The Steelers have a history during the Mike Tomlin era of playing down to lesser opponents and Sunday night was no exception. Fourteen-point favorites heading into their Week 12 meeting with the Packers, the Steelers trailed by eight points at the end of the first quarter, and were down seven after Green Bay's first drive of the second half. In fact, Pittsburgh needed a last-second 53-yard field goal from Chris Boswell to notch the 31-28 victory, their ninth of the season, against an outfit that was blanked at home last week by the Ravens.
As Tomlin likes to say, there are no style points in the NFL and at 9-2, the Steelers remain the AFC's No. 1 seed. Their are no moral victories in the NFL either, but the Packers can take solace in Brett Hundley looking like a legit quarterback after flailing his way through his first four starts.
Here are eight takeaways from Pittsburgh's last-second victory.
There is no answer for Antonio Brown
The Packers wisely spent much of the evening double-teaming Antonio Brown. And for stretches of the game, they forced Ben Roethlisberger to target other receivers. But eventually, Brown wins, because Brown always wins. And when it was over, the NFL's best wide receiver had 10 receptions for 169 yards, two touchdowns and a two-point conversion.
Here's your garden-variety "Brown easily beats Cover-2" touchdown that gave the Steelers a seven-point lead midway through the fourth quarter:
For anybody else, that makes their weekend. For Brown, it was a precursor to this week's version of "That's the most amazing catch I've ever seen!"
With 17 seconds left, the game tied, and the ball on the Steelers' 30-yard line, this happened:
Brown caught a 14-yard pass on the next play -- that gave him eight first-down catches on the night -- and two plays after that, Boswell striped the Heinz Field record-tying 53-yarder.
Hats off to Hundley
If you were a Packers fan, there was little reason for optimism ahead of this game. Hundley had looked lost and confused since taking over for Aaron Rodgers, and the expectation was that the Steelers' fast, young, physical defense would do what the Ravens' fast, young, physical defense did seven days ago. But instead of a repeat of Hundley's three-interception performance in Green Bay's shutout loss, the third-year quarterback looked like, well, Aaron Rodgers for much of the game. Yes, it helped that the Steelers blew a coverage on the opening touchdown drive:
And that the Steelers refused to tackle anyone on the Packers' second touchdown -- a screen pass, no less:
But there is no guarantee that the Hundley we've seen before tonight completes those passes. And there's no way he sells the shoulder shimmy on third-and-short and then hits Davante Adams in stride for touchdown pass No. 3:
Hundley finished 17 of 26 for 245 yards, those three touchdowns and no turnovers.
Packers Huntley has 3 TD passes tonight for Packers. He had just 2 combined in previous 5 games. Green Bay 21, Steelers 14.— Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette) November 27, 2017
Coach Mike McCarthy didn't do Hundley and the offense any favors. With the Packers leading 21-14 in the third quarter, and following Ben Roethlisberger's second interception of the night, Green Bay found itself looking at a fourth-and-18 from the Pittsburgh 39-yard line. Instead of punting, McCarthy attempted a 57-yard field goal (reminder: the Heinz Field record is 53 yards). Mason Crosby's kick never had a chance. The Steelers scored six plays later to tie the game.
Still, the Packers might finally have found a worthy backup for Rodgers. More good news: Rodgers, who broke his collarbone in Week 6, looked pretty good during his pregame workout.
Aaron Rodgers update
There's no official word on when Rodgers might return -- he still hasn't had his shoulder X-rayed yet -- though the earliest he take the field is Dec. 17, the Packers' Week 15 game against the Panthers.
No JuJu, no problem
The Steelers were without rookie second-rounder pick JuJu Smith-Schuster on Sunday as he recovered from a hamstring injury. Instead, Martavis Bryant got the start and finished with a respectable four receptions for 40 yards and a touchdown, which was good for third best among Steelers pass catchers against the Packers. Not surprisingly, Brown was first, and behind him, one of the league's most versatile players: running back Le'Veon Bell.
In addition to 20 carries for 95 yards, Bell hauled in a career-best (and game-high) 12 passes for 88 yards.
It's unclear if Smith-Schuster will be ready to play when the Steelers face the Bengals next Monday night.
Cam Heyward somehow has never made a Pro Bowl
Remember the aforementioned Mason Crosby missed 57-yard field goal? The only reason it was 57 yards was because Hundley took a sack on third down. And it was Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward who was responsible for that sack.
Heyward was also responsible for another sack on the next drive, giving him nine for the season. He has been one of the NFL's best players no one talks about for several years now, but because he's a defensive end in a 3-4 scheme, he doesn't receive the recognition of the pass-rushing 4-3 defensive ends.
The Packers never had a chance
At least if you're strictly going by the last 47 years:
The Packers have not won on the road in Pittsburgh since Week 12, 1970 (lost 5 straight games at PIT)— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) November 27, 2017
Bart Starr was Packers QB,
Terry Bradshaw was Steelers QB
- Pittsburgh reclaims the No. 1 seed in the AFC on a razor-thin strength of victory tiebreaker advantage over New England (.469 to the Patriots' .457).
- No change of order in the NFC standings, although Green Bay is now in a four-way tie with Dallas, Arizona and Washington.
You can see the entire playoff picture here.
The Steelers (9-2) travel to Cincinnati to face the Bengals (5-6) on "Monday Night Football." Cincy is currently the eighth seed in the AFC, two spots out of the final wild-card spot.
The Packers (5-6), meanwhile, will play host to the underachieving Buccaneers (4-7) on Sunday afternoon. If Green Bay can win that game, and beat the Browns in Week 14, it could be 7-6 with Rodgers possibly returning to the lineup in Week 15.