Turnovers Seal the Deal: Packers Beat Steelers

There are no moral victories. Not for a team making their third Super Bowl appearance in six seasons. The Steelers, able to overcome a shaky first half and two turnovers in the AFC Divisional game against the Ravens, couldn’t do it against the Packers. And, really, that was the difference.

A Big Ben first-quarter interception directly resulted in six points. Another pick near midfield led to another Green Bay touchdown, and the Rashard Mendenhall fumble in the second half completed the hat trick. Twenty-one points-off-turnovers later, and Pittsburgh had dug itself too deep a hole to climb out of.

That said, the early 14-0 deficit had me unconcerned; I had seen that movie before. (I felt less confident when the Packers were up 21-3.) Unlike the regular-season get-together with the Patriots, when it was clear two series in that the Steelers didn’t have a chance, I felt like both the offense and defense were more than capable against Green Bay. It’s just that after a forgettable first 30 minutes, the task became much harder.

And while the first-half Roethlisberger picks didn’t help, I was certain that the game would turn on Mike Tomlin’s third-quarter decision to try a 52-yard field goal following a Big Ben sack that set up 4th and 13. You punt there. Every time. The Packers’ offense had sputtered, the Steelers defense looked confident, and Po-Sweezy looked like, well, Po-Sweezy. Which is to say sweet but unconvincing.

Somehow the Steelers avoided that bullet, but Mendenhall’s fumble — on a drive where it looked like Pittsburgh would take the lead — all but sealed their fate.

It’s worth mentioning that despite the horrid first half, the Steelers had a chance to win it at the end. Think about that. Three turnovers that led to 21 Green Bay points and with 1:59 on the clock, Big Ben had the ball. He’s done more with less in the past. Just not this time.

Also: credit to JJ for first pointing out — anywhere — that the Legursky-Raji matchup was overblown. Upon first viewing, Dougie had an admirable effort and I think Ben was only sacked twice. The takeaway: a lot of the media bobbleheads and self-proclaimed experts don’t know what they’re talking about.

And hats off to Aaron Rodgers. If the Steelers’ Achilles heel was turnovers, the Packers suffered from a lot of dropped passes. But Rodgers threw a laser to Greg Jennings on the most important third down of the game, that penultimate drive that led to three points — and more importantly: only 119 seconds remaining on the clock. Still, despite his effort (which included three touchdowns), it’s not like he marched up and down the field, Tom Brady style. The Steelers frustrated him at times, and for two-thirds of the second half the Packers offense was non-existent.

In the end it didn’t matter. Those turnovers — a fluky pick-six, a Big-Ben forced throw and an “it was only a matter of time before Rashard coughed it up” back-breaker — mean that the Steelers are now six for eight in the Super Bowl.

There are no moral victories, but there is a silver lining. The postseason isn’t guaranteed and maybe Pittsburgh’s near-dynastic run ends tonight. I don’t think so, but you never know. Assuming there is a 2011 season, there’s plenty to look forward to. A young receiving corps led by Mike Wallace; a completely healthy offensive line that (God willing) includes Willie Colon, Max Starks, Maurkice Pouncey and Flozell Adams; and a quarterback who is hopefully a better human being. And, fingers crossed, another year of Dick LeBeau.

The uncertainty of the offseason begins now. Who knows what happens but if the NFL can’t manage something as simple as making sure that every Super Bowl ticket holder has a seat in the Jerry Dome, I don’t have much faith in the impending labor negotiations. In a perfect world, a deal will get done, the Steelers will select a guard and a cornerback early in the draft, and everybody will be healthy come August.

LeBeau has a saying: “Sometimes you get the bear and sometimes the bear gets you.” Tonight, the bear won. It happens.

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  • They Arnt

    Midgets arn’t really that sexy though

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    Ryan, this is pretty much exactly how I feel about it. Thanks. Maybe that will get me through the stages of grief faster.

  • Anonymous

    The OL held up pretty well all things considered. At least one of those sacks on third down was a coverage sack. I saw one play where a pulling Kemo absolutely steamrolled Clay Matthews, which was pretty fun to watch.

    Three turnovers. *sigh* The pick six and the fumble were absolute daggers in the heart, too.

    Rodgers was pretty good. A lot of those killer throws were literally inches in front of Steeler DBs’ fingertips. If Rodgers had been as inaccurate as Ben in this game, it would be the Steelers with picks galore.

    • http://www.steelerslounge.com/ ryan

      tequilla,

      Great point. You can’t stress enough how clinical Rodgers’ TD pass was to Jennings (the one that Ryan Clark missed by thismuch), not to mention the HUGE third-down completion on that next-to-last drive.

      Daggers.

  • http://churchmojo.com Mark Alves

    Great recap. Too bad we can’t say “there’s always next year” with any certainty, but let’s hope for a healthy one and climb back up that stairway to seven.

  • TO

    Where was the “defensive player of the year?”
    Troy is a shell of the player he once was.

    Outside of one sack, Harrison was nowhere to be found. Farrior did nothing, as usual. Time to get some more new bodies in on defense.

  • Erik Selz

    That took a bit of the edge off of the horribleemptyhollowfeeling which is part and parcel of a postseason loss (exacerbated by the magnitude of the Super Bowl). Thanks. Seriously.

    Silver Linings: Hines and Antwaan had strong games. Question Mark: I presume 43 remained hurt throughout the playoffs. He was a bit of a non-factor against both the Jets and Packers, no?

    • http://www.steelerslounge.com/ ryan

      You know, we can’t overstate just how well Antwaan played. Pretty sure nobody — including ARE — saw that coming.

