Packers 2017 schedule release: Game-by-game predictions
By Kenn Korb
Week 12: @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Something about Green Bay playing the Steelers always seems to bring about an excellent contest.
Back in 2009, the teams went to no time on the clock, where Ben Roethlisberger finished the Packers off with a game-winning TD toss. In 2010 we got the Super Bowl victory where Aaron Rodgers pierced the Steel Curtain early and often before the team survived an injury to Charles Woodson to take home the Lombardi Trophy.
In 2013, with Rodgers out and Green Bay holding on for dear life in the playoff race, a hobbled Eddie Lacy and backup Matt Flynn did all they could to try stealing a win in the snow, but came up short in a 38-31 loss.
Hopefully this matchup is just as good, because it is almost certainly the last hurrah in the Roethlisberger-Rodgers matchup. Big Ben was already contemplating retirement this offseason, so he may not last another year; even if he did, these teams don’t face each other again (barring a Super Bowl meeting) until 2021, so there’s no way the oft-injured 35-year old QB is still playing by then.
Just like we saw in all these other matchups, fireworks should be expected. The lowest either has scored in those three games is 25, and they all were within one score by the final whistle. The defenses are nowhere near as good as in the past on either side too, so I’d be shocked if this isn’t decided by one drive right at the end with both above 30 points already by then.
Green Bay has nobody to guard Antonio Brown, and even if Dom Capers doesn’t make the awful decision to put one of these completely outclassed corners singled on him, he should be able to go off for 125-plus yards and a score. Le’Veon Bell should have a field day against the underwhelming LBs Green Bay will need to rely on to stop him after he breaks runs.
If Martavis Bryant comes back from suspension and stays out of trouble, then they have back the biggest piece of their deep attack offense. That line is underrated as well; PFF grades them all as above average in their metrics, and their ability to make holes and give time to their skill players makes them as tough of an offense as there is to defend.
On the other end, Pittsburgh will have their hands full as well. Jordy Nelson is another year removed from his torn ACL, and more of his deep playmaking should be around than we saw across 2016. Davante Adams can grab contested passes with aplomb. Randall Cobb can still cut around underneath defenses. The offensive line should hold up well in at least three spots and LG Lane Taylor could take a jump in effectiveness in his second year on the job.
The pass rush and coverage could be what makes all the difference here. Who can make one game-changing play, be it a sack, fumble, or INT? Both have names to turn to for pass rushing (James Harrison, Bud Dupree for PIT; Nick Perry, Clay Matthews for GB), but while Green Bay’s corner group has nobody which played all that well in 2016, Pittsburgh has players who ended the year as at least average contributors.
Green Bay’s guys have to prove capable of much more than what they showed in 2016 before I’m comfortable picking in their favor in a matchup like this. Chalk up another game-winner for Roethlisberger, just as appetizingly sour as the first one.
Steelers 41, Packers 34 (7-4)