The game against the Pittsburgh Steelers was set up to be the ultimate “trap” game for the 2009 Green Bay Packers. Last year’s World Champion Steelers had been playing horribly this year and had lost five games in a row. They had ten days to prepare for the Packer game and were recipients of all sorts of criticism. So it was no surprise that the Steelers brought their “A” game into Heinz Field on Sunday and they ultimately prevailed on a last second touchdown by a score of 37 – 36. The loss brings the Packers’ record to 9 – 5, but they are still in the thick of the hunt for a wild-card position in the playoffs.
The contest started badly as Jarrett Bush misplayed his coverage responsibilities and surrendered a 60-yard touchdown pass on the Steelers’ first play from scrimmage. It was another bad coverage day for Bush and an even worse day for kicker Mason Crosby. Early in the second quarter Crosby missed a very-makeable field goal which turned out to be the difference in the game. The struggling Crosby barely made two extra point kicks and has now missed a field goal in each of the last four games. He possesses a strong leg and seemingly had a good career ahead of him, but his fortunes have changed for the worse this year.
The Packers trailed 21 -14 at halftime as both teams almost abandoned the running game and turned this contest into an aerial circus. Aaron Rodgers continued to perform at a high level hitting Greg Jennings with an 83-yard bomb and running for the second first-half touchdown.
But the Packers’ defense gave up way too many 20-plus-yard gains to the Steelers’ passing attack. The absence of Al Harris was definitely felt in this game when the Packers chose to play some guy signed off of the “street” less than a month ago by the name of Josh Bell and the aforementioned Jarrett Bush in their dime package against the pass-happy Steelers. That didn’t work. On the day, I counted eight plays of over 20 yards revealing an ugly weakness in the Packer secondary. The Packer secondary has been riddled with injury to cornerbacks this year having lost Harris, Pat Lee and Will Blackmon to season-ending injuries. Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers may have to re-think deploying the dime so often.
Any game that turns into an aerial circus is (kind of) fun to watch as a football fan. Rodgers and Steelers quarterback Ben Rothlesberger combined for an incredible number of 886 passing yards. Rodgers led the Pack to 22 points in the fourth quarter and the lead, but the Packer defense had to stop the Steelers on their final drive with 2 minutes on the clock. But that didn’t happen and this game slipped away.
The Packers now have the Seattle Seahawks coming to Lambeau next week in a game the Packers need to win, and they should. The Seahawks are a bad team and the cold weather in Green Bay should make the Pack a prohibitive favorite. If the Packers are to regain their swagger and make a move in the playoffs, a win next week is essential. Coach McCarthy needs to rally the troops this week.