Pittsburgh Steelers Defeat Green Bay Packers: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

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Dec 22, 2013; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy (center) argues a call with referee Carl Cheffers (right) as head linesman Kent Payne (left) looks on during the fourth quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers pulled out a win in a thriller of a game on Sunday.  I don’t think Steeler Nation has witnessed quite a complete game of back and forth battling mixed with controversial calls from refs and coaches, as well as seeing the team on the right side of the win/loss column after all that transpired.  Good teams usually overcome that kind of adversity.  Dare I say the Steelers are starting to play like a ‘good’ team?  Well so much took place to talk about, so I’m let’s just the highlights of the Good, Bad, and Ugly.

The Good

Special teams – Overall, the special teams were fantastic.  I question Danny Smith’s decision to kick the ball with 1:25 left in the game to one of the league’s currently best kick returners (which almost lost the game) instead of pooching it.  Other than that, this was their best game.  Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders both had some very solid returns before Sanders became injured.  Once Felix Jones took the field in the second half, the electricity went away, but he still had decent gains.  Brown and Sanders’ return work helped set the table for Big Ben and the offense with great field position when the field conditions were not ripe for long ground out drives.  The fake punt call was completely unexpected and executed with perfection.  Matty McBriar threw a perfect pass that I admittedly thought was going to fall onto an open field at first glance.  The controversial blocked field goal was a great block, which you don’t see much of anymore due to the recent rules of how defenders try and block.  Ryan Clark got a little greedy and stupid by not falling on the ball, which would have avoided a ton of controversy and grief.  Despite the post-block blunder by Clark and the refs, this was a good evening for the special teams.

Red Zone offense – Can you imagine what this team would be like if it had this kind of Red Zone efficiency for even HALF the season?  The Steelers offense went 4 of 5 in the Red Zone for a 80% efficiency.  They were a perfect 2 for 2 on ‘goal to go’ situations.  How refreshing it was to see them punch it in when they needed to rather than see them kick the field goal.  Believe me, I love me some Sushi kicking field goals, but a touchdown is so much sweeter.  Even sweeter still? – watching Ben being Ben and rushing 13 yards for the score instead of forcing the ball the way Haley would want him to.

Dec 22, 2013; Green Bay, WI, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Cortez Allen (28) returns an interception for a touchdown during the third quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Pittsburgh won 38-31. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Cortez Allen’s second half turnaround – Cortez Allen had a crap’tacular of a first half.  His coverage was poor most of the time, his tackling was not great, and he was on the wrong end of a Matt Flynn to Jarrett Boykin TD pass when you can’t cover it any better than he did.  Allen never threw it in and turned himself around to have a great second half.  Allen had a very timely and momentum changing Pick 6 after Matt Flynn’s errant pass sailed too high for a fading Boykin.  Flynn was bumped into by one of his own players in the backfield that cause the pass to sail, but it was nice to see Allen take advantage of the throw and field position to catch the ball first and then take it to the house.

Blocked Field Goal – The eventual result was a touchdown by the Packers after the blocked field goal mess by the refs, but I have to give kudos for the Steelers in blocking that kick.  It’s hard to do these days with all the recent rules.  If Clark didn’t botch the recovery by trying to lateral, then this would have been a huge play.  It’s still worth giving a tip of the hat to.  Nice job, fellas.