On Sunday night in week 12, the Green Bay Packers lost 31-28 to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The defense was able to come up with a handful of turnovers, an encouraging sign, but they still allowed Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh offense to move the ball virtually at will for much of the game.
Pittsburgh ended the night with 461 yards of total offense, a painful number for Packers fans and a sign that without the turnovers, this game could have been the blowout that most viewers were expecting.
One issue is the injury to Kenny Clark, which kept him out of the game. Without their top nose tackle, the Packers elected to play a lighter front, averaging fewer than two defensive linemen on the field per play. That meant that Pittsburgh had some room to run up front and that their offensive linemen were less occupied with the line and more able to deal with Green Bay’s edge rushers.
Here’s how the playing time broke down on Sunday.
OFFENSE (55 plays)
LT David Bakhtiari 55, LG Lane Taylor 55, C Corey Linsley 55, RG Jahri Evans 55, RT Jason Spriggs 55
Not much to see here - with Spriggs active, the second-year tackle lined up at right tackle and relegated Justin McCray to the bench. Thankfully, the starting line remained intact throughout the game.
Jamaal Williams 45, FB Aaron Ripkowski 12
Although Devante Mays was active, Williams got the call all game long, perhaps showing that the team remembers Mays’ disastrous debut against Baltimore. Ripkowski played primarily as a personal protector in the passing game and had just a single carry for four yards.
Richard Rodgers 37, Lance Kendricks 29, OT Ulrick John 3
The Packers used a lot of their tight ends in this came, with both starting TEs coming in over 50% of snaps. This was the first game all year that Rodgers got more than two-thirds of the team’s snaps, and it was the first instance we can think of that the team lined up an offensive tackle (John) as a tight end in heavy sets.
Jordy Nelson 52, Davante Adams 48, Randall Cobb 38, Geronimo Allison 8, Trevor Davis 3
As usual, Nelson and Adams were hovering around 90% of the snaps with Cobb around 70%. Adams had the biggest target share with eight, while Nelson and Cobb had five and four, respectively. However, Jordy’s five targets turned into just three catches for 11 yards, while Cobb had the big touchdown and caught all four targets for 58 yards total.
DEFENSE (74 plays)
Mike Daniels 53, Quinton Dial 34, Dean Lowry 33, Montravius Adams 15
The Packers went very light on the line in this game, preferring to stay in nickel frequently even as the Steelers were aligned in base 12 or 21 personnel. Daniels had the Packers’ only sack in the game and recorded an impressive eight total tackles.
Nick Perry 50, Ahmad Brooks 48, Kyler Fackrell 46, Vince Biegel 22
On the outside, the Packers got little pass rush, with Perry recording the only hit on Roethlisberger from the group of edge rushers. This problem was compounded by the fact that the team averaged 2.24 OLBs on the field per snap, often going into their Psycho package or lining one or two up on the inside.
Blake Martinez 74, Jake Ryan 52, Josh Jones 26
The Packers appear to be getting more and more comfortable using Ryan in all situations, lining him up on over two-thirds of defensive snaps while Jones only saw about a third. Jones’ playing time was cut down quite a bit due to Morgan Burnett’s return, though he still made four tackles on defense plus two more on special teams.
Martinez was all over once again and finally had some of the splash plays he has been craving, recording 15 tackles including one for loss but more notably intercepting a pass and recovering a fumble.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix 74, Morgan Burnett 74, Jermaine Whitehead 3, Marwin Evans 1
Burnett’s return was a successful one, as he put up nine solo tackles and forced the fumble that Martinez recovered early on in the fourth quarter. Burnett has returned to his traditional strong safety position, rather than playing Nitro linebacker or in the slot with any regularity.
Davon House 68, Damarious Randall 66, Kevin King 39, Josh Hawkins 36
The Packers primarily used three corners throughout this game once again, but they kept House and Randall on the field for most of the game while rotating King and Hawkins. Randall had another interception, his team-leading fourth of the season, while both Kind and House recorded pass breakups.
According to Pro Football Focus’ coverage stats, Randall allowed a passer rating of just 8.3 into his coverage, while House allowed a near-perfect 153.0.