In what proved to be a seesaw affair, the Pittsburgh Steelers managed to eek out a road win over the Green Bay Packers by a score of 38-31.
Green Bay, in control of their postseason destiny when the day began, drew first blood on their second drive of the game after Matt Flynn engineered a 13-play 87 yard drive which spanned over five minutes. The utilization of James Starks (47 rushing yards total) and Eddie Lacy (84 rushing yards total) on the ground helped the passing game, and Flynn finished the drive when he found Jarrett Boykin for a five-yard touchdown pass.
Pittsburgh’s offense answered with a touchdown drive of their own. On a day in which he became the first player in 23 games to run for 100 yards, Le’Veon Bell (26 carries, 124 yards, one touchdown) got the ground game going while a 36-yard pass down the sidelines from Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown (six catches 105 yards) put the Steelers in a position to score. Big Ben’s scrambling paid off near the goal line and Emmanuel Sanders’ one-yard touchdown reception tied the score right before the first quarter ended.
Like they did in the first quarter, both offenses found their grooves right before half time. Thanks to a piss-poor punt by Mat McBriar and a penalty by Greg Warren, the Packers started their final drive of the first half at the Pittsburgh 42. Lacy gashed the Steelers for 36 yards on that drive and scored on an 11-yard cut-back run with just under two minutes left in the half.
Pittsburgh’s clock management, particularly after Bell scooted for a first down at Green Bay’s 13, was garbage on the following drive. Although the drive netted them three points after Shaun Suisham booted a 31-yard field goal, the decision not to take the team’s final time out after Bell’s first down run was a joke.
Down 14-10 at half time, Pittsburgh showed no quit and came alive in the third quarter with some enormous plays.
A fake punt which resulted in a 30-yard catch and run by David Paulson from McBriar extended the Steelers’ opening drive of the second half. Then on the following play, Roethlisberger scrambled for a 13-yard touchdown and Pittsburgh was suddenly in front 17-14.
Then the gifting of penalties to the Packers began. A chinsy illegal use of hands cost Stevenson Sylvester a sack on Green Bay’s following drive. And while the Packers still had to punt, a perfect pooch boot by Tim Masthay put Pittsburgh at their own two-yard line. Bell, on his only negative play of the day, fumbled on the first play of the drive and Green Bay was suddenly in business.
The defense held strong however, and the Packers were forced to kick a field goal. That of course was when the snow job happened.
Steve McLendon blocked Mason Crosby’s field goal attempt and it appeared that Ryan Clark had recovered the ball and was down at around Pittsburgh’s five-yard line. Instead of blowing the whistle, the idiot referees allowed Clark to pitch the ball and the play was kept alive. Sadly, the ball was fumbled and Ziggy Hood knocked the ball out of bounds. Even though the play should have been dead when Clark was touched, the referees gifted the Packers a penalty and possession due to Hood’s irrelevant infraction.
Lacy made the Steelers pay with a two-yard touchdown run, but Pittsburgh’s players only appeared to be inspired by the pathetic officiating. Roethlisberger took his offense 68 yards on six plays on their next possession, and he capped off the drive with a one-yard touchdown pass to the seldom-used Matt Spaeth.
On Green Bay’s next drive, Cortez Allen stepped up and made the play of the day for the defense. Flynn, who was obstructed by Andrew Quarless on that pass, threw a wounded duck which Allen promptly returned 40 yards for a touchdown. After the Steelers forced the Packers to punt on their following drive, it looked like they were in command with a 31-21 lead.
Sadly, an errant pass by Roethlisberger on the first play after Green Bay’s punt kept the Packers in the game. Gifted another 15 yards on a post-foul penalty, the Packers managed to cut the deficit to 31-24 at the beginning of the fourth quarter. A quick three-and-out by the Steelers then set the stage for Flynn to play the hero.
Thanks to a 31-yard catch and run by Jordy Nelson, Green Bay tied the game at 31-31 after former Steeler John Kuhn ran for a one-yard touchdown with just over seven minutes left. Although the Steelers were able to pin the Packers back inside their own 10 yard line after a McBriar punt on the following drive, Green Bay’s offense had all of the momentum. Thankfully for Pittsburgh, a few salty veterans stepped up big time.
Brett Keisel’s sack of Flynn on first down put the Packers behind the sticks. Ike Taylor then limited James Jones to five yards on the following play. Finally, Troy Polamalu made an incredible tackle-strip of Flynn when he tried to scramble for the first down. Keisel recovered the fumble at Green Bay’s 17 and it looked like the team was in business.
Although things looked bleak for Pittsburgh after Bell was stopped three yards short of a first down with 1:35 to go, Nick Perry played MVP for the Steelers when he jumped offsides on Shaun Suisham’s field goal attempt. An intelligent person would have assumed that the Steelers would have run out the clock and left just enough time to win the game with an extra point-like boot from Suisham.
Mike Tomlin obviously does not fall into that category. Instead, he played right into the hands of Mike McCarthy when he allowed the offense to run Bell into the end zone. While the Steelers were up 38-31, there was still over half of a minute on the clock and the ever-dangerous Micah Hyde was waiting to return the ensuing kickoff for Green Bay.
Why Suisham didn’t squib the kick or float it to an up-back, I don’t know. Yet the ball was a line drive kicked to Hyde and he made Pittsburgh pay dearly. Thankfully for the Steelers, Tomlin didn’t need to make the tackle and Shamarko Thomas had enough of an angle to stop Hyde after he ran the kick back 70 yards.
Flynn and his offense shredded Pittsburgh’s defense on the first two plays for 26 yards, and it looked like Green Bay was in business at Pittsburgh’s five-yard line. Out of timeouts, Green Bay inched to the one-yard line after a four-yard scamper by James Starks and it looked like the game was headed into an extra period.
Then the time came for the Packers to crap the bed. A false start by Don Barclay with 20 seconds remaining not only drove Green Bay’s offense back to their six-yard line, it also milked 10 seconds off of the clock. With the clock moving, Flynn overthrew Boykin as time expired and the Steelers emerged victorious!
Somehow still alive for postseason contention, the Steelers showed a tremendous amount of heart this afternoon. Not only did they have to overcome their own mistakes, they had to keep the surging Packers in check and rise above some absolutely garbage officiating. Although it might be too little, too late for Pittsburgh at this point in the season, kudos must go out to them for their solid play at Lambeau Field.
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