ENGLEWOOD, Colo. –Fourteen Broncos are ready to make another postseason appearance Sunday.
The rest are eager for their first taste of the NFL's second season as Denver gets set to host the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card round at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
But whether they're experienced or not, each member of the Broncos locker room shares the same excitement in playing for a championship.
"I'll definitely be excited," said cornerback Champ Bailey, who is bracing for his sixth postseason start. "I mean, this is the playoffs, there's a little bit more excitement there just because it's hard to get in this tournament and when you're in you have to take advantage."
"I know personally, this is the biggest game of my life," said defensive end Robert Ayers, a playoff newcomer. "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."
In order to advance, the Broncos must defeat the 12-4 Steelers, last year's AFC champion.
"It's a huge challenge," Head Coach John Fox said of facing Pittsburgh, "and that's why we play the game."
The biggest challenge facing the Broncos this week will be scoring against the league's top-ranked defense, a veteran unit that allows a league-low 271.8 total yards per game.
The Steelers have a proud history of tough, aggressive defense and this year is no different.
"They're really good. They have a bunch of great players, a great scheme, and some of the best players at their positions in the league," quarterback Tim Tebow said leading up to his playoff debut. "You have guys like (S) Troy Polamalu, (LB) James Harrison, (LB) LaMarr Woodley, and all those guys have played a lot of football."
"Everybody knows the Pittsburgh Steelers," running back Lance Ball said. "They're aggressive; they have this aura about them. They want to come in and push you around, and we have to be the first aggressor."
To do that, Denver will test the Steelers' run defense with a heavy dose of the NFL's top-ranked rushing attack – one that features Willis McGahee, who posted a 1,199-yard regular season.
The Broncos know winning at the line of scrimmage in the run game will make it easier to keep the Steelers off balance with plays through the air.
A balanced attack is ideal, but Tebow and the Denver offense is focused on doing whatever it takes to move the ball downfield.
"More than anything, we're just trying to find a way to win," Tebow said. "So, whatever we have to do, whether that's run the ball 55 times or pass it more -- it doesn't matter. We're just going to find any way we can to win the game."
Tebow's quarterback counterpart Ben Roethlisberger has been leading the Steelers in the playoffs since he entered the league in 2004. Tomorrow he'll attempt to win his 11th postseason start with a sprained left ankle – an injury he suffered in Week 14.
"He's a tough quarterback. He's able to move," defensive end Elvis Dumervil said. "The way I look at it—I'm not looking at him like he's hurt. As long as you're out there I'm going to come at you."
Key to Denver's success defensively has been a steady pass rush, and the Broncos intend on disrupting the explosive Pittsburgh passing attack by getting to Roethlisberger early and often Sunday.
But according to linebacker Joe Mays, shutting down the Steelers' run game, which is without starting running back Rashard Mendenhall, will be crucial if the Broncos hope to bring pressure in passing situations.
"We'll definitely try to get after (Roethlisberger), but we have to make sure we take care of business first, which is trying to take away their running game," Mays said. "They are definitely going to try to establish that running game to take some pressure off Roethlisberger."
For the first time since the 2005 season, when Denver lost to Roethlisberger and the Steelers in the AFC Championship game, the Broncos are back in the playoffs.
And the 2011 AFC West champions are determined to make it count. "We've got a huge opportunity for this organization, for this city," linebacker Mario Haggan said. "And we're going to go at it head first and try to make it happen."