The Pittsburgh Steelers aim to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl for the second consecutive season, but to do so, they'll need to win three playoff games, beginning Sunday in the Wild Card round on the road against the Denver Broncos. The prospect of making a return looks slim, but when one considers recent history--as Anthony Defeo of Behind the Steel Curtain did--the path to Super Bowl XLVI doesn't look quite as daunting.
Since the league instituted its current play format in 2002, with four division winners and two Wild Card teams earning playoff berths, three Wild Card teams have advanced to the Super Bowl. The Steelers, a No. 6 seed in 2005, won three playoff games on the road, and then knocked off the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL.
The New York Giants followed suit in Super Bowl XLII, upsetting the unbeated New England Patriots after making the playoffs as the NFC's No. 5 team. And, as the Steelers know all too well, the Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLV as a No. 6 seed in the NFC, handing the Steelers a 31-25 defeat.
It's not impossible to succeed as a Wild Card team. The Steelers know that much from experience.
For more on the Steelers, please visit Behind the Steel Curtain, SB Nation's Steelers blog. For the perspective from the other side, check out SB Nation Denver and Mile High Report, SB Nation's Broncos blog.