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Perspective Of An Average Steelers Fan: Packers Clobber Steelers

GAME PRELUDE

WATCHED GAME FROM VIRGINIA

Few people picked the Steelers to upset the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. I was a naysayer but hoped the Steelers could somehow flip the script. A huge defensive effort to rattle Aaron Rodgers with some big turnovers. Add Ben Roethlisberger connecting with his receivers and Najee Harris finally unleashed in the running game and just maybe Pittsburgh could surprise everyone. The offensive line remains a key to offensive success and still a worry.

For week four, I drove over the bridge to Alexandria, Virginia. There, I joined Richard N. and Steve S. who are transplanted Burghers still supporting the Black and Gold in the Washington DC metropolitan area. Steve cranked up his smoker to produce some delicious pork butt. I chipped in some pierogi, and we had a little feast going on. We did have a polite Indianapolis Colts fan and a stray Scot who for unfathomable reason is a Raiders and not a big Steelers fan – though he wore a black and gold jersey from his hometown Scottish league soccer team.

HAVE I LOST THE THRILL?

My son and fiancé worry about my histrionics during games. So, they bought me a Fitbit last year. There is evidence that my emotional engagement may be waning. My resting heart rate ranged from 50 to 56 on gamedays in the first four weeks. In week one my peak beats per minute reached 80 during the game. My peak hit 110 in week two then 108 in week three. In week four, my peak heart rate only reached 76 despite some exciting moments including the Steelers first quarter score and Minkah returning the blocked kick for a touchdown. Have I lost the thrill?

TIME FOR CHANGE

I wore a Kevin Greene throwback jersey for the first four games. Unfortunately, the one and three record requires change. Back to the bumblebee, and my Johnny “Blood” McNally number 35 that he wore in 1934 for Pittsburgh. Johnny Blood played seven of his 14 season in Green Bay including four NFL championships. We can snatch some of that magic. Here We Go.

STEELERS OFFENSE

OFFENSE ENDS FIRST QUARTER SCORING DROUGHT

A big question about the Steelers coming into the game was whether the offense could score in the first quarter. Something they had not done since November 15, 2020, when Ben completed a 12-yard touchdown pass to Diontae Johnson.

The Steelers starting their opening drive at the 25 following a touchback. Najee Harris gained 10 yards on his first run of the game for a first down. Ben hit JuJu Smith-Schuster for nine to set up a third and one. Najee gained just two yards but a success since it results in a first down. Najee runs again this time for four yards. On third and four, Ben throws deep to Diontae Johnson who scores on a 45-yard touchdown pass. The offense breaks the drought! Ben five for five and looking sharp passing.

OFFENSE HELPS PACKERS SCORE

The Steelers get the ball at the four following an excellent Packers punt. Najee gains five on first down. But Ben fails to connect with Diontae and JuJu forcing Pressley Harvin to punt from just past the goal line. The 45-yard punt returned nine yards, but a penalty pushes the ball back to the Packer 36. Aaron Rodgers does not waste the opportunity and ties the game at 7-7 on his own two feet. The Steelers failure to keep the drive alive hurt along with Harvin’s mediocre effort with an open field to really uncork one. Lucky for him a penalty just made Green Bay to add 20 yards to his scoring drive.

The offense goes from bad to worse. Harris gains four yards on first down. So far so good. Ben and JuJu fail to connect again on second down. On third and six, Trai Turner bulled backward allowing Kingsley Keke to strip sack Ben. Packers recover the fumble at the 23. Four plays later, Rodgers hits Randall Cobb for a touchdown on third and ten. Inept offensive play contributes to a 14-7 Packers lead.

BEN MISSES EASY TD TO JUJU, STEELERS SETTLE FOR THREE

The Steelers need to answer. Najee starts the next drive with an eight-yard run. Ben converts the first down with a six-yard completion to Diontae. Dan Moore caught holding so instead of second and three on another Najee run, it is first and 20. Back to Diontae for eight yards. Ben then completes two to tight ends. First to Zach Gentry to make a third and two. Then to Eric Ebron who clutches the pass for a first down. James Washington snatches the ball out of the air and gains 17 with some yards after the catch. The Steelers are rolling.

On first down, Ben passes deep to an open JuJu. The pass just out of reach of what should have been a sure touchdown. The miss stymies the drive. Najee loses two yards. Ben incomplete to Washington. Boswell attempts a 52-yard kick that doink off the goal post for three making it 14-10.

A 17-10 ball game at the half. More on that later.

