Two words continued to pop up in the Broncos locker room when discussing the team’s attitude toward this week’s postseason matchup — “excited” and “focused.”
“I know personally, this is the biggest game of my life,” Robert Ayers said. “That’s how I’m approaching it. I want to lay it on the line. It’s all or nothing. You win or you go home. I don’t want to go home, so I’m definitely going to give it my best effort.”
Joe Mays said the team’s excitement is growing as its tilt with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High gets closer.
But the team isn’t letting its emotions get in the way of putting in the work it will take to come away with a victory.
“They’re not cheerleaders,” Head Coach John Fox said. “They all come to work, do their job. They are preparing. I think, obviously, any one of the 12 (playoff teams) is very excited. They understand if you don’t win you’re out of the tournament. They’re professionals, and they’re prepared.”
The players understand the challenge ahead of them, and they’re ready to make their first postseason appearance since the 2005 season count.
“I’m sure the crowd is going to be into it. It will be a great atmosphere so we’re excited about that,” Elvis Dumervil said. “We all know what’s at stake. We got in through tough circumstances, but we’re in and we have to take full advantage of that.”
Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had limited participation in Wednesday’s practice with an ankle injury.
In a conference call with the Denver media Wednesday, the signal caller said he rates his ankle’s health as a five out of 10.
But the Broncos don’t expect it to hamper the two-time Super Bowl winner.
“I’ve been watching him the last couple of games,” Ayers said. “He’s still shrugging guys off. He looks wounded, but he’s still making plays and they’re still winning. He’s a tough guy to get down. We’re not going to worry about his injury. We’re just going to worry about us.”
“As long as you’re out there, I’m going to come at you,” he said.
Fox said that watching the tape has shown him Roethlisberger won’t be very limited by the ankle.
Players mentioned the Steelers quarterback’s arm, mobility and most of all strength as traits that can cause them problems on Sunday.
But the defense hopes to cause him problems as well.
“It’s going to take a lot of us to get to him,” Ayers said. “He’s a tough competitor. It’s going to be a challenge as it is every week. I think we’re up for it, and I think we’re ready.”
Even playing at home, many see the Broncos as the underdog in Sunday’s Wild Card contest.
Lance Ball said that can be a motivation, but the team isn’t paying attention to any outside opinions.
“It really doesn’t matter, but being the underdog spices it up a little bit,” Ball said. “We’ll have that attitude going in and it’s going to be a street battle. It’s going to be mano y mano to see who is going to come out and win it.”
Mays said that underdog or not, the fact that the Broncos won the AFC West and are playing this week speaks to the character of the club.
“It just shows the type of players that we have in this locker room, the type of coaches that we have,” he said. “We’re just a bunch of resilient guys that won’t take no for an answer. We’ve been the underdog all year and we thrive on that.”
The Broncos aren’t looking for a pat on the back from the media. They’re looking to accomplish their goals, and do it as a team.
“Everybody in this locker room trusts one another, and the camaraderie is at an all-time high,” Eric Decker said. “There are no ‘me’ guys on this team, and we expect to win. We set the bar high. We had six consecutive wins. It’s not about how you get it done, but the W. You’ve got to find a way to that get.”
For the Broncos:
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: S Brian Dawkins (neck), FB Spencer Larsen (knee), WR Eddie Royal (toe)
LIMITED: S David Bruton (Achilles)
FULL: LB Von Miller (thumb)
For the Steelers:
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Cortez Allen (shoulder), LB James Harrison (toe), DE Brett Keisel (groin), RB Mewelde Moore (knee), S Troy Polamalu (calf)
LIMITED: C Maurkice Pouncey (ankle), QB Ben Roethlisberger (ankle)
FULL: G Doug Legursky (shoulder), LB LaMarr Woodley (hamstring)
Below are photos from Wednesday’s practice: