The Denver Broncos overcame an unspectacular outing by Peyton Manning on Sunday to earn a gritty 23-16 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers and set up a marquee quarterback matchup in next week's AFC title game.
The 39-year-old Manning, back in the starting lineup for the first time since a disastrous outing in mid-November, was shaky at times but leaned on his team's defense and running game to put Denver one win away from a Super Bowl berth.
The top-seeded Broncos, who earned a bye through last week's wild-card round, will face the New England Patriots next week in what will be Manning and fellow quarterback Tom Brady's fifth playoff, and 17th all-time, encounter.
Denver advanced thanks to a critical forced fumble in the fourth quarter that led to C.J. Anderson's go-ahead, one-yard touchdown run with three minutes remaining. The Broncos added a two-point conversion and another field goal to go ahead 23-13.
Pittsburgh responded with a field goal in the final minute to pull within seven points but were unable to gain possession of the ensuing onside kick.
Ailing Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 339 yards while playing without injured receiver Antonio Brown, but the visitors could not deliver a final answer against the Broncos defense.