Rapid Reaction: Pittsburgh Steelers

December, 22, 2013
12/22/13
7:51
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A few thoughts on the Pittsburgh Steelers' 38-31 win over the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

What it means: Everything fell into place for the Steelers, including the outcome of a back-and-forth game at snowy Lambeau Field. The Steelers got the help they needed outside of Green Bay and they helped themselves after squandering a 10-point fourth-quarter lead to the Packers. A defense that made couple of key defensive stands produced the play of the game when strong safety Troy Polamalu stripped Packers quarterback Matt Flynn with less than two minutes left in the fourth quarter and defensive end Brett Keisel recovered the ball at the Packers' 17-yard line. That turnover -- and an even worse offside penalty on the Packers during a field goal attempt -- led to a 1-yard touchdown run by Le'Veon Bell. And the Steelers survived in spite of themselves to improve to 7-8.

Stock watch: The Steelers scored 21 points in a quarter for the second time in as many games, and it came in a wacky third quarter that had more plot twists than a Harlan Coben novel. A 30-yard pass by punter Mat McBriar set up the Steelers' first touchdown of the quarter. A 40-yard interception return by Cortez Allen accounted for their final touchdown of the period, and it came after tight end Andrew Quarless bumped into Flynn while he was trying to throw a pass. The strangest sequence happened in between those touchdowns when the Steelers blocked a field goal, yet the Packers ended up with the ball and in better field position. Ryan Clark recovered the blocked kick by Steve McLendon, and the veteran safety foolishly tried to lateral the ball. Ziggy Hood batted it out of bounds, and since there had been no official change of possession he was penalized. An incensed Mike Tomlin tried to challenge that call, but it was not a play that could be reviewed. Eddie Lacy barreled in from the 2-yard line on the next play to give the Packers a 21-17 lead. But the Steelers scored the next two touchdowns to take control of the game.

Injury update: Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (knee) and linebacker Terence Garvin (knee) each left the game with injuries and did not return. Sanders caught two passes for 7 yards and a touchdown. He also set up a Shaun Suisham field goal at the end of the first half with a 46-yard kickoff return. Jarvis Jones did not dress because of an illness and the Steelers, already thin at outside linebacker, played Chris Carter and Stevenson Sylvester extensively there in the third quarter with Jason Worilds out with an abdominal injury. Worilds returned to the game, and his pressure late in the fourth quarter set up a Brett Keisel sack of Flynn. Keisel started at right defensive end after missing most of the past five games with a foot injury.

Not so defenseless: How ironic that less than a week after the NFL fined Garvin $25,000 for a block that helped spring Antonio Brown on a 67-yard punt return, Green Bay's punter and kicker set up or assisted on tackles that may have saved touchdowns. Garvin deserved the fine after a hit to the chin of Kevin Huber left the Bengals punter with a broken jaw and cracked vertebrae. But it was also excessive because of the blanket protection punters and kickers receive as defenseless players. If the NFL wants to make specialists off limits after a kickoff or punt, then those players should be fair game for blockers if they try to make a tackle. In addition, Suisham made the tackle on Micah Hyde's kickoff return, the Packers' longest of the season.

What's next: The Steelers play their regular-season finale Sunday against the visiting Browns. They pounded their turnpike rival last month, and the Browns may have trouble getting up for this game even if it is against the team they love to hate. The Steelers still need a lot to happen for them to sneak into the playoffs, but it is a minor miracle that their postseason hopes are still alive going into the final week of the season.

Scott Brown

ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.