Steelers beat Packers with TD at game's end
Ben Roethlisberger's last-second heroics against the Green Bay Packers came either too late or just in time depending on one's perspective.
The Steelers clearly had the latter after Roethlisberger capped a record day with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace on the final play of a wild game Sunday at Heinz Field.
And with good reason.
Prior to their 37-36 victory over one of the NFL's hottest teams, the Steelers had not won since well before Thanksgiving.
And Roethlisberger, who riddled one of the NFL's top defenses for 503 passing yards and three touchdowns, put the best spin on how fine the line between anguish and elation has been for the Steelers this season.
"If that last play's incomplete, there's no one in (the locker room) talking, everybody's having the worst Christmas ever," Roethlisberger said after setting a slew of records, including most single-game passing yards in team history. "But because that play's a touchdown, it's a completely different ballgame."
Roethlisberger and the offense indeed made it a cheerier Christmas for fans driven to despair by the Steelers' first five-game losing streak since 2003.
They also bailed out coach Mike Tomlin, who tried an unsuccessful onside kick late in the game, and a defense that once again failed to protect a fourth-quarter lead.
What stood out above all for the Steelers following a game in which the teams combined for almost 1,000 yards of total offense and traded the lead as if it were an unwanted stocking stuffer: they finally stopped the bleeding.
"It was just good to come out with a win," inside linebacker James Farrior said after playing in the first 37-36 game in NFL history. "We had a lot of ebb and flow in this game, a lot of ups and downs, a lot of range of emotions."
The pulsating victory allowed the Steelers to improve to 7-7, and they are one of 10 AFC teams competing for four remaining playoff berths.
The Steelers face another must-win situation Sunday when the 8-6 Baltimore Ravens visit Heinz Field for a 1 p.m. game.
The defending Super Bowl champions are still on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs. But they would have been all but eliminated had they lost a sixth game this season in which they led in the fourth quarter.
"Not dead yet," Tomlin said. "We're on life support here in terms of staying in the hunt for the playoffs, so we can't save anything."
They didn't hold back yesterday as Roethlisberger and Wallace hooked up for a 60-yard touchdown on the Steelers' first play from scrimmage.
That set the tone for the shootout that unfolded in front of an announced crowd of 57,452.
The tempo picked up considerably after a 34-yard field goal by Jeff Reed with just under 10 minutes left in the game gave the Steelers a 27-21 lead.
After Aaron Rodgers, who staged an epic duel with Roethlisberger, led the Packers (9-5) on a quick touchdown drive, Reed kicked a 43-yard field goal to give the Steelers a 30-28 lead.
Tomlin called for an onside kick with the thinking that the Steelers would either catch the Packers off guard or Green Bay would score quickly enough to leave Roethlisberger enough time on the clock to answer.
Roethlisberger got the ball back with just over two minutes left. He stopped a burdensome streak and added to his lore by engineering the 19th game-winning drive of his career.
"It's big to win it that way, I think," Roethlisberger said after leading the Steelers on an 11-play, 86-yard drive. "To win it like that, I think it shows a lot of heart. It opens up something inside of all of us to say 'You know what, this team never quits, it never backs down and fights to the end.'"
Clark apologizes after secondary torched
Less than a week after saying the local media had unfairly singled out members of the Steelers secondary and that some fans may not understand how hard the players work, free safety Ryan Clark offered something of a mea culpa.
"I apologize to the fans and the media," Clark said Sunday following the Steelers' last-second 37-36 win over the Green Bay Packers. "I'm sorry if I offended anyone. That's all I've got to say."
During a diatribe that lasted almost 12 minutes last Wednesday, Clark infamously said the Steelers are held to a higher standard than other NFL teams or that the local writers who cover them are "turds."
Clark said some members of the Steelers' defensive backfield had been mistakenly singled out in recently weeks for getting beaten or for botched assignments.
The maligned secondary did not have one of its better games against the Packers and Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers threw for 383 yards and three touchdowns, including an 83-yarder to Greg Jennings in the first quarter.
"They played to their personality," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said of Green Bay's offense. "We didn't make enough plays on third down to keep them cool."
The Packers converted 10 of 16 times on third down.
49 -- Times that Aaron Rodgers has been sacked this season after the Steelers dropped him just one time yesterday.
472 -- Net passing yards by the Steelers, tying a franchise record that had been set in 1958.
• "It's not about confidence, it's about plays. I believe in these guys, they believe in each other. We had a tough time stopping them in the second half and you do what's appropriate to win the football game. It's not like we're going to play scared or lack confidence in terms of what we're doing defensively, but I was concerned about our ability to stop them based on what I was looking at in that stadium."
STEELERS COACH ON WHETHER HE IS LOSING FAITH IN THE DEFENSE TO CLOSE OUT A GAME