The Packers rallied in the second quarter to take a 14-7 lead over Pittsburgh and held on late thanks to a ball control offense that converted nine third downs and big plays by a banged up Packer defense.
This game may be the first that you can argue that the Packers outplayed their opponents in all three phases of the game. Corey Bojorquez earned the title “Special Teamer”. His first punt of 36 yards was downed at the four yard line. His second punt from the GB six yard line boomed 57 yards and was not returned. Clutch punting in a big moment of the game. So refreshing to see a punter in a green and gold uniform do that.
Crosby was 2/2 after his first blocked attempt was negated due to a close call of offsides by the Steelers. He was also perfect for extra points and had three touchback kickoffs. Three kickoffs were returned, and although one did go for a forty yards return, the other two were kept in check. The punt coverage by Isaac Yiadom was textbook perfection.
The Packers took advantage of a 20 yard punt by Pittsburgh’s rookie punter. The short field led to a quick touchdown, Cobb’s second of the day and Rodgers 420th of his career, tying Dan Marino for 6th most TD passes of all time.
Injuries to Preston Smith and Jaime Alexander required Rashan Gary to up his game and, Yiadom and Shemar Jean-Charles to play significant snaps in the second half. Gary’s stat line of 6 tackles, 4 solo, 1 sack, one TFL, and two QB hits. Yiadom had 4 tackles. The Steelers first touchdown seemed to come on an obvious offensive pass interference. On the replay Dionte Johnson clearly put his hand on Alexander’s shoulder affecting the timing and spacing of his jump and attempted deflection. The defense then turned the momentum of the game when Kingsley Keke stripped Roethlisberger of the ball and Kenny Clark recovered. The Packers held the Steelers to 62 yards rushing and pressured Roethlisberger relentlessly. The Packers scored quickly on the short field and the suddenness of the two scores seemed to impact the Steelers game plan.
The best part of the day for lifelong Packer fans was watching Randall Cobb catch 5 balls for 69 yards and two touchdowns. He hasn’t had two scores in a game in over five seasons. Eric Stokes still has growing to do but he also has skills. His missed tackle in the second quarter was embarrassing. His pass interference penalty in the end zone was costly. His game icing interception showed his potential in his technique and his mental toughness. Other young players might have folded after those glaring errors. Stokes pick shows he has the mental makeup necessary for an NFL corner.
This win cannot be celebrated without giving recognition to the Packer offensive line. Both the Packers and Steelers were starting two rookies on their offensive line; Center Kendrick Green and Dan Moore at tackle. The Steelers Kevin Dotson is a second year player. The inexperience of their o-line closely mirrors the Packers. The Steelers are struggling to open holes for a great running back and Roethlisberger is constantly affected by pressure. They are now 1-3. The Packers have been able to establish a consistent run game and keep Rodgers relatively clean. Kudos to this offensive line and their coaches. Yosh Nijman has now faced the 112 million dollar man, C.J. Watt, and Nick Bosa back to back. Welcome to the NFL, Mr. Nijman. While Watt gets credit in the stat book for two sacks, one was clearly an uncalled tripping penalty and the other was in garbage time when Rodgers decided to keep the clock running instead of throwing it away. Nijman stayed penalty free and he and the “Newbies” allowed Rodgers to have another banner day. Rodgers QBR was 95.6. Rodgers did miss a few open receivers but how can you nitpick when he found open receivers on third down, threw two TD’s and ran for a score.
Good teams overcome injuries, missed penalties and early deficits. The 2021 Packers have done that two weeks in a row. Let’s just hope neither of Sunday’s injuries are serious. Both Alexander and Smith will be needed next week. Next up, the improving Bengals in Cincinnati.