Steelers gear up for rare matchup with Aaron Rodgers, Packers
As members of different conferences, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers meet once every four years. As luck would have it for the Steelers, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers has missed the last two meetings due to a broken collarbone.
Barring something really dramatic, Pittsburgh will have to deal with the veteran star for the first time in the regular season since 2009 when the teams meet Sunday at Lambeau Field.
Last week’s 30-28 win at San Francisco served as a reminder of why the Packers (2-1) are relevant as long as they can keep Rodgers vertical. He needed just 37 seconds to move them 42 yards, enabling Mason Crosby to boot a game-winning 51-yard field goal as time expired.
Rodgers said the result had meaning that went beyond putting Green Bay into first place in the NFC North.
“Every year, you have to re-learn and I think readjust the perspective and savor how special it is to win in this league and never take it for granted,” he said. “A bunch of us who’ve been around and know what it feels like and what it should look like, obviously we have a foundation of that.
“But every team has to learn how to win, from No. 1 to 69 on the roster.”
As good as Rodgers was and as dominant as Davante Adams was, it still took a young offensive line cohering to give Rodgers a chance to hook up with Adams 12 times for 132 yards. The Packers switched to quicker throws after 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa toyed with rookie left tackle Yosh Nijman on their first possession and that helped Nijman contain Bosa.
Nijman might be asked for more this week. Left tackle Elgton Jenkins didn’t practice Wednesday because of the ankle injury that kept him out at San Francisco. What’s more, No. 2 receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (hamstring) also missed practice Wednesday, leaving his status in the air for Sunday.
Don’t expect the Steelers (1-2) to feel too sad about Green Bay’s growing injury list. They have their own ailments, ranging from groin injuries that kept T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith out of last week’s 24-10 upset home loss to Cincinnati to a rib injury that kept receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster out of practice Wednesday.
Then there’s receiver Diontae Johnson, who didn’t even suit up last week with a knee injury and practiced in just a limited capacity Wednesday. Johnson amassed 14 catches in the first two games, so his presence in any role would be a boost to an offense that needs all the help it can get.
Pittsburgh’s season may already be at a crossroads. It’s last in the AFC South and its offensive line is having problems. The Steelers rank last in the NFL in rushing through three games, which would be a dilemma for any quarterback, let alone 39-year-old Ben Roethlisberger.
But at least publicly, Pittsburgh players remain optimistic they can turn it around. Roethlisberger says he can do his part to help.
“As an offense, we need to start faster, but it starts with me,” he said. “I need to get better with that because that’s kind of the key to a successful day — starting fast.
Roethlisberger is completing 63.8 percent of his passes but averaging less than 10 yards per completion. The lack of big plays downfield helps explain why the Steelers are scoring just 16.7 ppg, 28th in the NFL.
The last time the Steelers faced Rodgers was in Super Bowl XLV at the conclusion of 2010 season. Rodgers was named MVP as the Packers won the title with a 31-25 victory.
–Field Level Media