When the Denver Broncos play their first NFL playoff game in half-a-decade, they'll do so against the defending AFC Champions. The odds-makers have the Broncos penciled in as 8-point underdogs, but make no mistake; Tim Tebow can beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. To do so, he and his team should employ the following strategy.
Over the last several days, ESPN analysts, such as Trent Dilfer and Merril Hoge, have used film to detail the problems with Tim Tebow and his struggling offense. Since the second-year quarterback has taken over, Denver has put up few points, mostly because it simply cannot consistently move the ball through the air.
The secret's out on Tim Tebow, and the Pittsburgh Steelers will attack him exactly as Buffalo and Kansas City have: by loading up to stop the run on first and second down. Almost all of Tebow's passes have come on third down, when defenses know he will throw. This has left him facing a wild pass-rush backed by one or two eagle-eyed spying linebackers, meant to keep him from running when his protection breaks down.
To have any chance, Denver must do the opposite of what Pittsburgh and many football analysts expect: throw on first and second down. By doing this, the team will position Tebow to pass against run-focused defensive personnel and alignments. He won't have to be as efficient with his location and will have greater success keeping drives alive.
Make the Steelers work
If you haven't been paying attention, you may still think of Pittsburgh as a run-first team. This simply isn't the case in 2011. The emergence of Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown has not only sent Hines Ward to the bench, it's changed the Steelers into a pass-first, big-play team. Their speed - combined with Ben Roethlisberger's ability to avoid pressure and keep plays alive - has led to a lot of big plays downfield.
These days, Pittsburgh has a lot of trouble putting multi-play, time-consuming drives together. For Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos to keep the game close, they must force the Steelers to work the field. By avoiding blitzes and staying back in coverage, the Broncos can take away the big play, a strategy that will give them a chance to frustrate their injury-riddled opponent and keep the game close enough to have an opportunity for some fourth-quarter Tebow-time.