At least the Steelers finally ended that pesky streak of not scoring on their opening drive. Unfortunately, other than that, there wasn’t much great you could say about Pittsburgh’s 27-17 loss to the Packers at Lambeau Field on Sunday.
It was the third-straight loss for the Steelers after starting out 1-0. It was the fourth straight week in which the offense looked bad-to-mediocre (and that might be kind). Even the defense looked inept for the second game in a row, despite both T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith being back in the mix at outside linebacker.
The Steelers’ offense did start strong and marched 75 yards on the opening drive and took a 7-0 lead on a 45-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to receiver Diontae Johnson.
Pittsburgh’s defense did stop the Packers’ offense on its opening possession, a series that ended with a Devin Bush sack of Aaron Rodgers. Unfortunately, Green Bay’s subsequent punt was downed at the four, and after a quick three and out, the Packers’ offense had the ball again at its own 36.
Green Bay promptly marched 64 yards and tied the game on a four-yard touchdown run by Rodgers early in the second quarter.
The Packers got the football right back when defensive back Kingsley Keke stripped Roethlisberger and recovered the fumble at the Pittsburgh 23. Green Bay took the lead four plays later on a 23-yard touchdown strike from Rodgers to receiver Randall Cobb.
The Steelers offense again showed life on its next possession and seemed poised to tie the score. Unfortunately, Roethlisberger couldn’t connect with a wide-open JuJu Smith-Schuster on a play that would have gone for a 32-yard touchdown. Pittsburgh ultimately had to settle for three points on a Chris Boswell 52-yard field goal that hit the uprights before going in.
The Packers again marched right down the field and were set up with a first and 10 from the Pittsburgh 13 with 31 seconds left in the second quarter. A touchdown would have given Green Bay a 21-10 lead at the half and may have been the final nail in the Steelers coffin. Fortunately, Pittsburgh’s defense held strong and ultimately forced a field goal attempt by kicker Mason Crosby.
But just when it looked like the Packers would take a seven-point lead, safety Minkah Fitzpatrick crashed through the line, blocked Crosby’s field goal attempt, scooped up the loose football and raced the length of the field for what appeared to be a 17-14 lead for the visitors.
Sadly, cornerback Joe Haden was called for being offsides, a very questionable and disputed penalty that nullified the momentum-changing touchdown and gave Crosby a second chance to convert on his field goal try.
The Packers scored 10-straight points to open up the third quarter–including a 29-yard field goal by Crosby and a one-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers to Cobb–to take a commanding 27-10 lead.
The Steelers offense continued to struggle over its next three possesions–two of which ended when Pittsburgh failed to convert on fourth and four and fourth and five, respectably.
The Steelers drew to within 10 points on a one-yard touchdown dive by running back Najee Harris with 4:40 remaining in the game, but by then, it was too little, too late.
Roethlisberger completed 26 of 40 passes for 232 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Quite indicative of Roethlisberger and his play dating back to last season was the fact that 21 of his completions went for four yards or less.
Next up for the Steelers is a 1 p.m. matchup with the Broncos next Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field.