncos-Steelers Super history

The Broncos and Steelers meet Sunday in an AFC wild card game, a playoff series in which the winner has advanced to the Super Bowl in five of their six meetings. That includes the last two meetings in 1997 and 2005.

Chances are neither team gets that far this time, though, because both teams are faced with formidable challenges. The Broncos have lost three straight, and quarterback Tim Tebow's performance has slipped after a series of fourth-quarter comebacks.

The Steelers are a banged-up team, with running back Rashard Mendenhall (torn ACL) out until next year and Ben Roethlisberger still bothered by the aftereffects of a sprained ankle.

Pittsburgh has some momentum, though. The Steelers have won 10 of their last 12, including six of the last seven. The Steelers led the NFL in total defense (271.8 yards per game allowed), and were No. 1 in passing defense (171.9).


From wild card to Super Bowl

It wasn't long ago that having to play in the wild-card round spelled almost certain doom for playoff teams. Not any more.

In fact, at least one wild-card team has made it to the Super Bowl in five of the last six seasons.

Last year, the Packers won all four playoff games to become only the second No. 6 seed to win the Super Bowl. The Steelers were the first to do it six years ago.

The 2007 Giants went all the way as a wild card, and the 2006 Colts played a first-round game on the way to victory in Super Bowl XLI.

The 1980 Raiders were the first wild-card team to win a Super Bowl, but it wasn't until 17 years later that the Broncos became the second. Five of the previous 11 Super Bowl winners played in the wild-card round.


Tackling Bradshaw can be dangerous

Running backs normally take a pounding, but Giants tailback Ahmad Bradshaw prefers to deliver it.

He's only 5-9, 198 pounds, but defenders beware: Bradshaw can hit just as hard as he's hit. He has already sent two defenders out of games with concussions this season -- Brodney Pool of the Jets and Charles Woodson of the Packers.

"It's something that's happened all my life," Bradshaw said. "I just love the collision."

Bradshaw said that his field vision allows him to time his hits on defenders.

"You have to be ready for the hit," he said. "You see the whole field as a running back, so you know when someone's coming and you can brace the right way for it so you deliver the blow first."


Video monitors for injury detection

In an effort to increase player safety, especially when it comes to concussions, the league will put video monitors on each team's sideline to help the clubs' medical staffs gather further information when treating injured players.

The league instituted the new program at the request of medical staffs to help them better assess and treat injuries. The equipment can only be used by a team physical or the head athletic trainer, and no players or coaches can have access to the monitors. The team doctor or trainer must notify a league officiating observer in the press box before accessing the field monitor.

The league will study the use of the video monitors after the playoffs to see whether the league will have them in place next season.


Quick hits

Jeff Fisher is expected to decide this week whether he'll take the Dolphins or Rams head-coaching job.

The Broncos are the fifth team in NFL history to start a season 2-5 or worse and go on to make the playoffs. The last team to do it: the 2002 Jets, who were 2-5 before finishing 9-7 and advancing to the divisional round.

Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley's 11 sacks in seven career playoff games are tied with former 49ers and Cowboys defensive end Charles Haley for fourth most in the playoffs since the sack became an official stat in 1982. Woodley is the first player in NFL history to produce at least one sack in seven straight playoff games.

Kudos to the Ravens for retaining director of player personnel Eric DeCosta, considered one of the top front-office executives in the game. Several teams have tried to lure him away to become a general manager, but the Ravens see him as the eventual successor to general manager Ozzie Newsome. "He is a most valuable asset and will continue to help us win championships," Newsome said in making the announcement that DeCosta will stay.

New York Sports