  • Steve

    Ryan / gentlemen -

    My thanks and congratulations for a fantastic first season for the Steelers Lounge. Though it certainly could have ended on a better note, you folks make the wins sweeter, the losses more bearable, and thanks to the four of you (and to the consistently excellent comments from others) I always know exactly why each happened. I call it entertainment. My wife calls it therapy (for me). For both, we thank you.

  • Cols714

    Well, What are your going to say. They didn’t quite play well enough and the Packers did just enough.

    Fuck, I’m not sure how to feel. On one side I feel that the Steelers should have won, but mostly I’m just meh. If these two teams play ten times, each one wins 5.

    It totally sucks though. Ben had the ball with 2 minutes to go, I though just maybe they win this….

  • Vito

    Terrible play calling lost this game. We had it. Tomlin’s gotta go.

    • B Meekins

      you couldn’t be more wrong…losing the turnover battle by -3 and we still have a chance to win (which i totally expected the clutch Big Ben to do)…you just don’t have that oppurtunity with bad coaching.

      great season, sorry way to end it. feeling of total emptiness.

      i was new to this board this season, very glad i found it. thanks guys for everything! Do you still update regularly during the off-season?

      thanks again,

      Brandon

      • http://www.steelerslounge.com/ ryan

        Brandon,

        Yes sir. We’re not going anywhere. Thanks for the kind words.

    • WarriorBlitz

      What? The only call I don’t agree with was the attempted FG from 53 yards. Please state what other “terrible play calling lost this game” and which ones were Tomlin’s fault?

      While I didn’t like the empty backfield at 3rd and 2 I am no longer going to pile on BA as he seems to have been fairly successful given what he has to work with (rookie WRs a shaky O-line etc)

  • David

    Like I said on HSS:

    1. Re-sign Ike and Woodley

    2. Draft Pouncey’s bro

    3. Draft a cover CB

    Do that, and like MacArthur said, “[We] shall return.”

  • RoB D

    We should make every effort to be as gracious in defeat as we are magnanimous in victory. Since 2005, we’ve been spoiled to death. You keep getting to championship games, you are eventually going to lose a few. I am very proud of the Steelers efforts this year…for many reasons we all know about. This season was an injury filled hell at times, Big Ben’s offsesaon, Santonio’s banishment, LT, RT, Backup QB’s going down. Both DE down, one for the season. The Packers had a pile as well but ours seemed to be grouped in one area of depth at times. They overcome it all, won the division, 2 playoff games and were within one drive of winning the SB (they didn’t play anywhere near the level required for victory but ..that 2 week break often destroys symetry and timing and GB certainly looked for almost the whole 3rd quarter like the break hurt them as well. Unfortunately the game itself is often not the priority for the league.

    It’s been a joy to share the good and the bad with everyone here. I don’t know how I would have gotten through the season without the great writers here and the many knowledgable posters. Let’s hold our head high..We are fortunate to be fans of a team for whom a loss in the Super Bowl is a catastrophe…many teams never taste defeat at this level and would probably trade places with us. As bitter as it is, remember we’ll be back. And soon. I truly believe this team is bound for more championships. It’s what they do.

  • Anonymous

    The notion that the Packers scored off the Mendenhall fumble is invalid. Took over from a place within the norm for kickoffs and punts, so that fumble didn’t exactly help them score. What it did was stop a Steelers drive.that should have been worth at least three points, maybe seven.

    The “to do” list for the off season should include the release of Keenan Lewis. He keeps making mistakes on special teams and can’t get on the field as a cornerback. Bill & Tunch (I think) said that he came on the field when he wasn’t supposed to which made it necessary to call the second timeout in the third quarter. They really needed that timeout at the end.

    • DC in ATL

      The turnover that didn’t happen, may have made the biggest difference in this game. Imagine how this game is different if we recover the muffed punt at the start of the game.

      If you believe that fumble recoveries are a random 50/50 thing, consider this. There were two fumbles in the game, and the Packers recovered both. They are a very good team but they had some luck on their side too.

      There’s no shame in losing to a class team (both players and most of their fans) like the Packers. I’m proud of our team, coaches and most of our fans. I believe the future is bright and we’ll be back.

  • drinkingclub

    Decent game, and I was hoping for a different outcome, but three turnovers are hard to overcome. If the Steelers had got one turnover that might have been enough. Alas, and alack.

  • ErikH

    I was up all night baking after the game. I just had to make some turnovers. ;)

    Thanks for a great season guys. I love the site. Its made me a better Steelers fan. Looking forward to next season. Here we go!

  • Hawksgirl

    The sweet taste of victory wasn’t ours this year but I suppose it will make it all the sweeter the next time it comes around. I love my boys win or lose and surely enjoyed the ride. It just sickens me to see us going down with our A game left at the ‘burgh. Green Bay wasn’t spectacular but they did enough to hold back the dogs and didn’t shoot themselves in the foot.

    Live to cheer another day! Keep up the good work boys – love the podcast!

  • pats fan

    both teams shot themselves in the foot at different times, and on the oppisite side of the mishaps, the other team managed not to miss the opportunity…frankly it was a dissapointing game, other than the fact the the steelers didnt win.
    Pats fan

    • Jets Fan

      True….not nearly as good a game as the Jets win in Foxboro a few weeks ago…..

      • http://www.steelerslounge.com/ ryan

        +1

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  • Man532

    I enjoyed the steelers season and overcoming adversity… It is clear we need speed on the backend at Free Safety ad 2 CB’s. I wish we could ge Ashmough or something young and speedy. William Gay and McFadden are Dime and Quarter CB’s. I wouldn’t use them in the nickle. Our offensive line will be a monster, once we get back Starks, Colon, and draft the younger pouncey. I think Kemo’s time is up and hopefully