By Teresa Varley
The Steelers never say die attitude was in full effect on Sunday as they pulled out a last second win over the Green Bay Packers, 37-36 at Heinz Field. The win puts the Steelers at 7-7 on the season, and with the Jets, Broncos and Dolphins losing keeps their wildcard playoff hopes alive.
"Not dead yet," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "The guys hung together, fought, made enough plays to win. We haven't won in a while so it feels good. To keep it in perspective, we've got a little pulse here. Good to stay in the fight, good to win one for our fans, we've got the greatest fans in the world. Good to perform for them and get them something to be excited about here at Heinz Field. Today, I'm just as excited about that as I am getting that five-week monkey off our back."
An amazing performance by the offense kept the Steelers in the game as Ben Roethlisberger threw for a team-record 503 yards, none more important than the 19-yard touchdown he threw to Mike Wallace with no time left on the clock to win the game. Wallace finished with two receptions for 79 yards, both of them touchdowns, while Hines Ward had seven receptions for 126 yards and Heath Miller seven receptions for 118 yards.
"He made plays when given the opportunity, not that he's had a bunch of opportunities and sometimes, it's like that," said Tomlin of Wallace's performance. "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."
The defense came out strong on the opening drive, with James Farrior bringing pressure on Aaron Rodgers to force an incompletion to Greg Jennings. The defense continued coming at Rodgers, forcing two more incomplete passes and a quick three-and-out.
The Steelers wasted no time when they got the ball. Roethlisberger aired it out on the team's first offensive play of the game, hitting Wallace for a 60-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead to ignite the Heinz Field crowd.
An aggressive defense continued to stymie the Packers offense. Rodgers couldn't connect with Donald Driver down the right sideline, and after a false start penalty his 14-yard completion to James Jones came up one-yard short of the first down. On third-and-one Rodgers couldn't find Jones, who was covered by Tyrone Carter.
Roethlisberger went right back to the air attack, hitting a wide open Miller for a 23-yard gain to the Packers 47-yard line. Two incomplete passes to Santonio Holmes, gave the Steelers a tough third-and-10. Roethlisberger was forced to scramble up the middle, but got only seven yards, forcing a punt.
The Packers gave the ground game a go on their next drive, but Ryan Grant was stopped for short gains of two and three yards. On third-and-five, Rodgers went back to the air and hit Jennings in traffic across the middle, breaking free from the tackle and taking it to the end zone for an 83-yard touchdown to tie the score at 7-7.
An undaunted offense went right back to work. Roethlisberger hit Ward for four yards, and then went back to him for nine yards. Rashard Mendenhall had a four-yard carry, and Roethlisberger followed that with a 14-yard completion to Miller. A pass interference call gave the Steelers the ball at the Packers 25-yard line, where Mendenhall added carries of two and three yards. On third down Roethlisberger hit Ward for a six-yard gain, moving the chains. Roethlisberger hit Ward who fought for a 12-yard gain to the two-yard line and Mendenhall battled for a two-yard touchdown, putting the Steelers up 14-7.
The defense responded, forcing the Packers to go three-and-out on their next drive and putting the ball back in the hands of the offense. The offense wasn't able to go anywhere, though, with the drive ending with Roethlisberger getting hit by Clay Matthews on a play that was first ruled a fumble, but the Steelers challenged the call and it was ruled an incompletion.
Rodgers opened up the passing game on the next drive with a 49-yard completion to Driver to the Steelers 24-yard line. Jennings pulled in a seven-yard completion, and on third down Brandon Jackson managed just one-yard. Mason Crosby's 34-yard field goal attempt was wide right and the Packers came away empty-handed on the drive.
A little bit of trickery got the Steelers going on the next drive, with Mendenhall tossing the ball back to Roethlisberger on the flea-flicker, and then pulling in the 11-yard reception to the 35-yard line. A holding call pushed the Steelers back to the 25-yard line, but Mendenhall got it right back with a 10-yard carry. Mendenhall added a four-yard carry, but an incompletion on third down forced the Steelers to punt.
Another defensive stop gave the Steelers the ball at the 20-yard line. Mendenhall bulled his way for a 10-yard gain to the 30-yard line and added a two-yard reception to the 32-yard line. On second down a wide-open Ward wasn't able to get his hands on the ball. On third-and-eight Roethlisberger was sacked by Matthews for a 10-yard loss, forcing a punt.
