Week 9 Game Recap: Pittsburgh Steelers 20, Green Bay Packers 10
What you need to know
The Steelers limped in to Green Bay without Ben Roethlisberger and Jerome Bettis. They limped out minus Willie Parker and James Farrior. But Duce Staley and Troy Polamalu picked up the slack to save Charlie Batch from himself in a sloppy win for Pittsburgh. Batch, who hadn’t taken an NFL snap since 2003, looked unsure of himself and played ultra conservative going nine of 16 for just 65 yards with an interception and two fumbles, none lost. The Steelers were 0 of 8 on third downs. Batch did, however, do just enough to help the Steelers put together a fourth quarter touchdown for the win.
Of those nine completions, only two went to wide receivers. Most were of the dump off variety as fullback Dan Kreider, led the team with two receptions and 13 yards. Heath Miller had two for 11 and Staley had two for nine.
Duce Staley played in just his second game and got his first 15 carries of the season. He ran for 68 second half yards (76 total) and scored the game clinching touchdown with six minutes left in the game. Willie Parker started the game, but only had five carries for 13 yards. He left the game after the first drive of the second half with an ankle injury and did not return.
With the offense struggling, the defense capitalized most of its opportunities as the Steelers scored 17 points off turnovers. Troy Polamalu recovered a first quarter fumble by ReShard Lee that led to a field goal. He then recovered Brett Favre’s fumble off a sack and returned it 77 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. And reserve safety Tyrone Carter’s fourth quarter interception led to Staley’s touchdown. They limited the Packers to 65 yards rushing and 2.2 ypc.
The Packers could have gone into halftime with a lead, or at least with the score tied. They held the ball for 18 minutes and 35 seconds with two trips to the red zone. But two fumbles, one by ReShard Lee and one by Brett Favre, plus a missed field goal had them down 13-3 at the break. Favre’s fumble occurred after the Packers had first and goal on Pittsburgh’s three yard line. Two false start penalties later, the Packers lined up with an empty backfield that allowed untouched CB Bryant McFadden to sack Favre and force the fumble. Troy Polamalu returned it 77 yards for a touchdown. Still, Favre fought back to lead a long third quarter scoring drive and finished 20 of 35 for 214 yards and an interception.
ReShard Lee got the nod as the starter, and on his second carry he fumbled the ball away to the Steelers and his job to Samkon Gado, who took over and made quite an impression on the Packers. At 5-11 and a stout 210 pounds, Gado charged hard through the Pittsburgh front seven in the first half with 50 yards on 16 carries. The Steelers would tame him in the second half and he finished with 62 yards on 26 carries, and a one yard touchdown in the third quarter.
Outside of Favre, Donald Driver and recently healed Bubba Franks are the last of the full time starters at the skill positions. Driver led the Packers with five receptions and 64 yards. Antonio Chatman filled in for Robert Ferguson to catch four passes for 43 yards and Franks added three receptions for 22 yards.
While Steelers QB Charlie Batch was clearly rattled on his own, Green Bay did what they could to add extra pressure. They flushed him out of the pocket on several occasions making him run eight times, got him for a sack, nearly recovered two fumbles and forced an interception while allowing just 65 yards passing. They did give up 154 rushing yards on 33 carries, but 43 of them were on a reverse.
What you ought to know
|QB Charlie Batch, Pass: 9 - 16 - 65 - 0 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 8 - 14 - 0|
Batch had not taken a meaningful NFL snap in nearly four years, December 2, 2001 to be exact, and it showed. Outside of eight attempts in 2003, he’s been relegated to third string duty for the better part of three seasons. But with Ben Roethlisberger sidelined after minor knee surgery and Tommy Maddox’s demotion, Batch’s day arrived. To say he managed the game might be a stretch. Playing super conservative, he attempted two passes over 20 yards, both incomplete, and settled for mostly dump offs with longs of 12, ten and ten yards. Rust was evident when he tossed an interception right at a Packers’ defender and when he took a sack that forced the Steelers to try a 51 yard field goal that was blocked. But his veteran status proved worthy as he threw the ball away and escaped many would be sacks with his legs.
|RB Duce Staley, Rush: 15 - 76 - 1, Rec: 2 - 9 - 0 (2 targets)|
Despite being inactive most of the season while recovering from knee surgery in preseason, Staley looked almost like his old self, running with patience and using sharp cuts to avoid first and second hits. The only thing he might have lacked was upper body strength to carry tacklers, but he did get stronger as the game wore on. He had 68 second half yards, including three consecutive runs from the inside Green Bay’s ten yard line, the last of which went for a three yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Staley had a long of 17 yards and caught two passes for nine yards.
The Steelers only had the ball for 12 minutes in the first half, which limited Willie Parker to just four carries and 15 yards with a long of eight. His fifth carry early in the third quarter resulted in an ankle injury forcing him to leave the game. He did return to the sidelines in uniform, but did not play another down.
Haynes saw a little more action once Parker left the game with an ankle injury, but barely made a dent in the stat sheet with ten yards rushing.
