Steelers Report Card: Super Bowl XLV
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This was one time Ben Roethlisberger couldn't produce a miraculous comeback, after the Steelers trailed, 21-3. He couldn't overcome his two turnovers -- a 36-yard interception return for touchdown and another that led to the Packers' third touchdown in the first half. But he tried with a big scoring drive at the end of the first half and another to start of the third quarter to get the Steelers back in the game.
Rashard Mendenhall was effective in the first half, rushing 8 times for 30 yards. And he kept it up on the first drive of the second half, following a 17-yard run with an 8-yard TD that made it 21-17 -- a big momentum lift for the team. But his fumble at the Packers 33 to start the fourth quarter was the big shift because it led to the touchdown that made it 28-17. Mendenhall finished with 63 yards on 14 carries.
Mike Wallace had nine catches and a big 25-yard TD, but too much of the first half was playing soft and failing to gain separation -- much like the rest of his postseason. Hines Ward was clutch with seven catches and an 8-yard touchdown. And Antwaan Randle El had two big catches for 50 yards in the first half. TE David Johnson had a false-start penalty that stalled an early drive.
The Steelers kept running their counter with success behind pulling G Chris Kemoeatu, which is why they finished with 126 yards rushing on 23 attempts (5.5 avg.). The protection for Roethlisberger wasn't bad (one sack). He scrambled four times for 31 yards, including an 18-yarder that led to a field goal. RT Flozell Adams played with a bad shoulder but did a solid job on sack-leader Clay Matthews.
The Packers had some success running in the first half (37 yards on 7 carries) because the Steelers were using a lot of two-man fronts in their nickel and dime packages. But they finished with 50 yards on 13 carries. DE Brett Keisel had pressure on QB Aaron Rodgers and DE Ziggy Hood had a sack for the fourth game in a row. But nobody could make a play when they absolutely needed one.
This is the strength of the defense, but nobody made a play when it was absolutely necessary. OLBs LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison each had a sack on Rodgers in the second half, but there wasn't enough pressure in the first half to keep the Packers from taking a 21-3 lead. Harrison and James Farrior let Jordy Nelson run around them on a 38-yard catch to the Steelers 2 that set up the winning TD.
CB Ike Taylor always seems to do a good job except for one play, and that came when he allowed a 31-yard pass on third-and-10 to Greg Jennings on the final FG drive. The Steelers really had no answer for Rodgers in the first half when he passed for 137 yards and two TDs. William Gay lost the ball on a 29-yard TD and Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu were late on a Rodgers 21-yard TD to Jennings.
The downfall really started when Ryan Mundy's block-in-the back penalty wiped out a 45-yard kick return by Antonio Brown. Roethlisberger had a pick-six one play later. That has been the case too much this season -- repeated penalties that have disrupted their return game. And there was another senseless personal-foul penalty by Keyaron Fox that forced the Steelers to start from their 13 with 2:02 remaining.
The Steelers had no answer for the Packers in the first half, getting nailed in the running game in their dime defense and failing to make plays on Rodgers. But, as they have done all season, the players never quit, which is testament to patience and commitment by the coaches. Still, when three turnovers result in three touchdowns, the deficit is usually too much to overcome -- which it was.
First Published February 7, 2011 12:46 am