SECOND HALF PUNTS AND FOURTH DOWN TURNOVERS

LAME PUNT TURNS INTO PACKER POINTS

The Packers score a field goal to go up 20-10 on their opening second half drive. Pittsburgh’s first possession starts deep in the hole at the eight due to a Benny Snell holding call on the return. Harris gains four on first down. Ben goes back to Harris in the air with Najee churning his legs to gain six hard earned yards. Good start. Harris reaches the 20 on a two-yard run. I’m now wishing Ray-Ray did not return the kick. Ben throws deep to JuJu on second and eight. Another miss that hurts. Ben checks down to Snell who doesn’t catch the ball on third and eight.

Harvin with a horrible 20-yard punt out of bounds. I forget if this is the punt Tony Romo asked whether a defender ran into him. Regardless the Packers exploit the short field for seven and now it is 27-10 with less than five minutes to play in the third quarter.

OFFENSE STALLS ON FOURTH DOWNS

The Steelers failed to convert on fourth down on two of their next three drives. Pittsburgh started their next drive at their own 36 thanks to Ray-Ray making a strong 40-yard kickoff return. Najee reached midfield on an 11-yard run around the left end on second down. Diontae followed with a 12-yard reception. And Najee made it second and four at the 32 with a six-yard run off left guard. Two incompletes targeting Diontae, and the Steelers call timeout fourth down. The extra time allowed Ben to attempt a swing pass to Najee that lost a yard. The play appeared to be designed and not a checkdown, but a review of the all-22 may give us better insight. But very frustrating.

The offense gets the ball right back from a defensive turnover. Ben connects with Pat Freiermuth for 11. Then back to James Washington for another 11 and into Green Bay territory at the 43-yard line. He third quarter ends with Dionte gaining five yards. On third down, Diontae catches another pass and heading for a first down. Instead of putting his head down to reach for the first down, he sidles sideways losing the progress he had made, and the Packers bring him down for no gain. On fourth down, the Steelers lined up to go for it when Diontae false starts. Tomlin opts to punt from the 42. I guess if you can’t convert on fourth and four, why try on fourth and nine? The Steelers just down 17 points in the fourth quarter.

ANOTHER TURNOVER ON DOWNS

The Steelers defense force their first three and out of the game. But Bojorquez booms a 57-yard punt from his endzone that McCloud fair catches at the 37-yard line. Ebron catches a second pass with no drops for four on first down. Najee runs left for three. Then runs four more yards to get the first. Ben sacked on first down. However, he follows up with a completion to Washington who enters Packer territory. James is having a good game. Ben and JuJu fail to connect on third and five. On fourth down, Ben back to JuJu but tackled behind the sticks. Another turnover on downs.

PITTSBURGH SCORES BUT TOO LATE IN GAME

Green Bay content to run some time off the clock. But then they turn the ball over on downs going for the death stroke. Steelers take over at their 35 and go into no huddle mode. Ben hits Diontae for ten. Then Najee twice for 16 more yards. A 30-yard pass to Washington and its first and goal from the nine. Eric Stokes called for defensive pass interference on third down. Najee dives over the pile for a touchdown. Its 27-17 but the drive burned up three minutes.

Green Bay holds onto the ball and the Steelers offense does not touch the ball again until just 1:51 to go in the game. Score quickly. Recover the onside kick. Score again and it’s a win or at least a tie. Instead Stokes intercepted Ben’s final 25-yard pass intended for Diontae in Packer territory. Game over.

STEELERS DEFENSE

DEFENSE STOPS FIRST PACKER DRIVE, THEN GIVE UP FIVE STRAIGHT SCORES

The Steelers forced the Packers to punt heir first possession away. But then gave up five straight scores. The first drive contained warning signs. Aaron Jones ran three straight successful plays for a first down. Davante Adams beat Cam Sutton in the secondary for 21 yards. But Devin Bush sacked Aaron Rodgers on third and three. Green Bay punts on fourth down from the Pittsburgh 40 but pin the Steelers at the four-yard line.

A Packers holding penalty on Harvin’s 45-yard punt pushes them back to Pittsburgh 36 but still decent starting position. AJ Dillon who split carries with Jones ran seven yards on first down. On third and three Dillion just reached the first down despite Cam Heyward and Alex Highsmith trying to stop him short. Dillon gets another first down this time on a 16-yard reception before Arthur Maulet pushed him out of bounds. Rodgers turns his attention to Randall Cobb throws an eight-yard pass on third and six. Another third down pass to Cobb this time for 12 yards. Now its first and goal at the eight. Jones up the middle for four, Rodgers then scrambles untouched into the end zone from four yards out. A key play is Minkah missing the interception. Tie game.

