January 20, 2006 — There is still a little "Dog Pound" inside the Cleveland Four. Gerard Warren, Courtney Brown, Michael Myers and Ebenezer Ekuban have turned their careers around and repaired their reputations this season in Denver. And suddenly they find themselves one victory away from the Super Bowl after a 4-12 final season with the Browns. Although they understand that the Broncos and their fans loathe the Oakland Raiders above all other opponents, there's still something about lining up against the black and gold of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Lynch, Polamalu bring big plays - Daily Camera - Ryan Thorburn
January 20, 2006 — John Lynch relies on his instincts and intellect on the field. That and good fortune in the health department have allowed the 34-year-old safety to play at a Pro Bowl level in Denver since getting waived by Tampa Bay after serious neck surgery two years ago. Lynch was at his best last Saturday night, getting to New England quarterback Tom Brady physically and emotionally during the Broncos' 27-13 victory over the two-time defending Super Bowl champions. So what was Jon Gruden thinking?
Will work for tickets: Fans barter - Denver Post - Anthony Cotton
01/20/2006 - Pittsburgh - According to Troy Polamalu, pro football is a topic that never comes up in his home. There isn't an "ego room" anywhere to be found. There are no trophies, no massive blowup of a magazine cover. Nothing to suggest that the home's owner, the Pittsburgh Steelers' all-pro safety, is one of the most dynamic, dominating players in the game today. "I do have an attic, though," he said with only the hint of a smile. If one were to find Polamalu somewhere out on the streets here - a distinctly remote possibility - they would encounter that same low-key attitude, which is something of a problem, given the rabid nature of the local fan base. Polamalu will sign autographs - grudgingly - but admits that he's uncomfortable with the fawning, love-of-everything-black-and-gold thing. However, it's an issue Polamalu, a former player at Southern California, has grown accustomed to.
Passing on star power - Denver Post - Bill Williamson
01/20/2006 - The four players he staked his reputation on this season taught Andre Patterson a valuable lesson about the game he loves and those maligned men in his meeting room. "This isn't the NBA, where you bring in LeBron James and it saves your franchise," said Patterson, Denver's defensive line-tackles coach who came over from Cleveland last season. "You need all 11 players. Those four guys are the ultimate proof of that. They are a big part of this team." If it weren't for the much- laughed-about former Cleveland Browns, the Broncos wouldn't have a defensive line at the center of an aggressive, opportunistic defense heading into Sunday's AFC championship game against Pittsburgh. So, yes, the Browncos, as Ebenezer Ekuban coined his relocated group the night of his trade to Denver, are valued in the Mile High City.
Expatriates' colors clash with Orange - Denver Post - Bill Williamson
01/20/2006 - Bradlee Van Pelt and Ben Roethlisberger have been friendly acquaintances since 2003 when Roethlisberger and Miami (Ohio) beat Van Pelt and Colorado State in Fort Collins, 41-21. The two hung out the next February at the NFL combine in Indianapolis. Roethlisberger wound up being the third quarterback taken in the April draft, No. 11 overall by Pittsburgh. Van Pelt was the 17th and final quarterback taken in the draft, No. 250 by the Broncos. Sunday, Roethlisberger will play in his second AFC championship game when the Steelers face Denver at Invesco Field at Mile High. Van Pelt will be the Broncos' backup quarterback behind Jake Plummer.
Thrift stores score in who, what, wear - Denver Post - Claire Martin
01/20/2006 - Mark Ritchie approvingly eyed the extra-large vintage 1989 Denver Broncos jersey advertising the team's AFC championship season. Already a bargain at $3.99, it was further discounted by Goodwill's senior discount. "That one will sell for at least $10, $12," said Ritchie, who runs a used-clothing booth at Mile High Flea Market. He was scouring potential merchandise earlier this week. Minutes earlier, he regretfully dismissed a bright orange jersey because a scratch marred the blue block No. 7. John Elway's number remains a top seller, but Ritchie's customers "are sticklers for perfection," he said. Kelly Castle, the manager of the Leetsdale Goodwill, remained unruffled.
Pittsaargh! Broncos fans there defiant - Denver Post - Chuck Plunkett
01/20/2006 - Pittsburgh - He was born and raised far from the wide-open spaces where the wild horses roam, but he has been a Broncos fan in this sanctuary of Steelers since he was a little boy. In a city where Broncos fans are difficult to find, David Rossi is rare indeed. "I've taken a lot of good-natured ribbing over the years," Rossi said by phone Thursday while on business in Los Angeles. "I have to admit, I root for the Steelers, but when they play Denver, I root for the Broncos."
Love the Broncos? Put it on a plate - Denver Post - Mark Kiszla
01/20/2006 - Remember The Drive? You ain't seen nothing yet, Broncomaniacs. In a city where the local NFL team already owns the keys and cars proudly wear the John Elway badge, your Broncos now want to be as prominent during rush hour as gridlock on Interstate 25. The team is hoping the Colorado Legislature will give the OK for street-legal and unmistakably orange Broncos license plates. "It sounds like a nice idea," representative Betty Boyd of Lakewood said Thursday. "My guess is the plates would generate a lot of money." We are Broncos Nation. Love it or leave it. But whoever came up with this idea must have been in a state of orange madness.
