Game 16 matchup: Steelers vs. Packers
December 21, 2013 9:05 PM
By Gerry Dulac / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
When the Packers have the ball:
Aaron Rodgers (broken left collarbone) is again not expected to play. Matt Flynn, who led last week's 23-point comeback vs. the Cowboys, will start his fourth game in a row. Flynn has won his past two starts and thrown five touchdowns against two INTs. The Packers will use three wide receivers as part of their base package -- Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Jarrett Boykin -- and one running back (Eddie Lacy). Nelson has moved from the outside and will line mostly in the slot. Boykin has replaced Randall Cobb, who is on the short-term injured-reserve list and is eligible to return.
The offensive line lost its best player when T Bryan Bulaga had a season-ending injury in training camp. His replacement, David Bakhtiari, has started every snap and performed better than expected. LG Josh Sitton has been their best lineman, but RT Don Barclay has given up eight sacks. He will be matched against OLB Jason Worilds, who leads the Steelers with seven sacks.
When the Steelers have the ball:
The Packers have always relied on turnovers to fuel Dom Capers' defense, but they haven't been able to generate their normal amount the past two seasons. The Packers have only 18 takeaways, second fewest in the NFC, and have had problems getting off the field. That's one reason they rank 25th against the run, 22nd against the pass and 21st in points allowed.
Steelers at Packers
Game: Steelers (6-8) at Green Bay Packers (7-6-1), Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wis.
When: 4:25 p.m.
TV: KDKA. Radio: WDVE-FM (102.5), WBGG-AM (970) and the Steelers Radio Network.
Favored: No line.
Speed has been a big issue in the front seven. They have wide bodies in their three-man front with DE B.J. Raji, NT Ryan Pickett and DE Johnny Jolly, but they have trouble getting off blocks. Inside LBs A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones are not very fast and Pro Bowl OLB Clay Matthews hasn't been the same since breaking his thumb in October. Matthews is tied for the team lead with 6 1/2 sacks and three forced fumbles despite missing three games, but he was a non-factor against the Cowboys. The strength of the defense is at cornerback where Tramon Williams and Sam Shields each have three INTs and are capable of covering any wide receiver.
Keep an eye on: DE Josh Boyd
... A fifth-round draft choice from Mississippi State, Boyd played just 38 snaps in the first 13 games. But the 6-foot-3, 310-pound rookie played 31 snaps against the Cowboys and was the Packers' best defensive lineman. Boyd has been able to get off blocks and provide a pass rush for the Packers, who are tied for fifth in the league with 42 sacks.
The Steelers have won the past three regular season meetings and seven of the past nine, but the Packers won the most recent time they played -- 31-25, in Super Bowl XLV after the 2010 season. .... The Packers are coming off a 37-36 victory in Dallas in which they came back from a 23-point halftime deficit to match the largest comeback in team history. ... The Packers control their own fate in the NFC North. With victories against the Steelers and at the Chicago Bears in Week 17, they will win the NFC North Division title. ... The Packers have won 13 consecutive home games in December, the longest current streak in the league.
To win, the Packers must ...
1. Have Eddie be ready.
Lacy has rushed for more than 100 yards three times and has runs of 56 and 60 yards in the past seven games.
2. Shield(s) Brown.
No team has been able to shut down Antonio Brown, who has at least five catches and 50 yards in every game.
3. Get (field) goals from Crosby.
Mason Crosby, last in the league with a 63.6 percent conversion rate last season, has made 30 of 34 field goals this season.
To win, the Steelers must ...
1. Apply a full Nelson.
He has just 15 catches and one TD in the past four games, but he tormented the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV with nine catches, 140 yards and a TD.
2. Ring the Bell.
In two of the past four games, the Packers have allowed 232 yards rushing to the Vikings and 241 yards to the Lions.
3. Be racy with Lacy.
He has struggled in blitz protection and is responsible for 41/2 sacks -- the most by a Packers rookie in more than 20 years.