The Steelers were able to avoid a fourth quarter collapse to keep their slight glimmer of a playoff birth alive with a last second touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Mike Wallace giving them a thrilling 37-36 victory over the 9-5 Green Bay Packers. Now they must prepare for conference rival Baltimore (8-6).
With the Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars and Denver Broncos all losing, the Steelers stayed alive, but they will have to win out against the Ravens and the Dolphins, and hope the teams ahead of them for the wild card berth continue to lose.
Right now the Indianapolis Colts (14-0), San Diego Chargers (11-3), Cincinnati Bengals (9-5), and New England Patriots (9-5) pretty much have the divisions sewn up. Only the Bengals could possible fall, if they lose both of their remaining games and the Ravens win both of theirs. Stranger things have happened, especially when dealing with the Bengals.
The teams the Steelers are battling with are the Broncos (8-6), Ravens (8-6), Jaguars (7-7), Dolphins (7-7), Jets (7-7), Texans (7-7) and Titans (7-7).
The Ravens looked impressive as they easily defeated the Bears 31-7 to stay ahead of the Steelers and make this weekend’s showdown at Heinz Field enormous for both teams. This has become one of the biggest rivalries in the NFL and no game has been bigger for these two teams than this weekend, which will just about eliminate the loser. Who knows, maybe all the other contenders will lose, again.
The Dolphins have been one of the hottest teams in the league of late but they ran into an even hotter team in the Titans and went down to a 27-24 overtime loss. The Titans after starting 0-6 with Vince Young on the bench having gone 7-1 since the owner forced the coach to start him. This is a team no one wants to see in the playoffs.
The Steelers almost had their typical fourth quarter meltdown as the Packers came roaring back to take a 36-30 lead with only minutes left, after outscoring the Steelers 22-6 in the fourth quarter to that point. The offense put together one of its most impressive drives of the season, a 12- play, 86-yard drive, ending with the sensational 19-yard touchdown reception by Mike Wallace from Roethlisberger that looked a lot like the play in which Santonio Holmes helped win the Super Bowl. The Steelers ended the game much like they began, with a touchdown pass to Wallace. They opened the game with a 60-yard strike to Wallace who outran his defender, but still had to come back for the under thrown ball for the touchdown. He only had two catches in the game, both for scores.
“He made plays when given the opportunity, not that he’s had a bunch of opportunities and sometimes, it’s like that,” said coach Mike Tomlin. “It’s about what you do with them when you get them. He played big. He played older than a rookie for us today which was needed.”
It took the best game of the season from Roethlisberger for the Steelers to pull it off. The defense faltered, and Tomlin decided to try an on-side kick, that failed, deep in Packer territory, which led to a Green Bay score that most thought was the game.
The 503 yards racked up by Roethlisberger was a Pittsburgh record. He was 29 of 46 with three touchdown passes. The running game was all but abandoned with Rashard Mendenhall picking up 38 yards on just 11 carries and Willie Parker 22 yards on just six carries. However, Mendenhall was very active in the passing game as he had six receptions for 73 yards. Of the six players grabbing those 503 yards, Hines Ward led the way with seven catches for 126 yards, which put him over 1,000 for the year for the sixth time in his career; Heath Miller had seven catches for 118 yards, a personal best, and he also broke the record for tight end receptions for a single season. Holmes had three catches for 77 yards.
Aaron Rodgers, who’s rapidly becoming one of the brightest young quarterbacks in the league, picked the Steelers defense apart for 383 yards on 26 of 48 passing and three touchdowns. Young Greg Jennings had eight catches for 118 yards, including an 83 yard touchdown catch that erased the 60-yarder by Wallace, pulling the Packers even, and tight end Jermichael Finley had nine catches for 74 yards. The defense held running back Ryan Grant to just 37 yards on eight carries.
Once again the defense looked weak, primarily the secondary with rookie Joe Burnett playing in place of William Gay. It would be hard to play any worse than Gay has in the past eight games.
The win ended the Steelers five-game losing streak