Maggie's Pre-Game Six Pack - 2021 Week 4

Records for Crosby, first quarter struggles, and more in this week's Six Pack. 

This Week 4 matchup for the Packers features an uncommon opponent in the Pittsburgh Steelers. Thought of as AFC contenders to start the season, the Steelers are on a downward trajectory looking for a bounceback win on Sunday. Here are six things to keep in mind before kickoff at 3:25 p.m. CT. 

1. A QB Battle for the Ages

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers hasn’t faced off against the Steelers since Super Bowl XLV on Feb. 6, 2011. In the last two matchups between the Packers and Steelers in 2013 and 2017, Rodgers was on injured reserve with a broken collarbone. Interestingly enough, Sunday’s game between Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Rodgers is the longest span between games for Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks. It will have been 10 years and 239 days since the two quarterbacks last faced off. Also of note, the Steelers are the last team Rodgers has left to play at Lambeau Field (outside of the Packers, of course). 

2. Offensive First Quarters 

Heading into Sunday’s matchup, the Steelers offense hasn’t scored a touchdown on an opening drive in 13 games. You’d have to go all the way back to Week 7 of the 2020 season against the Tennessee Titans to find a touchdown on the team’s first offensive possession. The Steelers haven’t even scored points in the first quarter of a game since Week 12 of the 2020 season against the Ravens, and those points came off an interception returned for a touchdown. With the Steelers offense ranked 28th in the NFL and averaging only 16.7 points per game, this is a troubling sign for Pittsburgh. What’s more, first-round running back Najee Harris has been hit at or behind the line of scrimmage more than any other running back through three weeks, with the Steelers only averaging 53 rushing yards per game. The Packers defense is still allowing a 100% success rate in the red zone, though, with opposing offenses scoring touchdowns on 10 of 10 trips. This game might come down to which unit can get things going first. 

3. Coaching Connections 

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry have quite the history. The two coaches worked together on the Buccaneers coaching staff in the early 2000s, with Tomlin the defensive backs coach and Barry the linebackers coach. Both coaches were part of Tampa’s Super Bowl XXXVI win. While Barry has bounced around the league serving a number of roles on coaching staffs, Tomlin has been the head coach of the Steelers since 2007, and Pittsburgh has yet to have a losing season in that timespan. As head coach, Tomlin won Super Bowl XLIII with the Steelers before losing, of course, to Mike McCarthy’s Packers in XLV. 

4. Battles in the North

The NFC North is facing off against the AFC North for the first time since 2017. Interestingly enough, the Packers play the AFC North in two chunks, with the Steelers and Bengals going back-to-back in Weeks 4 and 5 before the Ravens and Browns in back-to-back weeks this December in Weeks 15 and 16. So far, the AFC North is leading the NFC North 3-1 (Bengals beat the Vikings, Browns beat the Bears, Ravens beat the Lions, Bears beat the Bengals). The Browns and Vikings will also face off in Week 4, with that game resolving before the Packers and Steelers matchup kicks off. Per the dope sheet, Matt LaFleur is 6-2 against AFC opponents with the Packers, and his .750 winning percentage ranks first in the NFL from 2019-present. 

5. Crosby Closing In On History

I wrote about this in Week 2’s Six Pack, but it’s too significant to not mention again. With kicker Mason Crosby’s three field goals on Sunday Night Football, he’s getting even closer to eclipsing his own franchise record. Crosby currently sits at 22 made field goals, the second-longest streak in team history. His longest streak of 23 field goals came during the 2010-11 seasons. The Steelers have the sixth best red zone defense in the NFL, so it’s likely Crosby will get at least one attempt at a field goal on Sunday. How fitting, as one of only two players remaining from the Super Bowl XLV team, that a new record may be set eclipsing a record that’s stood since his Super Bowl season. 

6. Second Coming of the Steel Curtain?

While Pro Football Focus isn’t the all-encompassing measurement for NFL talent, the grades do help illustrate dominant performers. Both edge rusher TJ Watt and defensive lineman Cam Heyward rank first in the NFL at their respective positions, boasting elite grades. Watt has three sacks already on the season and is back practicing this week after sitting out of Week 3 with a groin injury. With Elgton Jenkins still limited in practice, it’s possible Yosh Nijman will get the start once again at left tackle. The young offensive line held up well against the 49ers, allowing only one sack, but Rodgers will still need to get the ball out quickly. Both Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon are on the injury report for Green Bay, and while both are expected to play, look for the offense to funnel through Davante Adams and the rest of the receivers against the Steelers secondary. 

 

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Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV and podcaster for the Pack-A-Day Podcast and Pack's What She Said. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieJLoney.

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Comments (4)

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Lphill's picture

October 01, 2021 at 08:24 am

This is a game the Packers should win and it shouldn’t be close .

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Johnblood27's picture

October 01, 2021 at 08:31 am

Careful there...

Those are the games that they usually play down to their opponents and give us all 4th quarter angina.

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jont's picture

October 01, 2021 at 12:32 pm

My shortness of breath comes from much time tending the smoker. Smoked pork belly is worth it.
That aside, this would be a trap game except for GB's uneven start to this season. The coaches and players know they're just now starting to look like Packers so they must see this game as another prove-it sort of game, the Sunday when they put it all together. With Cinncinati the following week, there's no 'bigger game' coming up to distract them. They should be focused and win by 2-3 scores.

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PatrickGB's picture

October 01, 2021 at 10:16 am

I was pleased to see that the Packers offense used combo blocks against the Niners. My guess is that they expected the usual zone blocking from our offensive line. The game plan also included shorter, quick passes as well as running the ball. This opened up some opportunities for Rodgers to hit chunk plays. While the zone blocking scheme is the teams bread and butter it was nice to see some jam at the LOS. I expect (and hope) that Matt also has a plan to frustrate the Steelers rush this game as well. If we can do that with our young line then the game will go better for the team.

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