The fullback saw two rare passes come his way for 11 yards, including a nine yarder that set up Staley’s touchdown.
Randle El got off to a quick start by taking a reverse for 43 yards on the Steelers first play of the game. He finished with 41 yards rushing and zero yards receiving. He added 13 yards on three punt returns and had one of 24 yards called back on a holding penalty.
Wilson recently complained to the local media about not being more involved in the offense. He got his wish catching a screen pass for ten yards, which was one more catch more than he had the previous week. His three targets led the team.
Ward was invisible throughout the first half, but with Batch only attempting eight passes and 16 total, it was hard to get into a groove. He caught one pass for 12 yards late in the third quarter. And outside of a crunching block on a reverse attempt, he was seen very little of.
Morgan had zero receptions. He had three kick returns for 59 yards.
After Miller broke through as Roethlisberger’s second favorite target this season, he had a quiet afternoon with Batch catching just two passes for nine yards.
Reed hit short field goals of 24 and 32 yards. His 51 yard attempt was blocked on the first play of the fourth quarter. He converted both extra point attempts.
The Steelers allowed Samkon Gado to 50 yards in the first half, but adjusted well in the second half giving up 62 to Gado and 65 total rushing yards to Green Bay. They stopped Green Bay twice in the red zone in the first half, and Troy Polamalu recovered a fumble as the Packers had crossed into Pittsburgh territory. Larry Foote led the Steelers with 11 total tackles (ten solo). James Farrior suffered a grade-two MCL injury to his left knee and could miss a couple of weeks.
While they allowed Favre to scatter 214 yards in the air, they prevented the big play, and created their own at the same time. After Troy Polamalu interfered with Donald Driver to put the Packers on the Steelers’ three, rookie corner Bryant McFadden hit Favre for a sack and jarred the ball loose and Polamalu returned it for a 77 yard touchdown.
|QB Brett Favre, Pass: 20 - 35 - 214 - 0 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 1 - 0 - 0|
As is always the case, there is only so much Favre can do. Out of necessity and circumstance, Favre once again had to attempt to win from behind. But with so few weapons lately, not even the hall of fame bound QB can rescue the Pack every week. He still showed flashes of brilliance as evidenced by a couple of entertaining scrambles, one where he rolled to his right and threw the ball across the field for a 25 yard completion to William Henderson. And to be fair, his interception was not his fault as Donald Driver let the ball bounce right off his hands and into the Steelers’ lap. He was also hurried into several overthrows during the second half.
|RB Sam Gado, Rush: 26 - 62 - 1, Rec: 1 - 9 - 0 (1 targets)|
Gado was a third string RB out of Liberty. Technically in Green Bay, he could be considered fifth string. But after a strong first half and an overall gritty performance (26 carries, 62 yards), Gado might of just found himself a job for the remainder of the season, especially with Travis Fisher out for a few weeks with cracked ribs. Gado had 50 first half yards and was rewarded in the third quarter with his first career NFL touchdown. His large frame should be able to withstand lots of hits, making him durable, something the four running backs previously have not been.
Henderson had three catches for 36 yards, highlighted by a 25 yarder where he was all alone after a Favre scramble.
Lee was the designated starter but after he fumbled on his second carry of the game, he was relegated back to kick return duties. He had three yards rushing and 49 return yards.
Williams had a 19 yard reception on Gado’s touchdown drive, but otherwise saw little action.
Driver was able to shake loose for five receptions and 64 yards, including two diving catches over the middle. He remains the most reliable offensive source for Favre and had a key 17 yard catch in the third quarter, putting the Packers inside the five setting up Gado’s touchdown. Unfortunately he also let an easy one bounce off his hands that resulted in a Steelers’ interception. Pittsburgh scored four plays later. Despite frequent double coverage, Driver is Favre’s most reliable option and he continues to produce solid numbers. Robert Ferguson’s likely return next week should help as well. Of minor note, Driver landed awkwardly on his head in the second quarter and lay still for a minute, but was able to run off on his own power and returned on the Packers’ next possession.
Chatman filled in nicely for Robert Ferguson and had 43 yards on four receptions and had a five yard catch nullified on a Steelers penalty. His 13 yard reception on the Packers; touchdown drive helped them close a ten point gap to three.
Franks was sought out twice in the end zone, but was overthrown both times. He finished with three catches for 22 yards.
With David Martin injured, Lee had three receptions for the third consecutive week.
Longwell made his 40 yard attempt as well as his lone extra point try.
The Packers allowed a 43 yard reverse to Randle El on the Steelers’ first play, but afterwards held them in check until the fourth quarter. Steelers’ running backs had just 29 yards rushing in the first half, but with virtually no passing game, the Packers allowed Duce Staley to get 68 second half yards and score the game clinching touchdown. Nick Barnett had 11 total tackles.
The Packers did not allow Charlie Batch to even get warmed up as they yielded 65 yards. Robert Thomas easily picked off a pass thrown right to him to start the second quarter and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila registered a sack.