GREEN BAY – The Packers notched their third straight victory on Sunday, a 27-17 triumph over the Steelers at Lambeau Field.
Here are five takeaways from the win:
1. The Packers' defense responded to a rough start.
The Steelers scored on the game's opening drive, as Ben Roethlisberger hit Diontae Johnson on a 45-yard TD pass.
But Pittsburgh managed just a field goal on its next seven possessions, with Green Bay getting a sack-fumble from Kingsley Keke and Kenny Clark in Pittsburgh territory to set up a touchdown, plus a couple of fourth-down stops in the second half when the Steelers were down three scores.
"I was really proud of our defense," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "Anytime a team has the ball 11 times and they score on three possessions, that's a pretty good night. I thought the energy was there, the effort was there.
"I just think our defense is getting better and better and hopefully we can continue that."
2. Hopefully the defense didn't lose another key playmaker for an extended period.
Late in the third quarter, on the first of the two fourth-down stops, cornerback Jaire Alexander went low to upend running back Najee Harris on a short completion, but Alexander hurt his shoulder on the play and was carted to the locker room.
The defense is already without outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith for the time being, and now the other 2020 second-team All-Pro from the unit likely will be out for a while, but LaFleur couldn't say how long.
"I don't know," he said. "Obviously he's a guy that's really important to us, just one of the premier corners in this league. So certainly we'd like him to (be OK). Hopefully it all checks out well and he'll be back with us."
Lambeau Field hosted a Week 4 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021.
3. Two guys who were quiet on offense the first three games were the stars.
Receiver Randall Cobb was targeted six times and had five catches for 69 yards, with his first two touchdowns of the season and most of his damage coming on third down. His second TD came on a 1-yard pass from a scrambling QB Aaron Rodgers and put the Packers up three scores, 27-10 late in the third quarter.
Running back AJ Dillon bulled his way to 81 rushing yards on 15 carries, and added one reception for 16 yards.
Those two had a total of 137 yards from scrimmage through three weeks but combined for 166 on Sunday. Cobb's increased workload was due in part to Marquez Valdes-Scantling's hamstring injury, while Dillon got a lot of work in the second half after Aaron Jones (15 carries, 48 yards) fumbled the ball away late in the third quarter.
"He's just a different type of back," Rodgers said of Dillon. "He's a cold-weather Green Bay back that we've had over the years. But it's good to see him get some carries in September and October before it gets cold, and hopefully it gets cold here pretty soon."
4. The offensive line held up well again, but the field-goal protection requires closer examination.
Rodgers was sacked three times officially, but after a miscommunication up front on the first one, the other two came when Pittsburgh's T.J. Watt got away with tripping the QB, and when Rodgers scrambled and slid down behind the line of scrimmage to keep the clock running late in the game.
"We had a good plan," said Rodgers, who also rushed for a TD in addition to throwing the two to Cobb, tying Dan Marino with 420 in his career. "We weren't going to let T.J. and Melvin (Ingram) just kind of get going, so we thumped them (with chip blocks) and had some body presence. But there were a lot of one-on-ones and we held up really, really good.
"If you would've told me early in the season we'd be without arguably two of our best linemen for a couple of games and play those two fronts (San Francisco and Pittsburgh), I would've been ecstatic with two wins and he were are 3-1."
A week after nearly having the game-winning field goal against the 49ers blocked, the Packers did have one blocked at the end of the first half Sunday, with the Steelers scooping it up and running the other way. The breakdown came on the same right side of the protection as last week, though the block and runback were nullified due to the Steelers being flagged for offside.
Replays were questionable as to whether Pittsburgh's two players who broke through crossed early, or if they just got a really good jump on the ball.
"I thought (in the moment), there's no way they couldn't have been offsides," LaFleur said. "But I heard it was pretty close.
"We'll definitely take a look at everything."
Given a second chance from 5 yards closer, Mason Crosby made the field goal to close out the first half, and then the Packers doubled up with another field goal to open the third quarter, grabbing a two-score lead for the first time at 20-10.
5. Week 1 feels like ancient history now.
Green Bay has rebounded from the forgettable opening loss to the Saints to get to 3-1 and keep sole possession of first place in the NFC North.
"I think that's the measure of a good football team," Rodgers said. "We faced adversity right away, we made proper adjustments right away, we didn't freak out and we focused on the little things in the details."
Sunday's win included outscoring the Steelers 27-3 from the middle of the first quarter through the middle of the fourth. Green Bay didn't put the game away in the fashion it wanted, with the fumble and a failed fourth down in the second half, but Pittsburgh never seriously threatened to steal this one back.
"I told our guys, I thought that was a mature win," LaFleur said. "I thought just our whole mentality all week … it was very workmanlike. The guys came in focused.
"There's a lot of pros in that locker room."