The Pittsburgh Steelers can probably learn quite a bit from the Green Bay Packers Saturday loss to the Arizona Cardinals even though they wound up losing in overtime.
For starters, the packers were big underdogs heading into that game and with good reason. To start with, Green Bay hadn’t played very well heading into the playoffs and that included them being blown out by the Cardinals 38-8 back in Week 16. To make matters worse, the Packers didn’t have rookie wide receiver Davante Adams on Saturday as he sat out the game with an injury. Additionally, the Packers lost their leading wide receiver, Randall Cobb, to a chest injury at the end of the first quarter and at that point they were left with only three healthy wide receivers in James Jones, Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis. While Jones caught 50 passes during the regular season, Abbrederis and Janis had both combined to catch just 11 balls for 190 yards heading into the playoffs. Those two players stepped up big Saturday for the Packers and especially Janis, who finished the game with 7 receptions for 145 yards and two touchdowns, one of which he hauled in on Hail Mary pass on the final play of regulation to send the game into overtime.
The Steelers face a similar situation on Sunday in their playoff game against the Denver Broncos as they’ll be without their top wide receiver, Antonio Brown, who will miss the contest with the concussion. Unlike the Packers, however, the Steelers backup wide receivers, Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant and Darrius Heyward-Bey, all have plenty of experience as the three combined to catch 115 passes for 1,828 yards during the regular season. In other words, they’re in a much better spot at the position than the Packers were Saturday night against the Cardinals.
The Packers not only played well on offense Saturday night in Arizona, their defense matched that effort as they continually harassed Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer throughout the first 60 minutes of play. Not only did they sack Palmer three times in the game, they also picked him off twice.
Sunday, the Steelers defense has an opportunity to help carry the load against a Denver offense that will be led by quarterback Peyton Manning. Manning, however, unlike Palmer, hasn’t played well at all this season. Additionally, Manning will be making his first start since Week 10 of the regular season. If that’s not enough, Manning is 0-5 for his career in playoff games where the kickoff temperature was 40 degrees or less and that’s right around what the temperature is forecasted to be come kickoff time Sunday.
Sure, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger won’t be fully healthy on Sunday, but judging by the Friday practice reports, he’s healthy enough to make all the throws the game-plan calls for. As long as he’s able to throw deep a few times against the Broncos, he should be fine as long as he doesn’t turn the football over. Hey, at least he’s healthy enough to give it a go.
Should the Steelers be a touchdown road underdog in this game? Sure, but the odds they face Sunday aren’t as insurmountable as many think they are and especially not as insurmountable as the Packers faced Saturday night in Arizona. They have the personnel needed to beat a tough Broncos team in Denver and move on to the AFC Championship game.