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Not much of a choice
January 8, 2012 - Ed Puskas
Just wondering what Cleveland Browns fans will be doing at 4:30 this afternoon, when the Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos meet in an AFC wildcard game.
It isn't much of a choice for fans of the Browns. Root for the Steelers, once their team's biggest rival and a team they've now looked upon with envy since Cleveland rejoiined the NFL in 1999, or for the Broncos, who are run by a man (John Elway) who almost singlehandedly kept the Browns out of the Super Bowl three times in the 1980s.
The Steelers or the the Broncos? Some choice.
I have no dog in this fight. No matter what happens, I'll sleep well tonight. That could have more to do with the fact that I've been furiously tearing through DVDs of the first four seasons of "Dexter," the dark, but almost comedic Showtime series. But as a lifelong Clevelander, I've learned to find something else to do come playoff time, pretty much out of necessity.
But I've been looking forward to the Steelers-Broncos matchup. Most observers expect the Steelers to dominate, even in Denver. Tebow Time, they insist, has come and gone. Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has been exposed as a fraud and the Steelers' defense is just too strong.
But the Steelers will be facing a bit of adversity. Ben Roethlisberger isn't 100 percent. Rashard Mendenhall (knee) is done for the season, no matter how far the Steelers advance. Center Maurkice Pouncey also won't play today, and even with him the Steelers' offensive line isn't great. Pittsburgh also won't have safety Ryan Clark, who would be risking his life simply by playing in Denver's thin air, so Steelers coach Mike Tomlin wisely decided not to allow him to do so.
If I was a gambler, the eight points or so the Broncos are getting from the oddsmakers would look pretty good. Denver has struggled offensively of late, as the magic Tebow seemed to generate during a 7-1 run earlier this season has waned. But while a Steelers victory wouldn't be a surprise, I'm thinking the rout some are expecting might not happen.
The Broncos may not be going far with Tebow running a gimmick offense. That's what most NFL observers believe. Even Elway, who is the Broncos president now, has been lukewarm at best on his team's starting quarterback. There even have been reports that ex-Brown Brady Quinn has gotten some extra snaps in practice this week.
But something tells me that faced with this choice, a significant number of Browns fans will be hoping for Tebow Time around 7:15 this evening. Or even for Quinn to resurrect his stagnant NFL career, if that's what it takes.
Steelers or Broncos? It's not an easy choice. But it's hard not to like what Tebow has done this season in helping to turn Denver's 1-4 start into an AFC West title and a home playoff game.
And the Broncos, ultimately, are not the Steelers. Besides, even if Denver wins today, the odds of Elway's team getting to another Super Bowl appear slim.
Isn't it sad that Browns fans have no other recourse but to play these mind games with themselves every year come playoff time?
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