Game: Green Bay Packers @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Game Result: Pittsburgh Steelers 31, Green Bay Packers 28
The Steelers and Packers were two teams heading in opposite directions after week 12. The Packers had been shut out at home for the first time in a decade, and the Steelers had hung 40 points on the Tennessee Titans. On Sunday night, the teams couldn’t have looked more similar, as they were only separated by a 53-yard field goal by kicker Chris Boswell. The bottom line to this game was simple. If the Steelers plan to compete for a Super Bowl, they can’t let good teams hang around. If the Packers plan to compete for a Super Bowl, they need Aaron Rodgers back as soon as possible.
After week 12, people circled this game as a blowout by halftime, but this game was anything but. It was tied 14-14 at the half and the Packers looked like the better team. They had a good balance of run & pass, and their defense had forced a rare turnover on the road. Brett Hundley looked much more comfortable in the pocket, as the Steelers were unable to force a sack in the entire first half. Jamaal Williams was average last week filling in for Ty Montgomery and Aaron Jones, but he excelled last night, particularly in the pass game with four catches for 69 yards. He can hold down the fort for another week or two if necessary at this point.
In the second half, the war of attrition just wore the Packers down. All of the Packers top three corners exited at one point to receive work from the trainers. The defense was unable to generate consistent pressure, as they only registered a single sack compared to the Steelers four. They also were unable to make plays in the backfield with only three tackles for loss versus the Steelers eight. They were consistently able to shut down drives, as they forced three punts on possessions that totaled two minutes and 28 seconds. In the second half, the Steelers defense made life difficult for Hundley with all the pressure it put on him stalling those drives and allowing their offense more possessions, despite two more turnovers by the offense in the second half, one by Ben Roethlisberger and a fumble by Le’Veon Bell.
Antonio Brown and Bell won this game for the Steelers late. Brown was held in check for much of the game before exploding in the fourth quarter to finish with 10 catches, 169 yards, and two touchdowns, including a crucial 23-yard toe tap on the sideline to put the Steelers in field goal range. Bell also was bottled up for much of the first half before finishing with 95 yards on the ground and 88 through the air. The two superstars simply tore apart the overmatched Packers defense, and proved that, as long as they are both around, this team will be just fine.
The Steelers (9-2) head to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals (5-6) who are riding a two-game winning streak. The Packers (5-6) will look to build on this momentum against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7) team that has struggled and underwhelmed after high expectations coming into the season.
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