The Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) visit the Denver Broncos (8-8) in Sunday's AFC wild-card game. Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is limping onto the field. So is Denver after a three-game slide.
Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, once the phenom of the NFL after he led the Broncos to six straight wins, has been exposed. Defensive coordinators will do that. They will pull all-nighters, watching every snap from the past two seasons to learn how to stop all but the great players.
Tebow is a remarkable player -- he won two national titles and a Heisman Trophy at Florida. But college football presents physical mismatches unseen in the NFL.
This season's stats were solid overall; he had 660 yards rushing with six touchdowns, plus 1,729 yards passing with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. But as Denver tried to secure a playoff spot in December, it lost three straight.
The 7-3 loss to Kansas City in the finale saw Tebow complete just six of 22 passes for 60 yards and a career-worst 20.6 passer rating. Tebow went 30-for-73 during the 0-3 slide with one touchdown, four interceptions, three lost fumbles and 10 sacks.
The NFL has caught up with Tebow. He finished 27th overall in passing, one notch above Washington's Rex Grossman.
Still, Denver coach John Fox plays it straight. He may know that Tebow's not the long-term answer at quarterback, but winning six straight games gives him unconditioned backing for now.
"We went with Tebow," Fox said. "We grew with him, and we did things that we thought were strengths of his."
And that was running. The Broncos ran for a team-record 2,632 yards. Denver beat Kansas City 17-13 on Nov. 13 even though Tebow completed just two of eight passes for 69 yards.
Pittsburgh led the NFL in total and passing defense. Denver must run the ball effectively to have a chance to beat a superior team.
Denver vice president John Elway, who won two Super Bowls with the Broncos, told the media Tebow needs to be more aggressive. Oddly, Tebow said he hasn't spoken with Elway in weeks. No matter. Tebow better work more downfield against the Steelers.
"That's definitely true," Tebow said. "The more you get into the playoff games you've got to be aggressive. Sometimes I do need to be more aggressive. I think more than anything we're just trying to find a way to win -- whatever we've got to do, whether that's run the ball 55 times or pass it more."
Tebow talks excitedly about Pittsburgh's defensive players like he's a fan seeking autographs, but he's also among the NFL's more popular players. Tebow's religious talk both endears him to and upsets fans. Either way, they will watch to see whether his unexpected success continues.
"Hopefully, they just see someone that loves other people, loves what he does, tries to get better every day and tries to be someone that goes out there and tries to make other people's lives a little better," Tebow said.