Whew. Monday marks the first day I haven't written anything for the site in two years. I'm back on the case now, thawed out from Lambeau Field, so stick around, it's going to be a big week! - nc
Just an unbelievable turn of events for the Steelers. This isn't just an 0-4 team that's rebounded to at least appear playoff-solvent in Week 17, this team was written off after consecutive losses to Baltimore and Miami in Weeks 13 and 14. One side thinks, "had they only beaten Tennessee, Oakland or Minnesota." Another side thinks "they could easily have beaten both Baltimore and Miami, and in a completely different sense, have been playing in Week 17 for the AFC North title. Such is the roller coaster of an NFL season. The question here really is more about what this team is building for next year. Fans have to be excited about that.
The Lambeau Leap
Le'Veon Bell soared through the snowy air, over a would-be Packers defender, in what a Steelers fan sitting behind me called "The Lambeau Leap." That got a laugh from me, not so much the natives who began encircling him and making it uncomfortable. Point being, Bell gets his first 100 yard game as well as his first fumble this season. He ran well, it seemed, even with an interior offensive line that was beat up a little bit. Credit to Green Bay up front, but more credit to Bell for breaking off a few big runs in order to earn the 100 yard mark.
The Steelers Instigator
For as relatively decent as center Cody Wallace was against Green Bay, one thing he did well was piss off multiple Packers' defensive linemen. His quasi-punk bump of B.J. Raji led to a retaliatory strike the officials saw, and docked his team 15 yards. There were other instances of those kinds of things, and it appeared to fluster the Packers' leaderless defense. The locals blame Dom Capers, but I wonder if it wasn't the lack of a Charles Woodson or a Nick Barnett leader-like figure on the field.
The Other Steelers Instigator
Cornerback Ike Taylor also played well in this game, but what stood out for him was a skirmish he appeared to start during a TV timeout. He wandered over to the Packers sideline, and appeared to be in casual conversation with multiple non-uniformed Packers players. After a bit, one of the larger sweatsuited Packers seemed to be getting more agitated with Taylor. Suddenly, they were toe-to-toe, jawing at each other. A coach intervened, and Taylor returned to the field.
Offensive Lines Held Their Own
The Steelers' offensive line played another solid game. It's been several weeks now since the unit has been soundly defeated by its opponent, casting positive light over its future. This is the best we've seen it play in years, top to bottom. That's sort of a back-handed compliment, because it still has room for a lot of improvement in its run blocking. It struggles in short-yardage for a variety of reasons, leading the Steelers to lean heavily on the pass - as well as the Packers laying down and allowing Bell to score after Steelers coach Mike Tomlin curiously decided to go for a touchdown. Speaking of that....
That seems to be the big talker after the game. Hard to say it didn't have an impact. In my mind, it's a decision that may have changed depending on the score. Had the Steelers been up one or two points, I could understand. Tied or behind one or two, kneeling on it and letting your kicker win it for you, without putting the Packers' offense back on the field, makes sense, assuming you're comfortable with the field conditions. It's not as if Shaun Suisham hasn't kicked in adverse conditions. Tomlin doesn't deserve to lose his job over it, least of all because fans have a reasonable argument against his decision. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger - and any NFL quarterback - makes at least multiple bad decisions in a game. Sometimes other guys need to step up. The Steelers' special teams did not do that, otherwise, this wouldn't have mattered at all.
- Ike Taylor, Cody Wallace earn top PFF grades in Week 16
- Winners and Losers from Steelers 38-31 victory over Green Bay Packers
- How the Steelers can get in the playoffs
- Steelers vs. Packers final score: Pittsburgh hangs on for thrilling 38-31 win
- Antonio Brown breaks Steelers single season receiving yards record