Where did this team come from?
• Gallant goal-line stands
• A fake punt that set up a touchdown.
• An interception return to a touchdown.
• Special teams dominance (until the final minute)
• A 100-yard rusher.
• Best of all, a continuing ability to overcome adversity.
What a game between the Steelers and Green Bay Packers this afternoon and tonight on the hallowed grounds of Lambeau Field. It was more than three hours of fabulous entertainment, if not textbook great football. The game was in doubt until the final play as the Steelers won, 38-31.
The team that started the season 0-4 will be in contention for a playoff berth, but with slight hopes, on the 17th week of the season. So much for those who claimed Mike Tomlin has lost his team.
The Steelers went into the game with an infinitesimal chance to make the playoffs. They came out considerably better, as both Miami and Baltimore lost. But they need a lot more to break their way next week. Most notably, they need Miami to lose at home to the New York Jets, a team it beat by 20 points earlier this month.
Coming as close as they have after that terrible start will long bring talk of what might have been. Several of those early losses could have turned on one play, one kick.
There were so many twist and turns and highs and lows in this game that the list of key plays and key decisions would take up an entire page. Both teams made big mistakes, both teams made big plays.
But the biggest mistake near the end as the Packers held the Steelers to 4 yards on third and 8 and forced a field goal with 1 minute, 40 seconds remaining. But on the field-goal attempt, the Packers were offside giving the Steelers a first down on the 4, from where they scored two plays later to take a seven-point lead.
Turns out they needed the touchdown instead of the field goal. Micah Hyde returned the ensuing kickoff 70 yards to the Steelers 31. The Packers, without a timeout, advanced to the 6, from where Matt Flynn’s pass on the final play of the game was incomplete.
Some of the highlights of the game:
• A fake punt on which Mat McBriar passed 28 yards to David Paulson to the Green Bay 13, from where Ben Roethlisberger scored on the next play.
• A fumble by Le’Veon Bell on his own 2, which was recovered by Green Bay. The Steelers not only held, but they blocked the field goal attempt. But in pursuit of the blocked ball, Ziggy Hood slapped it forward, a penalty, which gave the ball back to the Packers -- who then scored.
• A 40-yard return of an interception by Cortez Allen on a play in which Flynn’s arm was bumped by a teammate.
• A fumble by Flynn, who was stripped by Troy Polamalu, inside the Packers’ 20, which set up the Steelers final score. Brett Keisel recovered the fumble.
And so much more. Again, what a game!
Bell has his best game as a pro -- 26 carries for 124 yards.
Roethlisberger completed 16 of 28 passed for 167 and two touchdowns -- to Matt Spaeth and Emmanuel Sanders. He also threw a crucial interception.
Antonio Brown caught six passes for 105 yards and returned a punt 41 yards.
Sanders returned a kickoff 54 yards.
The Steelers are 7-8, which isn’t very good. But after an 0-4 start, they are 7-3 -- with playoff hopes alive.