By Tyler Sweet
The cool air and the falling snow onto Lambeau Field set the stage for a great matchup between two of the most successful franchises in NFL history. Although both teams were hampered with injuries and own records that reflect a less than spectacular season, the game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers was a great one. The game was great in the sense that it was close throughout and both teams capitalized off big plays (some aided by awful officiating). When all was said and done, the Steelers put themselves one step closer to a playoff spot in the AFC. Yes, it sounds crazy to think about playoffs but we have been saying this for several weeks and here we are going into week 17 with a game that actually means something.
With the exception of a few dumb penalties and a very costly fumble by running back Le’Veon Bell, the offense played a great game. Ben Roethlisberger has taken the reins of the offense and looks to be in complete control. Almost in a Peyton Manning style, Ben is constantly yelling and motioning the offense before the snap to audible to a better option based on the defensive look. Ben has made big strides since first coming into the league as a “game manager”. Although Ben did not have a huge game statistically, he made plays when they were needed the most. Ben completed passes to nine different players throughout the game, but did throw an interception on 1st Down with a ten point lead that was horrible.
Ben did not have to have a big game statistically due to the success of rookie running back Le’Veon Bell. The Steelers running game looked fantastic. Many Steelers coaches have been praising Bell all season and saying how great of a player he is, well we finally got a chance to witness his athletic abilities and knack for finding the holes. Bell finished the game with his first 100 yard rushing game of his career (124 yards) including a touchdown. As I mentioned, the fumble by Bell inside the Steelers own 5 yd line was a big mistake and cost the team greatly. Great game by the offense in both the passing game and running game. Overall Offensive Unit Grade: A
The defense played great at times, forcing turnovers and getting to quarterback Matt Flynn, however the Packers were able to respond with an affective running game complimented by a passing attack that seemed to consistently find the open receiver and move the chains. Green Bay running back Eddie Lacy was powering his way through the Steelers defense at will and finished with 2 touchdowns. Lawrence Timmons, Brett Keisel, and Jason Worilds all finished with 1 sack each. There was some pretty good pressure on Matt Flynn coming from the defensive line and linebackers early on that forced Flynn to make a couple mistakes. When opportunity comes knocking, you must capitalize, and Cortez Allen did just that. Allen returned an interception for a touchdown to give the Steelers a 10 point lead. The defense played a good game but allowing 31 points is unacceptable. Overall Defensive Unit Grade: B
The special teams played a great game. It was obvious that Mike Tomlin emphasized special teams play this week. The kickoff return unit started off with a reverse that brought the ball to around the 30 yard line. Matt McBriar did his best Neil O’Donnell impression and converted a fake punt for a first down on a pass to David Paulson. The play of the night however was a blocked field goal by Steve McLendon. The ball was recovered by Ryan Clark who appeared to have a knee down with possession of the ball, tried to lateral the ball to William Gay who lost control of the ball. Ziggy Hood then batted the ball forward out of bounds.
After a long discussion, the referees determined that the illegal batting of the ball warranted a Green Bay 1st Down. It was a very bizarre play that thankfully did not determine the outcome of the game. A refreshingly great game by the special teams unit until they gave up a long kickoff return with only 1:14 left on the game clock that gave the Packers a chance to win. I loved the aggressiveness of this unit throughout the game. Overal Special Teams Unit Grade: A-
With a win next week against the Cleveland Browns, the Steelers will need the Ravens, Chargers, and Dolphins to lose. The fact that this team even has a chance is incredible. But the Steelers must worry about what is in front of them and get the win against a Browns team that looks for revenge for a bad loss to the Steelers a few weeks ago. As always, comment with your grades or tweet us @SteelersGab or @Tylersweet87.
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