Today BTSC travels back to a time when Jay-Z and Alicia Keys ruled the charts with “Empire State of Mind”, Actress Brittany Murphy unexpectedly died at age 32 and Avatar continued to be tops among movie goers. Welcome to December 20, 2009.
In Steel City sports, the Steelers were the defending champs, but they were reeling. After five-straight losses, Mike Tomlin’s team was 6-7 and facing a tough 9-4 squad led by Greenfield’s Mike McCarthy.
The Pack received the opening kickoff, but went three-and-out. On the first play from scrimmage for the Steelers, the Heinz Field crowd saw their team strike big for a 60-yard score. QB Ben Roethlisberger faked the stretch play to the left, rolled to his right and connected on a bomb to rookie Mike Wallace at the ten. Wallace beat Jared Bush and took it the rest of the way. With only :32 seconds elapsed, the Steelers led 7-0.
After an exchange of punts, the Packers had a big-play answer of their own on 3rd and 5. Aaron Rodgers floated a pass over the middle to Greg Jennings, who spun off of Tyrone Carter near midfield and sprinted all of the way to the end zone for a 83-yard score and a tie game.
The Steelers, through catches by Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes and Heath Miller and runs by Mendenhall, found themselves with a 1st and Goal at the two. Mendy took the handoff and got crunched immediately, but was able to keep upright enough to follow Doug Legursky’s block for the score and a 14-7 advantage.
In the second quarter, the Pack has a chance to answer back. However, Mason Crosby missed a 34-yarder. But late in the quarter, Rodgers completed passes to Brandon Jackson, Donald Driver, Janes Jones and Jennings to drive down deep into Steeler territory. On 3rd and 6 from the Steeler 14, Rodgers dropped back to pass and had to improvise to avoid a fervent black-and-gold attack. He scrambled left and outran Brett Keisel for a rushing TD. The game was tied at 14 with 3:10 left in the half. But there was enough time for the Steelers to regain the lead. After Santonio Holmes hooked up with Ben on a long play of 33 yards, the Steelers struck again. On 2nd and Goal, Pittsburgh stacked two receivers to the left. The underneath man, Mewelde Moore, broke free and caught the ball for a score from ten-out. With :30 seconds left in the half, it was the Steelers 21-Packers 14.
In the second half, Jeff Reed’s 37-yarder extended the Pittsburgh lead to 24-14. That was the only scoring in the third, but the fourth was where the explosion of points occurred. A mere 1:25 in, Rodgers threw a fade pass to a leaping Jermichael Finley on a 3rd and 6 from the Steeler 11 and the touchdown, thus cutting the Steeler lead to only three. But Jeff Reed’s 34-yarder doubled the Steeler advantage. it was now 27-21 in favor of the home team. Their lead would be relinquished when after a Jordy Nelson 27-yard catch-and-run led to a Ryan Grant 24-yard gallop and Green Bay’s first lead of the game with only 7:58 to go in the game.
On the very next drive, a Roethlisberger-to-Ward play gained 54, but the series stalled and the Steelers settled for a Jeff Reed 43-yarder and a 30-28 advantage. In a head-scratcher, Tomlinson and the Steelers went for the jugular when Jeff Reed attempted an onside kick, but the recovery was nullified when Ike Taylor illegal touched the ball a yard short of the mandatory ten. Green Bay would get the ball in good field position and take advantage of the opportunity when James Jones, on a blown coverage by Joe Burnett, caught a Ridgers pass for 24 and a score. When Brandon Jackson caught the two-pointer, the Pack realized a 36-30 lead with only 2:12 remaining.
With 2:01 to go, Big Ben went to work on a 86-yard drive. Despite enduring two sacks, No. 7 found a tip-toeing Wallace in the end zone’s corner for a miraculous score with only :03 seconds left. The game rested on the toe of Reed, who converted to give the Steelers a crazy 37-36 win. Both offenses nearly combined for a thousand yards as two great quarterbacks slung the pig with authority all day long.
The Steelers would win their remaining two games, but couldn’t get the help to make it into the playoffs. Ending on such a high note, the Steelers continued that momentum in 2010. So the seeds for the following year’s conference crown were sewn that day. Unfortunately, that dream ended against the very team they defeated this day, the Green Bay Packers.
As for me, my Steeler Central buddies refused to meet at my house for the game. They were discouraged by the five-game skid and wanted to do other things. My personal custom has been to watch my team whether their record is 15-0 or 0-15. My wife was preparing the house for Christmas and asked me to put our age seven-month daughter to bed. The problem was that this coincided with the last two minutes of a great game. So after discussing it with my daughter who cooed her approval, I sat her on my knee to watch the epic conclusion. All went well untill my wife caught us dancing in joyous victory. My little girl saw my wife and started to cry. I guess it was her way of throwing me under the bus because she didn’t want to get in hot water with my wife or Santa. But as the proverbial tires rolled over me, I smiled as my team had just won in a glorious manner. Deep down I knew it was a meaningless victory, but a great win and a greater feeling all the same.