Green Bay gets the ball right back on Ben’s strip-sack. The defense holds Green Bay off until a third and ten play from the 23. Rodgers hits Cobb who crossed in front of Terrell Edmunds. That third down cost four points. Steeler’s defense needed to hold Green Bay to a field goal.

OFFICIALS BUNGLE CALL CAUSING TEM POINT SWING

Boswell’s doink makes it 14-10. Packers start at their 16 after great kickoff coverage limits Kylin Hill to a 16-yard return. The Packers gash the Steelers defense five straight successful plays on four runs and a short pass. At the two-minute warning, Packers at Pittsburgh 42 on second and 10. A short pass to Jones goes 19 yards to the 23. Green Bay gets another 10 yards to Adams when Joe Schobert slips before Minkah tackles him at the 13. Cam Sutton breaks up a pass on first down. Joe Schobert defends a pass intended for Aaron Jones on third down.

Crosby attempts a 31-yard field goal. Joe Haden and Minkah Fitzpatrick move together as the center snaps the ball. Minkah blocks the kick! He scoops the ball up and takes it 75 yards for a touchdown. But then the flag with an explanation that Joe Haden jumped offsides. The replay does not support the officials claim. But Roger Goodell’s striped flying monkeys completed their dirty work. Five-yard penalty and Crosby nails so the Packers go up 17-10 instead of being down 17-14. And they get the ball to start the second half. Suffering succotash!

STEELERS GIVE UP TWO SCORES TO START SECOND HALF

Boswell kicks a touchback to start the second half. On third down and seven. Rodgers completes pass to Cobb for 25 yards with Edmunds in defense. Now at midfield, Packers start gaining ground in Pittsburgh territory. Jones for six then three yards to make it third and one. Dillion comes in fresh and just gains the one yard needed leaving Cam Heyward grimacing on the ground. But Cam returned to play as had Devin Bush dinged in the first half. Rodgers then hots Jones for 11 and the officials tack six more on a roughing call on TJ Watt. Rodgers trips on what could have been another Watt penalty and eventually settle for a field goal to go up 20-10.

Harvin’s meager 20-yard punt gives the ball to the Packers at the 40. A big play Dillion’s 25-yard run to the one. Rodgers looking to run, pulls up and hits Cobb for another touchdown. Just like that the Steelers down 27-10.

PITTSBURGH TURNOVER TOO LATE

Packer’s defense forces a turnover on downs. Green Bay goes right from their own 33 to the Pittsburgh 39 on a short pass that went 28 yards. Chris Wormley then forced a fumble on the next play that TJ Watt recovered near the end of the third quarter. Pittsburgh would punt away the gift from the Packer 42-yard line. Nothing to show for a turnover late in the game.

The Steelers defend three more Packer possessions but nothing significant. The defense forces a three and out. But the Packers punt out of trouble with a 57-yard boomer. Next Green Bay eats clock with four runs but then goes for the throat from the Pittsburgh 35. The Packers give up the ball on downs, but time is on their side.

The Steelers come within ten, but the Packers run three times to force Pittsburgh to expend their two final timeouts. On third and nine, Davante Adams catches an 11-yard pass to keep the drive and the clock moving. Watt gets his second sack of the game when Rodgers slides down and TJ tags him for a three-yard loss. The Packers reach the two-minute warning after the two-minute warning.

SPECIAL TEAMS

I believe special teams are an underappreciated facet of the game where one big play can shift momentum or even determine the game winner.

I break special teams play into three phases: Kickoffs, punting, and field goals including extra point attempts. Here is an overview of the special teams play during the Steelers-Bengals game:

KICKOFFS

Chris Boswell kicked off four times. Kylin Hill returned the first two to the Green Bay 22- and 16-yard lines, respectively. Boswell opened the second half with a touchback. His final kick was short to pin the Packers deep. Aaron Jones returned the ball 10 yards to the 25-yard line.  The Packers average starting position after kickoffs was their own 22-yard line.

Mason Crosby kicked off six times. His first three kickoffs were touchbacks. At the end of the first half with just seconds on the clock, Ray-Ray McCloud returned the ball from eight yards deep in the endzone to the 30. McCloud tried again from five yards deep after the Packers scored to open the second half. He reached the 22 but Benny Snell caught holding bringing the ball back to the eight-yard line. Crosby again kicked the ball into the endzone, and McCloud ran 40 yards to the 36. The Steelers average starting position was their own 24-yard line.

