Steelers vs. Broncos: How the AFC playoff teams match up

Steelers vs. Broncos: How the AFC playoff teams match up
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning signs autographs for fans before a game in Pittsburgh on Dec. 20, when he was sidelined with a sore foot. (Don Wright / Associated Press)

Peyton Manning is looking to put his signature on Sunday's divisional playoff game against Pittsburgh.

He will not, however, sign a Terrible Towel.


The Denver quarterback signed autographs for a large group of Steelers fans when the Broncos played at Pittsburgh last month but wouldn't sign one of those little yellow towels.

The two teams play again at 1:30 p.m. PST on Sunday in Denver in an AFC divisional playoff. The game will be broadcast on ABC.

"I think it's wrong for me to be signing their towel," Manning said recently. "That's their towel. I don't sign Giants hats. I see people that have an Eli [Manning] signature on a Giants hat and I've said, 'Hey, that's his team.' That's what he should be signing for.

"I'll sign a towel, but that's the Pittsburgh Steeler towel. That's reserved for [Terry] Bradshaw, Ben [Roethlisberger], [Lynn] Swann, Franco [Harris] and [John] Stallworth. That's their towel. I think the Terrible Towel is for Pittsburgh Steelers."


It's their time

With their victory at Cincinnati in the first round, the Steelers tied Dallas for the most playoff victories (34) in NFL history. Pittsburgh is 34-22 in the postseason.

The fact they're the AFC's No. 6 seed shouldn't bother the Steelers. They won the Super Bowl that way in the 2005 season, beating Seattle, and becoming the first sixth-seeded team to win it all.


Battered but ready

It takes a lot to keep Pittsburgh quarterback Roethlisberger on the sidelines.

He's expected to play against the Broncos despite suffering a sprained joint and ligament damage in his right (throwing) shoulder when he was crushed into the turf on a hit by Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict in a wild-card game. Roethlisberger participated in Friday's practice.


Brown out


A pivotal factor for Pittsburgh could be the absence of Antonio Brown, who finished second in the league this season with 1,834 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns.

Brown suffered a concussion on a headhunting hit — again, Burfict — at the end of the Steelers' victory over the Bengals.

"They have other playmakers, but he's one of a kind," Broncos safety Darian Stewart told the Denver Post about Brown. "It's going to be a little different, but it's competition, so we expect their best."

The Steelers still have talented and productive receivers in Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton.


By the numbers

How teams compare statistically. All stats are per-game averages, except for turnover differential, which is for the season (league rank in parentheses):


Points scored: 26.4 (T4) | 22.2 (19)

Points allowed: 19.9 (11) | 18.5 (4)

Pass offense: 287.7 (3) | 248.1 (14)

Rush offense: 107.8 (16) | 107.4 (17)

Pass defense: 271.9 (30) | 199.6 (1)

Rush defense: 91.2 (5) | 83.6 (3)

Sacks: 48 (3) | 52 (1)

Penalty yards: 54.3 (10) | 66.4 (25)

Turnovers: +2 (15) | -4 (T19)


Farmer's pick

He's bandaged and sore, but Roethlisberger will show up and make some plays. Losing Brown really hurts the Steelers, especially against a rugged Denver defense that will set the tone. Manning is rested and Denver is relatively healthy.