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The 'never say die' approach worked

Posted Nov 22, 2017

A look back at a memorable win over the Packers in 2013.

Steelers 38, Packers 31
December 22, 2013
at Lambeau Field

Typical December weather was in effect in Green Bay, with snow and a wind chill of 11 degrees making the frozen tundra live up to its nickname.

But the action on the field was hot in an epic battle that came down to the wire.

“It was awesome, it was a game to remember,” said Brett Keisel. “It’ll be a game I can tell my kids about and be happy about. Playing against this team in this place, it’s a really good feeling.”

The Packers went into the game without starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and the Steelers defense made his replacement, Matt Flynn pay.

Green Bay got off to a 7-0 lead, but the Steelers came right back with a one-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Emmanuel Sanders. Eddie Lacy gave the Packers the lead back with his 14-yard run, and the Packers went into halftime up 14-10 after a Shaun Suisham field goal.

The game got interesting in the second half, when both teams took chances, and took advantage of mistakes.

The Steelers opening drive of the half appeared to have stalled, and on fourth-and-two from the Steelers 44-yard line Mat McBriar lined up in punt formation. In a move that surprised many, especially the Packers special teams unit, McBriar faked the punt and hit David Paulson for a 30-yard gain. That topped with a roughing the passer call gave the Steelers the ball at the Packers 13-yard line, and Roethlisberger took it himself for a 13-yard run right up the middle to give the Steelers their first lead of the day, 17-14.

“I’ve had enough practice with it that I felt really good about it, and I think everyone else did too,” said McBriar. “There were times a few weeks back maybe I was thinking ‘this could be nuts’ but as you get more comfortable with something you are not used to doing, I felt better and better about it.”

After the defense held the Packers, the Steelers had the ball back with momentum on their side. That would fade fast. Le’Veon Bell fumbled at the three yard line, and the Packers recovered and took over. The defense held their ground, forcing Mason Crosby to come on for a field goal attempt. Steve McLendon blocked the kick, but the Steelers were penalized for an illegal bat of the ball out of bounds by Ziggy Hood, and the drive continued. Lacy made the Steelers pay for the penalty, when he went around right tackle for a two-yard touchdown, putting them back on top, 21-17.

“That was maybe the craziest thing I have ever seen in 12 years of football,” said Keisel. “Our guys make a big stand there and block the field goal and get it and you’re thinking we are going to score and it will be a different ball game, and some type of rule gives them the ball back and they score. Really a crazy play, but you have to give our whole team credit for continuing to fight and continuing to believe and doing the little things that really got us the win.”

Another defensive stop gave the Steelers the ball back, and this time they wouldn’t falter. Roethlisberger would cap a six-play, 68-yard drive by hitting Matt Spaeth for an 11-yard touchdown and 24-21 lead.

It was then time to make Flynn, who was sacked three times in the game, pay. Cortez Allen intercepted Flynn and took it back 40-yards for the touchdown, extending the Steelers lead to 31-21.

The Packers wouldn’t go away, though. On the Steelers next drive, Roethlisberger was intercepted and they were able to convert it into a Crosby field goal. They followed that with a one-yard touchdown run by John Kuhn, to tie the game at 31-31.  

With the game on the line, and the Packers backed up in their own territory, Troy Polamalu came through like he always has in big moments. Polamalu tackled a scrambling Flynn, forcing a fumble, which Brett Keisel recovered at the Packers 17-yard line. The Steelers hit pay dirt when Bell gave the Steelers a 38-31 lead on a one-yard touchdown.

The Packers had one last gasp of air when Micah Hyde returned the kickoff 70 yards to the Steelers 31-yard line. But on second-and-six from the six-yard line, Flynn couldn’t hit Jarrett Boykin in the end zone and time ran out.

The win kept the Steelers slim playoff chances alive, and even though they eventually didn’t make it to the postseason, it was definitely a game to remember.

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