Ray-Ray saw something in the Packers coverage that brought him out of the end zone to average 33.0 yards a return. Benny Snell’s holding penalty marred an otherwise good return performance. Steeler’s kickoff coverage unit kept the Packers starting position at or behind the 25 on three returns.

THE STATS

Kickoffs KOs RTN TB OB IN25 Start Avg
Chris Boswell 4 3 1 0 2 GB22
Mason Crosby 6 3 3 0 1 P24

 

Kickoff Returns KO/R Yds AVG Long Pen TD
Ray-Ray McCloud 3 99 33.0 40 1 0
Kylin Hill 2 37 18.5 21 0 0
Aaron Jones 1 10 10.0 10 0 0

 

Advantage Steelers.

PUNTING

Pressley Harvin III punted three times averaging 34.0 yards a punt. Punting from near his own goal line, his longest punt of the day went 45 yards reaching the Packer 46. Amari Rodgers returned the ball nine yards but Packers holding penalty pushed the ball back over midfield. Harvin’s putrid 20-yard punt went out of bounds at the Packers 40 giving them a short field which Aaron Rodgers exploited to go up 27-10. The Packers may have run into Harvin, but CBS didn’t show the replay leaving us in the dark until Steelers Depot reviews the all-22. I guess the broadcasters are protecting the integrity of the game by not showing close calls to continue the storyline of how efficient NFL officials are at making the right calls. His final 37-yard punt downed at the five which led to a Packers three and out. Harvin netted 34.0 yards per punt.

Corey Bojorquez punted three times. His first punt only 36 yards but downed at the four-yard line. This led to Harvin’s punt that gave Packers ball at 36 from which they would eventually tie the game. After Harvin pinned the Packers at the five, Bojorquez boomed a 57-yard punt that McCloud fair caught at the 37-yard line. His final punt went 45 yards to the 15 and McCloud returned it 14 yards to the 29 late in the game.

Pressley Harvin out punted by his opposite number again. So far, Harvin is proving more of a liability than an asset. He needs to start showing improvement if the Steelers want the ability to flip field position at critical moments in games.

THE STATS

Punting Punts AVG Net TB IN20 Long
Pressley Harvin 3 34.0 34.0 0 1 45
Corey Bojorquez 3 46.0 41.3 0 1 57

 

Punt Returns P/R Yds AVG FC OB/D Pen Long TD
Ray-Ray McCloud 1 14 14.0 1 1 0 14 0
Amari Rodgers 1 0 0.00 0 2 1 9 0

 

Advantage Packers.

FIELD GOALS and EXTRA POINTS

Chris Boswell caromed a 52-yard field goal off the right goal post to close within a touchdown in the first half. He also made both points after touchdowns. Mason Crosby hit two short field goals. Crosby converted all three extra point attempts.

Notably, Minkah Fitzpatrick blocked a field goal attempt and returned the ball 75 yards for a touchdown. However, NFL officials negated the play by claiming Joe Haden was offside. The television view clearly showed the center moving the ball with both Haden and Fitzpatrick still onside. The broadcast team quickly made this a footnote in the game. But NFL officials caused a ten-point swing in the game by a bad call.

A league with rectitude admits to such mistakes and promises to take steps to prevent a recurrence. But I believe the NFL will gloss over this egregious officiating error, saying how difficult it is to determine whether a player has crossed the line of scrimmage before the center snaps the ball. I say poppycock.

THE STATS

FGs and PATs XPM XPA FGM FGA Long 2PTM 2PTA
Chris Boswell 2 2 1 1 52 0 0
Mason Crosby 3 3 2 2 29 0 0

 

Advantage NFL Officials.

DAVE BRYAN’S VICTORY PUNCH LIST

Dave Bryan provided five keys for a Steelers victory. Here is how the Steelers performed them:

  1. Stop Kenny Clark. Keep him away from Ben. Clark had a tackle for a loss, got a lick on Ben and recovered Ben’s strip-sack fumble. That’s too close for me. Mission failure.
  2. Limit Davante Adams to seven receptions, 79 yards, and no touchdowns. Adam caught six passes for 64 yards. Mission accomplished.
  3. Pass rush sacks Aaron Rodgers and forces more than one turnover. Steelers sacked Rodgers three times but one he tripped and the other slid. The only forced turnover on a running play. Mission failure.
  4. Improve successful plays on first down. 14 successful first downs out of 25.  Mission accomplished.
  5. Win turnover battle by two or more. Packers win turnover battle two to one. Mission failure.

