Pittsburgh Steelers Will Have Hands Full Against Surging Packers But Can Still Play Spoiler
Dec 15, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy (27) dives into the end zone for the go ahead fourth quarter touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys at AT
The Pittsburgh Steelers are usually in the position of having to fend off teams that are non-playoff bound from spoiling a playoff push of their own. The Steelers playoff chances are fatter than LaMarr Woodley’s thighs, and the rest of the team will be sitting on Woodley’s couch in just a couple of weeks sharing a ‘Family Size’ bag of Doritos. Still, the boys in Black & Gold can play spoilers to the Packers on Sunday when they travel to Lambeau despite the Packers having unlikely back to back come from behind wins.
The Packers’ season looked all but done when Aaron Rodgers went down with his collarbone injury and a pedestrian Matt Flynn took over the snaps at center. However, Flynn has evened out and become more comfortable and consistent over the weeks he has started. After that ugly tie against Minnesota and subsequent loss to the Lions, the Packers and their playoff hopes had their backs up against the wall. But, with back to back wins orchestrated by Flynn and a loss by the Lions to the Ratbirds, the Pack are right into the thick of things trailing the Bears by only one game. The Bears play a surprisingly tough and feisty Philly team this Sunday.
Dec 15, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) gestures from the field against the Cincinnati Bengals during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
The good vibes from the comeback wins have elevated the hopes in Green Bay, and that spells trouble for the Steelers who have had trouble most of the season gaining early leads and holding onto them. There is a lot riding on this game for the Packers. The pressure will be on, and they will be at home in front of a Green Bay crowd that has been restless and nail biting at times. Sounds like a ripe atmosphere for the Steelers to continue their own surge of solid offensive play and halfway decent defense. A key that has been the case most of the season is a fast start by the offense. I hope that Haley continues the use of the no huddle, which worked rather well against the Bengals during the first half. Should the Steelers gain an early lead on the Packers, will they be able to keep it?
Recent trends would favor the Packers with their come from behind wins, and the Steelers defense (usually known for hardly ever giving up the big plays) has given up its fair share of 50+ yard plays this season. Worilds will need be masterful and put pressure off the edge early and often. Expect Jones to contribute and also act as containment against Eddie Lacy (who might want to prove a thing or two after Tomlin’s words about him this week) should he bounce to the outside. Despite the potential for pressure, Flynn has his options for quick reads and expect Jordy Nelson to have a big day with lots of quick slants. The other potential bombshell is WR James Jones. Jones is having one of his better seasons this year. Even the Steelers defense in the middle of the field could make someone like TE Andrew Quarless look like Rob Gronkowski (minus the stupid drinking pictures). If this guy gets out in the open, Ryan Clark might as well start filling out his formal broadcasters application for ESPN during the game. He will be very tough to start.
Despite these challenges and the fact that the Steelers are all but done with a playoff hunt, the Steelers have a chance to play the spoiler…. and exact a bit of revenge for their Super Bowl loss to the Packers just three seasons ago. A win by the Steelers and Bears on Sunday would knock the Pack out of the playoffs for the season. Sounds good to me. Go get’em boys.