ENGLEWOOD, Colo.–** The mood in the Broncos' postgame locker room at Heinz Field four weeks ago was embittered. Safety David Bruton Jr. had just been helped from the field with a broken leg and the league's No. 1 defense was licking its wounds after a second half in which the Steelers scored 21 unanswered points and exploited its few weaknesses in a 34-27 defeat.
The Broncos had squandered a 27-10 second-quarter lead while allowing 377 total yards on offense, including 354 through the air. The postgame consensus was that the team was going to bounce back the next week (it did) and that it hoped to see the Steelers in the playoffs.
Embracing the shot at redemption isn't unusual; no one team wants to be defined by one poor performance.
"Of course we want to avenge our loss, but it's the playoffs now," said defensive end Malik Jackson. "It's not [the] regular season. We just have to go out there, be smart and do what we know how to do, play within ourselves and our defense. We just can't go out there and make dumb penalties."
It's not malicious to prove you're better than your last performance, but revenge isn't what the Broncos are after. They're after a Super Bowl win.
"It's a playoff game and whoever loses goes home, so I think that's enough [motivation]," said cornerback Bradley Roby. "It's a lot of competitors, a lot of tough competitors on each team that really compete at the highest level. When you have guys on each team that are elite players that compete at a high level, then it's going to be chippy, of course."
There's no doubt that Sunday's game could get physical, but the Broncos know they need to keep their composure after the whistle. They can look to the Steelers-Bengals game for examples of what not to do.
"What I learned is that you have to keep your composure," Jackson said. "[Cincinnati] just lost their composure and some things. We learned a lot. Watch your composure. Coaches don't get on the field. Everybody just do your part, don't do too much and don't be selfish and show your emotions and make it all about you."