Steelers achieved two of five keys.  Shutdown Adams but Cobbs scores two touchdowns. The Steelers punted their turnover gift away. The Packers scored a touchdown with their first.

YOUR HOT TAKES DURING THE GAME

FIRST HALF READER COMMENTS

Steelers Depot readers commented 883 times on the game’s first half Live Update and Discussion Thread. Steelers Depot respondents failed to meet the standard. The delay airing the Steelers game when the New York Jets and Tennessee Titans went into overtime may have contributed to this lapse. Thank you, Ross McCorkle, for keeping us up to date with the latest tweets and updates as the game progressed.

OFFICIATING CAUGHT OUR ATTENTION

The referees calling Joe Haden offsides on the blocked kick dominated the top of the board.

Strength of Victory received the most likes with: “Thanks, refs. You keep the flags in your pocket while Watt is getting hooked all game, but now you take a legit TD off the board. Total crap.

“We got robbed plain and simple. Those are the calls that determines games, “echoed SeventhHeavan.

Your truly, Beaver Falls Hosiery stayed with the theme that had many respondents upset, “BS! He started just before the snap but was not to line of scrimmage yet.”

I’m sure many folks would have been all over the Steelers first quarter score if they had not missed it due to the broadcaster’s rules. Ironically, it was a New York Jets game against the Raiders that was interrupted by a film called Heidi in 1968. The Jets lost that contest. Now thanks to NFL officialdom, the Steelers down 17-10 instead of going into the locker room ahead 17-14.

SECOND HALF READER COMMENTS

The Depot respondents 1426 comments met the standard in the second half live discussion.

Steelers Depot family still stewing over the penalty that cost the Steelers a ten-point swing in the game.

I received the most likes and thus the “best” comment of the game with this comment at the beginning of the second half thread. “Still frosted on that blocked kick. Haden was inside when ball moved. NFL hosing the Steelers once again. Team needs to shrug that off in second half.”

But Dan pointed out more problems than referee’s calls. Ben’s aim is erratic. “Juju looks angrier than I’ve ever seen him. Guy has beat his man quite a bit today, but Ben can’t hit him.” Chris concluded, “Ben is done. It’s not the OL THIS WEEK.” His comment generated a lot of responses.

PaeperCup did not like the personnel sent out for a key third down. “Why is Snell even on the field on a big 3rd down”

DLeds corrected the broadcasters who seemed to say the Steelers got a huge break in the game, “No Romo the huge break was taking a TD away from Steelers”

Chris92021 agreed and offered a trade. “Gladly give GB that tripping call if they give us that offside back.”

Hang on folks, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. The 3-1 Broncos coming to town next week.

CONCLUSION

The Packers, Steelers, and officials all contributed to the outcome of this game.

  1. Ben Roethlisberger passing just off target and missed receivers at key moments. JuJu is correct in saying they need to get to work on the connection. Perhaps change the old habit of not practicing Wednesdays to work on timing with the receivers.
  2. The Steelers defense gave up touchdowns when field goals needed to stay in the game. Especially on third and ten.
  3. Pressley Harvin’s punting is a liability rather than an asset. See how the Packers punter got them out of danger with a boomer.
  4. Aaron Rodgers lit up the Steelers and hit his open receiver at key moments. Davante Adams limited so clobber the secondary with Randall Cobb.
  5. The officials caused a ten-point swing in the game on the blocked kick. A legitimate sports league with rectitude would acknowledge an official’s mistake creating a 10-point swing in the score. And take steps to prevent a recurrence of such an egregious error. However, I believe the NFL will just move on sweeping it under the rug.

The Steelers are one and three. A growing number of folks both fans and pundits suggesting Mike Tomlin bench Ben Roethlisberger. My take is that until the Steelers are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs they will play to win. That means putting the players that give the team the best chance to win this season on the field. At quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger is the Steelers best chance barring injury or a midseason acquisition which is highly unlikely.

I’m heading to Pittsburgh this weekend with my bumblebee jersey. Time to surf a couch at buddies Saturday night then see what these Steelers can do with the Denver Broncos. Here We Go.

YOUR MUSIC SELECTION

I always like to offer a music selection. Ben Roethlisberger warned us that it may take time for the offense to show what it can do. At one and three, fair-weather fans disappearing. The steadfast staying true to the Black and Gold. For some, the thrill is gone. I’m in it for the long-haul. But here is The Thrill is Gone by B.B. King

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