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The Broncos‘ bugaboo has been the second quarter, too, where they scored just 13 points in Tebow’s 11 starts, and things started off ominously when his top target got hurt on the first snap of the second quarter.

Linebacker James Harrison’s low tackle sent Decker out with a left knee injury, and the hard hit also broke up his 21-yard catch, which would have marked Tebow’s first completion.

As Decker — whose girlfriend, country singer Jessie James, performed at halftime — hobbled to the locker room, Tebow hit Thomas for a 51-yard gain down the left sideline, then found Eddie Royal for a 30-yard touchdown toss that gave the Broncos a 7-6 lead.

That was Denver’s first touchdown drive in 22 possessions.

Thomas’ 58-yard reception set up Tebow’s 8-yard dart into the end zone that made it 14-6.

The Broncos dialed up the pressure on Roethlisberger and rookie safety Quinton Carter’s interception at the Pittsburgh 18 set up Matt Prater’s first of three field goals, putting them up 17-6.

Roethlisberger was picked off on his next throw by Andre’ Goodman, but that interception was negated by Elvis Dumervil’s offside penalty. After a punt, however, Tebow connected with tight end Daniel Fells for 40 yards to the Steelers 25-yard line, setting up Prater’s second short field goal that gave Denver a 20-6 halftime lead.

The Steelers were driving for a score just before the break when a bad snap by Legursky lost 23 yards and took them out of field goal range.

This was just the Broncos‘ second playoff win since Elway retired following his second straight Super Bowl triumph in 1999, and their first since Jan. 14, 2006, when the Broncos handed Tom Brady his first playoff loss.

The Broncos lost to the Steelers the following week in a watershed game that sent both franchises on divergent paths. The Steelers won two Super Bowls and narrowly missed a third in a 31-25 loss to Green Bay in last year’s Super Bowl, and the Broncos went six years without making the playoffs.

Notes: This was the first OT playoff game since the Saints beat the Vikings 31-28 in the NFC championship on Jan. 24, 2010.

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