Steelers Report Card: Game 14 vs. Packers
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Ben Roethlisberger orchestrated another comeback victory to keep alive the team's playoff hopes, and he did it by passing for a team-record 503 yards and three TDs with no interceptions. He had 223 yards and two TDs in the first half, despite three drops, but it was the final drive that looked like the Super Bowl all over again, right down to the dramatic final throw and catch.
Rashard Mendenhall had only 38 yards rushing, 34 in the first half, but his 2-yard TD run was all effort, breaking four tackles. But his biggest contribution came as a receiver. He finished with a season-high six catches for 73 yards, including two 25-yard catches in the third quarter. He also had a 14-yard touchdown catch negated by a Heath Miller penalty.
Mike Wallace caught TDs on the first and final offensive play -- the latter with a Super Bowl, Santonio Holmes-like catch with no time remaining. Hines Ward (126) and TE Heath Miller (118) each surpassed 100 yards receiving, but Miller's 20-yard catch on third-and-15 on the final drive was huge. Holmes had only three catches, but his 32-yarder on fourth-and-7 kept the final drive alive.
It was a tough game for LT Max Starks, who gave up two of the five sacks, had another negated by replay review and also had a false start and holding penalty on the winning TD drive. The Steelers rushed for only 65 yards on 19 attempts against Green Bay's No. 2 rush defense, their fewest yards since the season opener and their second-fewest attempts of the season.
Shame on the Packers for rushing only seven times for 18 yards through three quarters and just 12 times for 60 yards in the game, especially against a defense that had been allowing 137 yards rushing the past three games. Ryan Grant had 37 yards, but 24 came on his fourth-quarter TD run. DE Brett Keisel let QB Aaron Rodgers get away for a 14-yard TD on a third-down scramble.
The Steelers tried to apply pressure on Rodgers with repeated middle blitzes from James Farrior and Lawrence Timmons, but they sacked him only once -- by LaMarr Woodley, who had to share the sack with Casey Hampton. Woodley played very well, but James Harrison has all but disappeared from the defense. He got sucked outside and Timmons got beat inside on Grant's 24-yard TD run.
Rodgers did what every QB seems to do against the Steelers -- attack the safeties and hit long passes. S Tyrone Carter missed a tackle on an 83-yard TD pass and let Grant go around him on a 24-yard TD run. Ryan Clark overran a receiver on a 49-ard pass and got beat in single coverage for an 11-yard TD. Rodgers had 383 yards passing and five pass plays of 20 yards or longer.
The only good news was Jeff Reed kicked three FGs from 37, 34 and 43 yards. Otherwise, there continues to be little production from the return game, even though Stefan Logan had a 36-yard kick return. Even P Daniel Sepulveda had an off game, averaging 38.2 yards on five punts. And that wasn't exactly Joshua Cribbs the Steelers kept trying to keep the ball from on those short kickoffs.
Not certain who Roethlisberger bailed out more with the final drive -- the defense that gave up 22 points in the final quarter or coach Mike Tomlin for his decision to try an onside kick leading by two in the fourth quarter? Give him credit for successfully challenging the Roethlisberger sack/fumble that would have given the Packers possession at the Steelers' 27. But give that grudgingly.
First Published December 21, 2009 12:00 am