Yesterday the Steelers defeated the Packers in the snow and cold of Lambeau Field to keep their miniscule playoff hopes alive. It was an exhilarating, if exhausting, game to watch. I watched the game with my dad and uncle, and after the final play, I turned to my uncle and said, “Who needs a nap?”
It was one of those games for the Steelers. The score probably should not have been so close, especially with Matt Flynn playing quarterback and Clay Matthews and Eddie Lacy both leaving the game with injuries. If you’re a Steelers fan, there was a lot to like about this game and a lot to dislike about it as well. The Steelers didn’t play as well as they did against the Bengals last week, but they still won the football game, which is all that matters. To quote Mike Tomlin, “It’s December. We’ll take the W.”
I really liked the willingness of the coaching staff to go for broke in this game. The fake punt was a brilliant call and was perfectly executed by Mat McBriar. Danny Smith has taken heat for how special teams have performed under him, but they had another great game this week. The blocked field goal that was called back (overruled?) was another spectacular play and the return game was on point yet again.
Ben Roethlisberger didn’t have one his better games, despite throwing for two touchdowns and running for another. I actually stood up in my living room and applauded when Ben ran in for the touchdown. I know the Steelers and Rooneys want Ben to run less so he takes fewer hits, but it was refreshing to see him on the move yesterday. (There was also a play earlier in the game when Ben could have run for the first down and didn’t, despite there being a huge hole for him to run.) The AJ Hawk interception was brutal and Ben overthrew the ball quite a bit. A down week compared to how he’s been playing, but nothing too egregious.
Antonio Brown had another good game, six receptions for 105 yards. He had a few drops, but so did just about everyone else. He now has at least five receptions in every game this season and he broke Yancey Thigpen’s franchise record for receiving yards yesterday. He now has 101 receptions on the year, and needs 12 against Cleveland next week to break Hines Ward’s record. It’s a tall task, but it honestly would not surprise me if he managed it. Hands down, AB is the MVP of this team.
The star on the offense was Le’Veon Bell. 26 carries for 124 yards and one touchdown. He did have a fumble deep in Steelers territory, which cost the Steelers 7 points (though it should not have—the officials made one of the worst calls I’ve ever seen on a truly bizarre play). But Bell ran hard, literally jumping over defenders to gain more yards. I love what we’re seeing from him. He has looked better and better every game and that surely bodes well going into next season.
The defense didn’t play great. but there were some great individual plays. The Packers picked on Cortez Allen all day, and he responded with a pick-six. Troy Polamalu had a good game, forcing his fifth fumble of the season, and now leads all NFL defenders in that category. Cam Heyward and Lawrence Timmons both played pretty well. Nice to see Brett Keisel get a sack, especially since I thought we may not see him in a Steelers uniform again.
The best the defense looked was after Bell’s fumble at the Steelers’ 3-yard line. The defense stood tall and didn’t allow the Packers in the end zone. Lacy didn’t wind up scoring until after some horrible officiating negated the blocked field goal. It had to be extremely deflating for the defense to play so well and do their job to have it taken away by such a crappy call.
The big thing everyone in Pittsburgh seems to be talking about is the Steelers decision to score a touchdown with 1:25 left in the game and Green Bay with no timeouts remaining. After the game, a few reporters asked Mike Tomlin if he had considered kneeling on the ball and kicking a field goal. Tomlin responded that he had not considered that. While I agree with the decision to go for a touchdown over a field goal, the Steelers should have obviously let some more time run off the clock before putting it into the end zone. They scored on 2nd & 1, so they did have another down to play with. I do not agree that they should have just kicked a field goal. There were many weird bounces in this football game, thanks in part to a slippery football. Suisham also could’ve missed it (I know he’s usually Mr. Automatic, but let’s not pretend he didn’t miss two very makeable field goals in Oakland). It was the kind of game where something like that would happen (see Mason Crosby’s blocked field goal earlier in the game). So I agree with going for the touchdown, but the clock should have been run down more before scoring.
Despite all the bizarre things that happened in this game and the Steelers not playing particularly well, they still came out on top. Even more miraculously, they are still somehow mathematically alive for the playoffs. The Steelers needed four things to happen yesterday, and they all happened. They now need four more things to happen next Sunday to reach the postseason: They need to beat Cleveland; the Bengals need to beat the Ravens; the Jets need to beat the Dolphins; and the Chiefs need to beat the Chargers.
I highly doubt all of those things will happen, but that’s okay. It’s downright amazing that the Steelers are playing a meaningful game in Week 17 after a 2-6 record in the first half of the season. It’s mostly a testament to how bad the AFC has been this year, but it’s also nice to see that the Steelers haven’t given up. Last year, they didn’t play a meaningful game in Week 17 (despite Cortez Allen trying his damnedest to singlehandedly beat the Bengals in Week 16…), so it’s cool that they have something to play for this year.
Now it’s time to gear up for Week 17. It could be interesting, but it’s most likely going to be our last taste of Steelers football until training camp begins in late July. Go Steelers (…and Bengals…and Chiefs…and Jets).