Rodgers couldn't connect with Donald Lee over the middle on first down, but hit Driver for an eight-yard gain and found Jennings open on the right for a seven-yard gain to the 37-yard line. Rodgers went back to Jennings on the short right for another seven-yard completion to the 30-yard line and then hit Jones for a 12-yard gain to the 18-yard line. LaMarr Woodley came close to an interception on a pass that went off the finger tips of Jackson, but Rodgers went right back to Jackson for a four-yard catch. Rodgers then took it himself, scrambling for a 14-yard touchdown to tie the score at 14-14.
The Steelers came marching right back. Mewelde Moore pulled in a five-yard reception and Miller broke loose for a 27-yard reception to the Packers 48-yard line. Roethlisberger aired it out to Holmes for a 33-yard completion, carrying Packers defenders on his back to the 15-yard line. A pass interference call gave the Steelers a first down at the six-yard line, but Roethlisberger was sacked for a four-yard loss to the 10-yard line. Roethlisberger came right back, hitting Moore for a 10-yard touchdown to regain the lead, 21-14.
Mendenhall got the offense started in the second half, taking a reception 25 yards to midfield. Roethlisberger found Stefan Logan for a five-yard reception, but Mendenhall was hit for a one-yard loss and Roethlisberger couldn't connect with Wallace on third down.
The defense stepped to the plate again, forcing another three-and-out for the Packers. And Roethlisberger and company made it count. Mendenhall had a 25-yard reception to the Packers 47-yard line, and Willie Parker came in for consecutive nine-yard carries. Roethlisberger hit Ward over the middle for a 17-yard gain to the 14-yard line. Roethlisberger hit Mendenhall who went right up the middle for the touchdown, but an offensive pass interference call negated the play and backed them up to the 24-yard line. Mendenhall went off right guard for three yards, but Roethlisberger was sacked for an eight-yard loss back to the 29-yard line. Moore pulled in a 10-yard reception, falling short of the first down. Jeff Reed hit a 37-yard field goal, extending the lead to 24-14.
The Packers came marching right back, though. Rodgers led them on a 13-play, 69-yard drive that took up 6:06 and culminated in an 11-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers to Jermichael Finley, to cut the Steelers lead to 24-21.
Logan gave the Steelers a spark with a 36-yard kickoff return to the 37-yard line. Roethlisberger hit Ward for a 29-yard reception to the Packers 34-yard line. Parker added consecutive two-yard carries, and on third down Roethlisberger connected with Miller for a first down to the 18-yard line. The drive was capped by a 34-yard field goal by Reed for a 27-21 lead.
The Packers answered. Rodgers hit Finley for two short completions, and then connected with Jordy Nelson for 27 yards to the 24-yard line. Grant went off left guard for a 24-yard touchdown, the Packers taking their first lead of the game 28-27.
There was no quit in the Steelers as they came battling right back. Roethlisberger went deep to Ward, who held on to a 54-yard reception to the Packers 23-yard line. Two incomplete passes and a holding call pushed the Steelers back to the 33-yard line. On third-and-20, Roethlisberger hit Mendenhall across the middle for an eight-yard gain to the 25-yard line. The Steelers reclaimed the lead with Reed's 43-yard field goal, going up 30-28.
The Steelers attempted an onside kick and recovered, but an illegal touch by Ike Taylor before the ball went 10 yards gave the Packers the ball at the Steelers 39-yard line. And the Packers were able to take advantage of the great field position. Rodgers had completions to Nelson and Finley, before hitting Jones for a 24-yard touchdown and making the two-point conversion for a 36-30 lead.
But the Steelers weren't done. With just 2:01 on the clock and one timeout, Roethlisberger went to work from his own 14-yard line. He moved them down the field with big completions to Holmes and Miller. On third-and-10 from the Packers 19-yard line and three seconds on the clock, Roethlisberger hit Wallace for a 19-yard touchdown, and Reed's extra point secured the 37-36 win.
Notes: Long snapper Greg Warren was injured on the final play of the game, the extra point. The early speculation from Tomlin is a torn ACL.