Pro Bowl spots evaporate in wake of Broncos' third straight playoff miss

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- While Pro Bowl voting is the source of plenty of debate around the league, including in the Denver Broncos' locker room from time to time, it does offer at least one measuring stick for the team’s tumble from its status as a playoff regular.

The Broncos had just two players -- linebacker Von Miller and rookie running back Phillip Lindsay -- selected Tuesday to the NFL’s all-star game. It is Miller’s seventh Pro Bowl selection. He is the only draft pick in John Elway’s tenure as the Broncos’ president of football operations/general manager who is on the current roster and been selected to the Pro Bowl. Lindsay is an undrafted free agent, the first to make the Pro Bowl as a rookie.

Linebacker Bradley Chubb, a Pro Bowl alternate this year, was the Broncos’ first-round pick in April. Chubb has 12 sacks in the Broncos’ first 14 games.

Cornerback Chris Harris Jr., a three-time Pro Bowl selection who suffered a fractured fibula in the Broncos’ win over the Cincinnati Bengals, and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders are the Broncos’ other Pro Bowl alternates this year.

Sanders is on injured reserve with a ruptured Achilles tendon.

It all represents a steady decline since Peyton Manning’s tenure at quarterback. The Broncos had 11 players, including injury replacements, play in the Pro Bowl following the 2014 season. That total went to six in the Super Bowl season of 2015 -- Manning’s final season before his retirement -- and six in 2016.

The Broncos finished 9-7 in 2016 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2010. It was the beginning of what now is a three-season playoff drought.

“Pro Bowls, All-Pros, all of that, it comes when you win," Harris said. “Guys sometimes play their individual position at a high level, but it’s not going to get noticed, you’re not going to be in those prime-time games everybody sees, unless you’re winning.’’

Lindsay does give reason for optimism as the first undrafted player on offense to be named to a Pro Bowl in his rookie season. Lindsay is fifth in the league in rushing (991 yards), second in yards per carry (5.5) and tied for second in runs of 10 or more yards (29).

And the Broncos believe their rookie class, which has fueled much of what success the team has had this season, will include some Pro Bowl selections in the not-so-distant future, especially from Chubb.

But for now, Miller is still the bridge from the team’s ultra-successful run of five consecutive AFC West titles to go with two Super Bowl appearances between 2011 and 2015.

Miller was asked about awards and individual accolades last week and took a more focused approach to it all.

“Honestly, I don’t [think about it]," Miller said. “The thing about getting sacks, the sack race is so close right now. I’m [two] sacks away from [Rams defensive tackle] Aaron Donald ... So, it’s a tight race and every sack could mean the difference. That’s where my mindset is at right now."