STEELERS 24, PACKERS 19
Steelers' record: 1-2
One year ago: 1-1
Preseason series record: Packers lead, 7-3
It was to be the 2015 Steelers' first game action at Heinz Field, but the venue had nothing to do with Coach Mike Tomlin's decision to treat it more like the regular season than either of their two previous outings.
"The big thing is that we are going through more of a process of preparation for this game than we have other (preseason) games, working off the cards (during practices) and looking at the opponent and their personalities," said Tomlin. "I expect that to be reflected in our play, not to make excuses for lack of education in the other performance because this is very much a part of the process. Part of not game planning and preparing is trying to see who understands fundamental rules football, who can play things based on rules, who understands the rules, who can play above the line without a game plan specific thing. To be honest, for us to be successful we have to be good at both.
"We have to have a great general understanding to be able to play rules football … but also we have to be able to prepare and execute from a game plan standpoint relative to what we anticipate from an opponent. Those things are going to be what makes this interesting, that are going to make this outing a little bit more significant than the others as we continue this process."
While it's difficult to quantify based on the revolving door of personnel on both sides, but on first glance the victory over the Packers represented the best game by the Steelers defense this preseason. Green Bay's first-team offense did take the opening kickoff and drive 80 yards for a touchdown, but on Aaron Rodgers' second series, he was sacked for a safety by James Harrison.
The Packers would score 11 more points – a touchdown plus a two-point conversion and then a field goal – but those drives both were set up by Steelers turnovers. On their other nine possessions, the Packers punted eight times and turned the ball over on downs once.
Over a three-possession span midway through the fourth quarter, the Steelers executed to some degree in all three phases to turn a 19-12 deficit to the 24-19 lead that turned out to be good enough for the victory. It started with Landry Jones directing the offense on a five-play 56-yard touchdown drive that ended with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Murphy. Jones converted a third-and-9 with a 17-yard completion to Shakim Phillips that also included a roughing the passer penalty on Green Bay's Bruce Gaston.
After Kevin Fogg looked to save a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff return by getting Rajion Neal on the ground after a 38-yard return, the defense came up with a three-and-out helped considerably by an intentional grounding penalty on rookie quarterback Brett Hundley.
From there, Jones engineered an eight-play, 60-yard drive that was capped by a 20-yard touchdown pass to Phillips. Jones converted a third-and-6 with a 25-yard completion to Murphy, and then another third-and-6 with a 10-yard completion to Phillips.
EXPERIENCE INJECTED INTO SPECIAL TEAMS
For the first time this preseason, the Steelers' special teams were manned by many of the veterans who have held these critical jobs over the previous couple of years. Seeing significant special teams action for the first time were Terence Garvin, Sean Spence, Antwon Blake, Robert Golden, Will Johnson, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and Dri Archer.
Blake, of course, made the play to down the punt that led to the first-quarter safety on James Harrison's sack of Aaron Rodgers; and Golden made a tackle on a kickoff after a 13-yard return; and Archer had kickoff returns of 31 and 14 yards.
The Pittsburgh Steelers faced the Green Bay Packers in Week 2 of the 2015 preseason at Heinz Field
TAKING IT FROM LATROBE TO PITTSBURGH**
Two players who had been attracting some attention during the team's time at Saint Vincent College were cornerback Kevin Fogg and defensive end Cam Thomas.
Of Fogg, who had more than a couple of interceptions during the 16 practices in pads, Coach Mike Tomlin said on the Friday before the game, "He has made a few plays, but sometimes you need to see whose hand those balls came out of. He's done some nice things so far, and we're going to continue to put him in some situations to display that skill-set and represent himself. I had this conversation with him earlier this week – his special teams play is equally as important as his play at cornerback."
Fogg finished the game with one tackle on defense and one tackle on special teams. His tackle on defense set up a fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter, and the Steelers ended up taking over on downs to ice the game, and his tackle on special teams came in the fourth quarter on Rajion Neal and looked to have saved a touchdown.
Of Thomas, Tomlin said on the Friday before the game, "He's playing better, but he's also running against some younger guys. Hopefully as we push through this thing and we see him in there against some veteran players like himself, we'll get a better reflection of his progress. Sometimes, production is just a function of a veteran guy playing against young guys, and in a lot of ways through the first few weeks he's been a varsity guy in a JV game. In those situations, I expect him to look like a varsity guy."
Against the Packers, Cam Thomas wasn't credited with a tackle on defense, and his offside penalty nullified a sack by Bud Dupree that would have given the Steelers' No. 1 pick two for the game.