R-e-s-p-e-c-t all they ask - Denver Post - Nick Groke
01/20/2006 - Has there ever been a team in the NFL playoffs consistently favored by Las Vegas oddsmakers, but so roundly dismissed by the rest of the country? The Broncos were favored by 3 1/2 points over the Patriots in their AFC divisional playoff game and won 27-13 despite an overwhelming general opinion east of the Colorado-Kansas border that predicted New England winning in a rout. Now, the Broncos are favored by three points over Pittsburgh in the AFC championship game and again, the Steelers seem a popular pick. See ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski, who wrote "I have a better chance of slipping the Lombardi Trophy some post-Super Bowl tongue than the Denver Broncos do this year. That's because neither of us are going to be playing in The XL at Ford Field come Feb. 5."
Fans go orange; stores not crushed - Denver Post - Jeremy Meyer and Julie Dunn
01/20/2006 - Sunday afternoon in Denver, the streets will suddenly empty, stores will go vacant, and the only sounds wafting around neighborhoods will be from TV sets tuned to the big game, as the Denver Broncos play for the right to go to the Super Bowl. Is there any other type of occasion that clears stores, streets and ski slopes? "Nothing, except for tragedy - Sept. 11, a hurricane or disaster," said Allyce Najimy, senior associate director of the Boston- based Center for the Study of Sport in Society. "But this is great. This is a positive thing. It's a unifier." Nevertheless, businesses and events in Colorado can expect a drastic slowdown at game time.
Broncos brouhaha abounds - Denver Post - Bryan Boyle
01/20/2006 - The Denver Broncos earned a berth in the AFC championship game with a 27-13 victory Saturday over the defending champion New England Patriots. Just when Broncos fans thought it couldn't get any better, the Pittsburgh Steelers dispatched the Indianapolis Colts 21-18 on Sunday, not only disqualifying the team that had dropped the Broncos out of the NFL playoffs the previous two seasons, but also awarding home-field advantage to Denver, which is 9-0 at Invesco Field at Mile High this season. Since the Steelers-Broncos matchup was determined, the DenverPost.com staff has been rounding up an array of online exclusives both to cover and to celebrate the Broncos' first conference-title game since 1999. These exclusives are scattered throughout the website -- audio, video, contests and more -- so we assembled them here to form a buffet line, which you can sample by scrolling down. Bon appétit.
They do run, run - Rocky Mountain News - Jeff Legwold
January 20, 2006 - It is the heart of the matter. Peel away the crossing routes and rollout quarterbacks, the trick plays and the multitasking receivers, and the two teams that meet Sunday in the AFC Championship Game in Invesco Field at Mile High will do things from the ground up. "Can you do what you do better than they do what they do?" said Shannon Sharpe, a CBS-TV analyst and former Denver Broncos tight end. "If the Broncos can do that, they'll win. If the Steelers do that, they'll win." Mark it down.
Running on Steelers tough task - Rocky Mountain News - Lee Rasizer
January 20, 2006 - Stephen Alexander has a pretty good idea what to expect Sunday when the Denver Broncos attempt to get their running game in gear against another three-man, four-linebacker look. Smash-mouth football. "They're pretty base in what they do," Alexander said of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who'll visit the Broncos on Sunday in the AFC Championship Game (1 p.m., CBS 4). "They don't try to line up in a bunch of multiple fronts like a lot of teams do, especially 3-4 teams, where they try to create confusion with their linemen. They've got great run-support safeties who come up and make plays. Their linebackers and defensive line are physical. These guys line up and play football." Pittsburgh finished with the league's No. 3-ranked rush defense. Only four teams have managed more than 100 yards against them. But against Denver, the Steelers will try to combat the NFL's No. 2 rushing offense and an unwavering commitment to try to maintain offensive balance and create big plays in the passing game off the run.
Trusting own ability Elam's stress relief - Rocky Mountain News - Lee Rasizer
January 20, 2006 - Jason Elam was in a bass-fishing warehouse with his son Sunday when the big one got away from the Indianapolis Colts. Elam's cell phone started ringing off the hook with the news, and he got a sense of elation because his Denver Broncos would be playing host to the AFC Championship Game. But when the kicker got home and saw the highlight of counterpart Mike Vanderjagt badly shanking a 46-yard field-goal attempt in the final seconds that would have sent that divisional playoff into overtime, Elam experienced a pang of sympathy. Like fingerprints, Vanderjagt now will be identified by that miss.
