roncos fans were screaming with joy Sunday night after their team won a wild, back-and-forth divisional playoff game against Pittsburgh that at times left the orange faithful frustrated and anxious.
Denver broke through late, scoring the go-ahead touchdown with three minutes left in the 23-16 victory. Soon after, supporters were dancing, chanting and even crying tears of joy as they left Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
“It was a battle,” said Andrew Trujillo of Pueblo as he stood wearing a wig of curly orange hair and a smile plastered across his face. “We took care of business.”
“I never doubted my boys,” said Denver resident Jackie Eiland.
At halftime, with Pittsburgh leading 10-9, fans huddled in the stadium’s hallways complaining about dropped passes (six) and an offense that seemed incapable of stringing together first downs.
“If we could catch a (darn) ball, we would be good,” said Rory Coonts of Thornton.
Near the end of the game, the sellout crowd that had been silenced by the Steelers much of the afternoon sprung back to life with roars that shook the stadium’s seats. Running back C.J. Anderson plunged into the end zone to give the Broncos the lead with three minutes left, setting off a wild chorus of cheers that came minutes after angry boos. It was as though a switch had flipped.
“I was a little worried there for a bit,” said Lance Waite of Windsor, who came to the game believing the Broncos would roll over the banged-up Steelers.
But after Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s first throw, Waite realized that wasn’t going to be the case. Roethlisberger, who had injured his right shoulder in a wild-card victory the week before, flung the ball over 50 yards. “He sent a message to everyone,” Waite said.
Steelers fans were expected to come out in full force, but by game time, Terrible Towel-waving supporters were scant in the seats and their cheers were drowned out by a sea of orangegarbed fans.
“Thank you, season-ticket holders, for not selling to fans for the other team,” Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said in a tweet during the game.
Corina Moya, a Pittsburgh fan who drove eight hours from Artesia, N.M., said she was disappointed by the lack of black and gold in the stands. She was expecting a much larger presence.
Nevertheless, she had a positive outlook after the loss.
“I’m cool about it,” she said. “We (always) support our Steelers.”
Other Pittsburgh supporters said they were at least proud their team gave the Broncos a tough game.
“The whole city of Denver really didn’t think this was going to be a game,” said Brian Severson, a black-and-gold fan who came from Chicago.
Broncos fans say they plan to be even louder next week when the Broncos host the Patriots for a ticket to the Super Bowl.
“We got this,” said Brittany Koklich of Centennial. “It’s in the bag, no problem.”
Crissy Nicole, known as “The Football Lady,” arrived in style.