The Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense was suspect Sunday without its injured star safety Troy Polamalu, and the Green Bay Packers took full advantage.
The problem was the other side of the ball, where the Packers’ supposedly stout defense was decimated by Ben Roethlisberger and the flailing Steelers’ offense.
Roethlisberger was 29-of-46 for a franchise record 503 yards and three touchdowns, marching the Steelers 86 yards down the field in the final two minutes to lead Pittsburgh to a wild 37-36 win over the Packers at Heinz Field. The win broke the reining Super Bowl champions’ five-game losing streak, and snapped Green Bay’s five-game winning streak.
The outcome doesn’t matter much for either team. The Packers, now at 9-5, are still likely a lock for one of the NFC wild card spots, while the Steelers are unlikely to make the AFC playoffs at 7-7.
But it was a heck of a football game.
Roethlisberger ended the game the way he started it – with a touchdown pass to wide receiver Mike Wallace. Wallace managed to get both feet in the end zone on a 19-yard desperation throw by Roethlisberger, beating backup cornerback Josh Bell in man coverage. Jeff Reed – who, unlike Packers’ kicker Mason Crosby, also made three field goals – added the extra point for the win.
“It was a heck of a game,” Roethlisberger said afterward. “I’m really proud of the way our guys fought. We had to go  yards on our last drive. Mike Wallace, I told him I was disappointed because he gave up on a play, and I told him, ‘If you get open on this one I’m coming to you.’ He got open and made a heck of a catch.”
Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers also had a good game, throwing for 383 yards and three touchdowns and running for another. But the Packers’ running game was nonexistent, and the team shot itself in the foot again with costly penalties and other miscues.
Special teams were also an issue again. Crosby missed another easy field goal, this time shanking a 34-yarder early in the second quarter that, ultimately, could have been the difference in the game. Punter Jeremy Kapinos was named the new holder earlier this week, apparently to give Crosby some confidence and a fresh start, but it didn’t seem to matter. Crosby was “perplexed” by his performance after the game, but it seems pretty simple to me. He either needs glasses or a new career because kicking field goals isn’t working right now.
The Packers’ defense, ranked second overall coming into this game, gave up a mind-boggling 537 yards. Cornerback Jarrett Bush, in particular, looked like a deer in headlights most of the night and gave up several big plays, including Wallace’s opening touchdown.
To put it simply, the better team won Sunday night. And unfortunately, that wasn’t the Packers.