Pryce maintains healthy attitude - Rocky Mountain News - Lee Rasizer
January 20, 2006 - Trevor Pryce might have to reintroduce himself to Denver Broncos trainer Steve Antonopulous the next time he sees him. "I haven't been in the training room all year," Pryce said. The turnaround, from a physical standpoint, has been remarkable for the defensive end, who missed nearly all of the 2004 season after disc surgery in his lower back. He has started all 17 games for the Broncos heading into Sunday's AFC Championship Game (1 p.m., CBS 4). He hasn't even suffered minor ailments that have limited him. The reason: "Luck," he said.
Legwold: Shanahan on cusp of something special - Rocky Mountain News - Jeff Legwold
January 20, 2006 - Three is a magical number. Three is history. Three is the NFL's shortest of shortlists. Three Super Bowl wins for Denver coach Mike Shanahan would put him in one of the league's most exclusive clubs in the big game's four-decade era, a club that currently includes only Chuck Noll (four Super Bowl wins), Joe Gibbs (three), Bill Walsh (three) and current New England coach Bill Belichick. That's it. Three of those coaches - Noll, Gibbs and Walsh - are already in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Belichick likely is on the way as the first coach in the salary-cap era to construct teams that won three titles. And he did it in four seasons. Shanahan has two Super Bowl wins already. Two gets you into the Hall of Fame argument, but three likely pushes you into the "yes" column.
Same As It Ever Was - Denver Broncos.com - Andrew Mason
Friday, January 20, 2006 - When you've won in 14 of 17 weeks going through pretty much the same day-to-day routines, the cusp of the conference championship is not the time to initiate any radical changes. After all, there's already enough things that are different about the week. There's the additional media in the locker room during the daily interview sessions; at some junctures when not many players were in the locker room, reporters, photojournalists and other assorted members of the fourth estate have outnumbered players by as much as a 10-to-1 margin. There's a press conference scheduled for Friday afternoon at a downtown Denver hotel, featuring Shanahan and the team captains. "Obviously, there's a few more distractions," Head Coach Mike Shanahan said.
Steelers, Broncos share affection for physical football - USA TODAY - Jim Corbett
1/20/2006 — In a league enraptured with big passing plays and scoring points with video-game ease, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos cling to old-fashioned football bedrock. The common denominator between the AFC teams still standing? Both prefer to win by pounding the football, stopping the run and enforcing their physical will. This promises to be a hard-rock AFC Championship Game showdown straight from Steelers linebacker Joey Porter's vision of fantasy football.
Update 1: Steelers, Broncos Love Running Game - Forbes.com - Alan Robinson, AP
01.20.2006 - They showed one of the NFL's top quarterbacks blitzes he had never seen, pressure from all angles and forced him into uncharacteristic mistakes and errant throws. That's why he won't be in the AFC championship game as was widely predicted, and they will. They are the Pittsburgh Steelers. They also are the Denver Broncos. The Steelers' game-long disruption of the Colts' Peyton Manning created the biggest upset of the NFL playoffs so far and, along with it, Sunday's Steelers-Broncos matchup in Denver for the AFC championship. But as confusing and as game-altering as Pittsburgh's pressuring of Manning was, the Broncos' harassing of the Patriots' Tom Brady was as equally effective and decisive.
Broncos are wary of Polamalu - The Detroit News - Vartan Kupelian
Friday, January 20, 2006 - Jake Plummer can't take his eyes off Troy Polamalu. "He's fun to watch," said Plummer, quarterback for the Denver Broncos. "He flies around. I'm not a safety but if I did play that position, that's the way I would want to play it. Running around. Doing some crazy stuff and making plays." Truth is, and Plummer knows this only too well, facing Polamalu from across the line of scrimmage can be a hair-raising experience for quarterbacks. Playing against Polamalu isn't nearly as much fun as watching him, as Plummer will discover again Sunday when the Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers play in the AFC championship game with the winner advancing to Super Bowl XL in Detroit's Ford Field on Feb. 5. Plummer will be keeping an eye on Polamalu for another reason. Polamalu is a mainspring of the Steelers' defense. He plays with a reckless abandon that isn't really reckless at all. But with hair flying, there is a mystique to Polamalu that belies his instincts and abilities.
Defense Not Succeeding, So Broncos Try, Try Again - New York Times - John Branch
January 20, 2006 - Two years ago, the Denver Broncos made the playoffs after a two-season absence and sported the fourth-ranked defense in the N.F.L. . Still, with things looking up, Coach Mike Shanahan did something unusual. In the seven seasons since the Broncos last went to the Super Bowl, Shanahan's most public role has been to find a worthy successor to quarterback John Elway. But most of the work trying to turn the Broncos from playoff also-ran to the verge of the Super Bowl was performed on defense. Eight of the 11 defensive players expected to start in Sunday's American Football Conference championship game against the Pittsburgh Steelers were not on the roster two years ago. Another, safety Nick Ferguson, joined the Broncos in 2003. Contrast that with the offense, where only one of the 11 starters - tight end Stephen Alexander - has arrived after 2003. Whether the defense is better is debatable. Whether it is different is not.