Someone obviously forgot to tell Brett Hundley that he can’t play quarterback. After weeks of being maligned and generally dismissed by the media, Hundley played one of the most remarkable games you’ll ever see from a young NFL quarterback. But in the end, it was the Steelers’ offensive stars—otherwise known as the Killer B’s—who pulled what looked like a lost Sunday night at Heinz Field out of the fire.
Once again, we saw the Black-and-gold start a game sluggishly—but this time the Steelers’ defense was the culprit—allowing two huge Packers’ touchdowns in the first quarter. Artie Burns committed a couple of costly errors which enabled Green Bay to answer the Steelers’ opening TD drive with one of their own. On Green Bay’s 3rd-and-5 play from Pittsburgh’s 43-yard line, the defense sacked Hundley for what appeared to be an 8-yard loss. But the play was nullified when Burns drew a flag, giving the Packers a first down at the Steelers’ 38-yard line. After losing one yard on a first-down run, Hundley launched a pass that found an absolutely wide open Randall Cobb along the sideline which he ran in for a 39-yard touchdown. The TV replay left no doubt that Burns had trailed another receiver on the play, thereby vacating his zone responsibility and leaving nothing but open acreage for Cobb.
To make matters worse, with less than two minutes remaining in the first quarter, the Packers crossed up the Steelers’ defense with a well-conceived screen pass to running back Jamaal Williams that went for 54 yards and a TD. This put Pittsburgh on the short end of a 14-6 score at the end of the quarter because Chris Boswell had missed the extra-point kick following Pittsburgh’s opening TD.
With the exception of two interceptions (one of them on a tipped ball), Ben Roethlisberger looked extremely sharp passing the ball throughout the game. But dropped passes in the first half were a big problem. Early in the first quarter, Martavis Bryant dropped a perfectly thrown Roethisberger pass in the red zone. Later in the quarter, Jesse James dropped another perfect pass from Big Ben which would have been a first down. Then, in the second quarter, Eli Rogers dropped still another perfect pass that also would have been a first down. Fortunately, later in the second quarter, Bryant and Brown did not drop a couple of perfect throws from No. 7 which gave the Steelers a TD and game-tying 2-point conversion.
With the score 14-14 at the half, there was some reason to feel optimistic about the Steelers’ chances to put their first-half foibles behind them and get down to business. But during the second half as well, the Packers continued to play inspired football. Hundley and company took the second-half opening kickoff and marched down the field, scoring a TD on a 55-yard pass to a wide open Davante Adams who tricked Coty Sensabaugh into biting on a stop-and-go route.
The turning point
When the Steelers got the ball back in the third quarter, trailing 21-14, Roethlisberger’s short pass intended for Bell was tipped high in the air and the Packers had their second interception at midfield. At that point, it was difficult to avoid the feeling that, before long, Pittsburgh might be looking at a two-score deficit. But that’s also the point when the Steelers’ defense stepped up to sack Hundley twice during a single offensive series, forcing the Pack into what appeared to be an obvious punting situation. But Packers’ head coach Mike McCarthy opted instead to let his kicker Mason Crosby attempt what would have been a monster 58-yard field goal. Crosby’s kick was woefully off of the mark, and the miss restored the field position which the Steelers’ offense had prior to the tipped-ball interception.
Without this gutty effort by the defense, we might very well be mulling a disappointing loss now. And this turn of events seemed to swing the momentum back to Pittsburgh, as Antonio Brown promptly made one of his patented circus catches near the sideline, giving the Steelers a 1st-and-goal, and then caught a perfect throw from Roethlisberger in the corner of the end zone to tie the score at 21-21 near the end of the third quarter.
The fourth quarter at Heinz Field on Sunday night was the kind of wild-and-wooly conclusion that TV networks love for boosting their ratings. A promising drive by the Black-and-gold was thwarted when Le’Veon Bell fumbled the ball and the Packers recovered at their own 34-yard line. The officials’ call seemed questionable since it appeared that Bell’s knee was down before the ball came out. But given the odd nature of everything about this game, this turnover seemed to fit the overall script.
When the Packers’ offense took over, Pittsburgh’s defense stepped up and forced Hundley and company into a 3-and-out. Then Roethlisberger demonstrated why he’s one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game. First, he hit Eli Rogers with a key third-down pass to sustain the drive, and then launched an absolutely perfect strike down the sideline to No. 84 for a TD and point-after kick to make the score 28-21 in favor of Pittsburgh.
But any feeling of comfort on the part of Steelers Nation would be fleeting, as Green Bay methodically drove the ball down the field in 12 plays, scoring a TD that knotted the game at 28-28. It was during this drive that Steelers’ defensive leader Ryan Shazier came up limping badly while the entire fan-base held its collective breath.
After a Black-and-gold drive stalled at midfield, forcing a punt, Shazier trotted back onto the field with the defense to the great relief of Steelers fans. Then, the Steelers’ defense forced another Green Bay 3-and-out, giving the ball back to the offense one more time with only 17 seconds remaining in regulation time. But the Steelers still had all of their timeouts left and they were able to move the ball to the outer limits of field-goal range on a short drive highlighted by yet another amazing catch by Brown, who somehow managed to get both of his feet in bounds before crossing the sideline. Brown’s incredible grab was the icing on the cake of his 10-catch, 169-yard and 2-TD performance—a feat so masterful that it left NBC broadcasters Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth fumbling for superlatives.
Boswell put the cherry on top of the Killer B’s Sunday night performance by nailing a monster 53-yard field goal as time expired. Once again in this unusual 2017 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers found a way to sidestep what seemed like certain disaster, pulling out a narrow victory that extends their record to 9-2. But in addition to leaving Steelers Nation with warm, fuzzy feelings in their hearts, this game also underscores the fact that the conventional wisdom about backup quarterbacks like Brett Hundley is often misguided. It ought to be evident now to the doubters that Hundley might very well turn out to be a future NFL star.
But despite his best efforts, three players in black-and-gold prevented the Packers from pulling off an astounding upset at Heinz Field on Sunday night. These three players are named Roethlisberger, Brown and Bell. Despite the Packers likely playing their best game since losing Aaron Rodgers to injury, they simply couldn’t overcome the outstanding efforts of Pittsburgh’s incredible Killer B’s.