PITTSBURGH – The Packers lost another down-to-the-wire contest Sunday, this time to the Steelers, 23-19, at Acrisure Stadium.
Here are five takeaways from the tough defeat:
- The Packers couldn't have asked for more chances to win this game.
Two drives in the final five minutes reached the red zone, but two cracks at the end zone resulted in interceptions as QB Jordan Love and the Packers' offense were once again denied in late-game chances on the road.
"We had an opportunity to win the game, twice, and like we've seen many times on tape, their defense makes a play," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said.
The first shot for the end zone, on second down from the 14-yard line, was intended for Christian Watson. Veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson deflected the ball in the back corner, with Steelers safety Keanu Neal snagging the INT.
The Packers tried an out-and-up, hoping to get Pittsburgh to bite on the out route. But LaFleur said the coverage the Steelers played wasn't ideal for that concept and he thought Love should've looked to throw backside instead.
"The DB made a good play, tipped it," Love said. "Terrific play by him."
On the second, Love drove the Packers all the way to the Pittsburgh 16-yard line with three seconds left on the clock for one final play. On the right side, the hope was a corner route would clear out some coverage to allow for an in cut underneath, but the Steelers stayed home and safety Damontae Kazee picked it off at the goal line.
"That's a play we practice all the time, an end-of-game play, and they defended the goal line," LaFleur said. "They didn't back up."
Check out photos from the Week 10 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers at Acrisure Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023.
- Those were far from the only regretful missed opportunities, though.
It's a long list. The Packers began a possession in the second quarter near midfield and went three-and-out. They drove into the red zone twice in the third quarter but settled for field goals. A pass was dropped on a trick play that might've had a chance, one of multiple drops on the day that could've moved the chains.
"I thought we kicked too many field goals," LaFleur said. "When we get in position to go score touchdowns, we've got to convert."
Looming as large as anything, though, was a blocked extra point on Green Bay's second touchdown in the first half. That missing point left the Packers unable to kick a field goal on either of their final drives, as they were forced to go for the touchdown instead.
Peterson came untouched off the edge to block Anders Carlson's PAT, making the game 17-13 in the Steelers' favor at that time, instead of 17-14.
- The little things go a long way.
Regarding the blocked PAT, LaFleur said the special teams had practiced an altered snap count because the Steelers had shown on film they time up their rush based on the holder's flashing hand.
That obviously didn't happen, and it proved costly.
Also, on the final drive, a checkdown throw outside to running back Aaron Jones resulted in another miscue. One play after Love's 46-yard completion to rookie receiver Jayden Reed got the Packers across midfield with 51 seconds left, Jones tried to cut back inside after the checkdown catch rather than get out of bounds.
He gained no yards, and the Packers' next snap didn't come until just 28 seconds remained.
"We had an opportunity to get out of bounds right there," LaFleur said. "It was critical. Wasted a ton of time."
- The defense's rough start didn't help matters.
Green Bay's defense stiffened as the game went on, holding Pittsburgh to just six points on its final seven possessions.
But the first three drives by the Steelers produced 17 points, putting the Packers in a 17-7 deficit. Holes opened in the running game, QB Kenny Pickett felt little pressure, one defensive penalty on each drive gave away a free first down, and Pittsburgh didn't face a third down needing more than three yards to convert until the end of the third possession.
Pittsburgh running backs Jaylen Warren (15-101) and Najee Harris (16-82) combined for 183 of the Steelers' 205 total rushing yards.
"Lot of missed tackles," LaFleur said. "We knew they were going to try to run the football and they did it better than we did.
"We had a lot of calls designed to stop the run and they were still gashing us. Not good enough … 5.5 yards per carry roughly. You can't give up 200 yards rushing in this league and expect to win football games."
The Packers rushed for 116 yards, 40 of them on one long run by AJ Dillon.
- The ending to this one was like others this season, but the rest of the game wasn't.
The Packers racked up 399 total yards, started the game with a touchdown, and simply showed more life and efficiency on offense compared to several other games this season.
The end result was the same, but the outlook for the team perhaps isn't.
"Obviously very disappointed. I thought our guys competed and battled hard," LaFleur said. "But there are no moral victories in this league.
"There were a lot of things we did well in all three phases. Then there were some things that were just really killer.
"We challenged our team to go out there and compete for four quarters. From the opening kickoff to the final whistle, we did that. I'm confident if we continue with this, we will end up on the other side."