It can be immensely enjoyable, as it must have been on the day it was selected as the first-round draft. And there can be hardly anything more professionally satisfying than standing on a platform with a Lombardi trophy while confetti rains gently around you. Not to mention doing that twice. His job can and was challenging, fulfilling, invigorating, frustrating.
And as it was on Sunday in Green Bay, it can be cruel.
Lambeau Field has been the site of much NFL history, and more of it was to take place when the 1-2 Steelers competed against the 2-1 Packers. Ben Roethlisberger arrived at Green Bay and needed a touchdown pass to hit 400 for his career and become one of eight men in NFL history to plateau; it also took him 213 passing yards to win Dan Marino for sixth place on the NFL’s all-time list in that category.
In the game, too, his stated goal of getting a faster start was achieved, with the idea of putting his team in the lead early and pushing the ball better and more consistently across the field to force the opposing defense to respect the Steelers’ ability to attack vertically, and that was the catalyst for a win that would end the Steelers’ two-game losing streak and bring them to .500 four weeks into this regular season.
The Packers won the coin toss and decided to postpone, which meant the Steelers would get the opening start, and Roethlisberger started ticking things off the to-do list. Before the game was five minutes old, Roethlisberger finished the team’s streak of 11 straight games without a touchdown in the first quarter, he finished the streak of 37 games (according to CBS) without touchdowns on the opening drive of a game, and he got the ball across the field and became one of eight quarterbacks in NFL history with 400 career touchdown passes with a 45 yard connection with Diontae Johnson. Oh, and it gave the Steelers a 7-0 lead in a game where everyone knew trying to catch Aaron Rodgers would be football suicide.
“It was a good opening drive for us,” said Roethlisberger of the eight-game 75-yard drive that gave the Steelers their only lead in the game. “We finally scored early. We have to find a way to keep scoring, move the ball and rule out mistakes.”
But rather than being the start of a trend, this initiative turned out to be more of a one-off move in consistently executing the items on the offense checklist.
The Steelers would have three more offensive possession possessions before the end of the first half, and each was disappointing / frustrating in its own way. The first of these was a three-and-out, and the Packers responded with a 13-play, 64-yard drive that included three third-down conversions and a 4-yard run from Rodgers that tied The game ended up in the end zone, 7-7.
The Steelers’ next possession also ended in a three-and-out, but this time Pressley Harvin didn’t even get a chance to get on the field and push. That’s because Kingsley Keke Roethlisberger hit the ball out of his right hand for a strip sack and Kenny Clark was recovering for the Packers on the Pittsburgh 23-yard line.
Four games after the turnover, a short pass from Rodgers to Randall Cobb converted a third-and-10 from the 23-yard line and finally gave the Packers the lead. But at the time, with nearly 11 minutes to go in the first half, the Steelers still seemed very much on the hunt if they could only do the things on their checklist again. They did just the opposite.
Starting from the 25-yard line, Roethlisberger led the offense on three first downs, one of which came after a holding penalty against Dan Moore, who made a first-and-20 off the Steelers 29-yard line. After a quick pass to Eric Ebron, a third and four, it was time for another shot into the field. JuJu Smith-Schuster was so open-minded that the only thing standing in the way of a 34 yard touchdown was an accurate throw or a game of the receiver. Neither happened, the ball fell incompletely, and if Chris Boswell’s 52-yard field goal was a nice consolation prize, those who watched knew the Steelers had missed a chance.
“To be honest, it’s a bit of both of us: the receivers and the quarterback,” said Roethlisberger when asked about the misfire. “For a deep ball to be successful, both parties have to be on the same page. They have to understand the coverage and what is happening. At the end of the day, I’m the one to throw it. I’m the one who has to make it. I am the one who has to hit the boys. No matter where they are on the field, no matter what the cover, it’s up to me to get them the ball. ”
Before the end of the first half, there would be another punch on the stomach.
Part of the recipe the Steelers had used to get that Buffalo win was a splash play by specialty teams, and they apparently got it when the Packers ended the first half for a 31-yard field goal Attempted. Minkah Fitzpatrick blocked the kick, took the ball, and ran 75 yards for a touchdown.
But Joe Haden, who was lined up outside of Fitzpatrick, was reported offside. The CBS replay showed that Haden came out of his stance as the long snapper lifted the ball, and former NFL umpire Gene Steratore, also part of the CBS broadcast, later tweeted that based on the replay, unless ‘Haden was offside, no penalty should’ have been called.
Instead of a 17:14 half-time lead, the Steelers were behind with 17:10.
The second half brought more of it – more history, but also more disappointment. At one point, Roethlisberger completed a 30-yard pass for James Washington, and that allowed him to overtake Marino on the all-time yard list. But Roethlisberger toned down any sentiment the game might have evoked and also missed another connection with Smith-Schuster, which game analyst Tony Romo said would have resulted in a sure touchdown.
“Only detail. Execution. And I’m not saying that with a wink,” said coach Mike Tomlin when asked about the missed connections in the field. “We need more details in our work and we need a better understanding. We have to play faster. These will produce the chunks you mentioned. We’re close. We had some chances today, we just didn’t hit enough of them.” .
“We have to have these games, especially when we don’t play as well as we’d like. Chunks eliminate a lot of execution, as we say in the coaching business. And by that I mean when you” We don’t play clean, splash games or real estate pieces help you. So we don’t play clean enough and we don’t get enough pieces to make up for this, and that’s why we have the conversation that we have. ”
It’s the kind of conversation that is inevitable after a loss reduces a team to 1-3, especially when the most recent loss has many of the same characteristics as the previous ones, annoyingly.