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Packers defense stymies Big Ben in comfortable 27-17 victory over Steelers

A resurgent game from Randall Cobb and a solid defensive performance allowed the Packers to coast to victory over Pittsburgh in week four.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Green Bay Packers Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Aaron Rodgers has officially beaten all 31 other NFL teams in regular season games. The lone remaining squad on his list was the Pittsburgh Steelers, who the Green Bay Packers defeated in Super Bowl XLV, and there was little doubt about the final result in Sunday’s game for much of the contest.

After a surprising touchdown by the Steelers on the opening drive of the game, the Packers’ defense allowed just ten points over the rest of the contest. Rodgers threw a pair of touchdown passes, tying Dan Marino for for sixth place all-time with 420 for his career, and added another score with his legs. Meanwhile, Randall Cobb made his first notable contributions this season with those two scores and put up another handful of key third-down conversions.

All told, the Packers finished 9 for 15 on third downs, picking apart the Steelers’ defense on the money down to keep the chains moving consistently. The Packers’ running game was effective throughout the contest as well, with Aaron Jones running around Pittsburgh’s defenders and AJ Dillon running through them, particularly late in the game as the Packers ground down the fourth-quarter clock. The two backs combined for 129 yards on 30 carries adding another 67 receiving yards between them.

One of the few dark spots for the Packers in this game was an injury to Jaire Alexander. With the Packers up 27-10 in the second half, the Pro Bowl cornerback made a Pro Bowl-caliber play to stop the Steelers on a fourth-down attempt, but he suffered a shoulder injury on the play. Alexander headed to the locker room on a cart and did not return, and the Packers will have to hope that his injury is not a serious one.

Instead of receiving the opening kickoff like they did against San Francisco last Sunday, the Packers deferred on the opening kickoff, trusting their defense to get a stop against the Steelers’ shorthanded offense. Instead, Pittsburgh drove straight down the field for their first opening-drive touchdown since week 7 of 2020. The score itself was a shocking play, as Jaire Alexander misjudged a football in the air and gave up a 44-yard score to Diontae Johnson. There appeared to be a bit of a push-off by Johnson, however, but the play stood and gave the Steelers an early lead.

After what felt like the fastest first quarter in history, the bulk of the national TV audience finally got to tune in following the end of overtime in the Jets-Titans game. They did so just in time to see the Packers tie the game, as Aaron Rodgers scrambled and outran T.J. Watt to the end zone for a four-yard touchdown. The drive saw Randall Cobb convert a pair of third downs to keep the chains moving as the Packers responded to tie the game.

Green Bay’s pass rush got to Ben Roethlisberger on the ensuing possession, as Kingsley Keke beat right guard Trai Turner with a beautiful bull rush and stripped the football from the Steelers’ quarterback. Kenny Clark came up with the football, giving Green Bay tremendous field position inside the Steelers’ 30-yard line. A few plays later, Rodgers would pull to within one touchdown of Dan Marino’s 6th-place mark of 420 career touchdown passes by finding Randall Cobb on 3rd and 10. Cobb made a great catch with room to move, and was able to leap over the goal line — and into the Lambeau Field stands seconds later — to give Green Bay its first lead of the day at 14-7.

After a Steelers field goal, the Packers had an opportunity to put more points on the board late in the first half. Rodgers and the running game drove down the field for a 13-play drive and took the last five and a half minutes off the second-quarter clock. However, disaster nearly struck before the Packers were able to extend their lead back to seven points. On Mason Crosby’s first field goal attempt, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Joe Haden appeared to time the snap perfectly, running right around Robert Tonyan. Fitzpatrick blocked the attempt and scooped up the football, scampering nearly 80 yards for an apparent touchdown. However, the officials threw a flag on the play, ruling that the Steelers were offsides and negating the score. Crosby converted on the ensuing play to give the Packers a 17-10 lead heading into the half.

The Packers would double up coming out of halftime, but with field goals instead of the desired touchdowns. Crosby put the Packers up 20-10 with a 29-yarder after another drive lasting double-digit plays. This one was 12 plays and took 5:29 off the clock as Aaron Jones and Randall Cobb each had big gains. But a missed tripping call on T.J. Watt resulted in a sack of Rodgers, and the drive stalled out for a field goal instead of ending in the end zone.

A 20-yard punt on the Steelers’ next series set up the Packers for an early knockout blow, however, and it was a historic one for Rodgers. A big run by Dillon set up Rodgers for a one-yard touchdown to Cobb, the second scoring connection of the day between those two. That pushed Rodgers into a tie with Marino for 6th place all-time on the career touchdown pass list, extending the Packers’ lead to 27-10.

A 4th-down stop by the Packers’ defense on the next series maintained Green Bay’s three-possession lead, but it may have been a costly play. Jaire Alexander perfectly read a swing pass to running back Najee Harris and made a tremendous tackle for a loss on the play, but hurt his shoulder on the play. He would leave the field on a cart and would miss the rest of the game. Pittsburgh would add insult to injury a few plays later, forcing a fumble out of Aaron Jones and recovering for the Packers’ first takeaway of the day.

Even with Alexander off the field, the Steelers had no answers for the Packers’ defense until late in the fourth quarter with Alexander absent and the Packers playing soft coverage. After a pair of failed fourth-down attempts in the second half, Pittsburgh eventually broke through for a one-yard touchdown run by Najee Harris after Roethlisberger found James Washington for a 30-yard gain against Alexander’s replacement, Isaac Yiadom.

Green Bay would put the cap on the game with a great interception off Roethlisberger, as rookie Eric Stokes came down with his first career pick to put an end to any possible Pittsburgh rally and preserve a 27-17 final score.