Packers Won't Have 'Fire' In Blizzard

Matt Flynn (Pennington/Getty Images)

Just as the Green Bay Packers shovel out for the Steelers, they're struck by news of missing QB Aaron Rodgers, but not another blizzard.

Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy thought he got into a time warp of sorts before realizing he wasn't playing Super Bowl 45 all over again.

"It's kind of unique to play Dallas in Dallas in the building that you won the Super Bowl in, and then to play the Steelers the following week," said McCarthy, the Greenfield native.

"It really didn't hit me until this week," he said. "It felt good. It felt good to drive back into the stadium, no doubt about it."

McCarthy was asked if the roads in Texas were icy.

"The weather wasn't great," he said with a chuckle. "It was bad for Dallas, but it was nothing like when we were all down there. That's for sure. But it's like that up here, so get ready."

"Up here," in Green Bay, Wisconsin, a heavy winter storm is expected to hit Saturday night and leave up to six inches of snow by Sunday night. In the middle of it all, the Steelers and Packers will be trying to keep flickering playoff hopes alive.

The Packers will be affected by the snow as much, if not more, than the Steelers, who've played their last three games in either snow or freezing weather. And also because the Packers will be without their blow-torch -- quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

"I have played some good quarterbacks," said Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor. "But that day, that Super Bowl day, he was on fire."

Rodgers, of course, quarterbacked the Packers to a 31-25 win over the Steelers in Super Bowl 45, a game the Steelers' secondary will never forget.

Rodgers completed 24 of 39 passes for 304 yards and threw three touchdown passes without being intercepted.

"I had played Aaron Rodgers a few times," Taylor said. "But just that game, man, he was on fire 'cause guys were covering, and regardless of how close you were, the ball was getting into the receiver's hands."

The Steelers won't have to worry about that late Sunday afternoon -- unless Matt Flynn has a career day.

Rodgers was injured in the Packers' eighth game this season. On the first drive against the Chicago Bears, Rodgers broke his collarbone. The Packers were 5-2 at the time.

Right now, they're 7-6-1, but they can thank Flynn for guiding them to one-point wins over Atlanta and Dallas the last two weeks.

Seneca Wallace and Scott Tolzein initially replaced Rodgers as the Packers went 0-3-1 before turning to Flynn on Thanksgiving Day.

Flynn had entered the league in 2008 with the Packers, but left for Seattle in free agency in 2012 and was traded to Oakland the following year. But he was released, signed with Buffalo in October this year, and was released before returning to the Packers.

On Thanksgiving Day, he and the Packers were trounced 40-10 by the Detroit Lions, but since then Flynn's completed 50 of 71 passes for 557 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions in the two one-point wins.

The scouting report on Flynn?

"Shows good poise in the pocket. Smart. Will run when he needs to. Just a good overall football player," said Steelers defensive tackle Al Woods, who was a member of the LSU team that Flynn guided to a national championship in 2007.

At his disposal, Flynn will have the two receivers who caught more of Rodgers' passes in Super Bowl 45 than anyone else -- Jordy Nelson and James Jones. They combined to catch 14 passes for 190 yards that day in early 2011. Nelson did the most damage (9-140-1) and remains the Packers' top receiver with 72 catches for 1,107 yards and eight touchdowns. Jones has a receiving line this season of 44-692-3.

What the Packers didn't have in the Super Bowl was a back with the power-running skills of Eddie Lacy, the rookie from Alabama over whom the Steelers passed in favor of Le'Veon Bell with pick 48.

The Packers took Lacy with pick 61 and he's rushed for 1,028 yards (4.1 avg.) and eight touchdowns.

Bell, who missed the first three games of the season with a foot injury, has rushed for 646 yards (3.3) and six touchdowns, but has 43 receptions compared to Lacy's 31. That, and Lacy's history of injuries ("I had surgery on my left hand. I had the toe fusion and the torn pectoral, and a hamstring that I did training for the combine.") were behind the Steelers' decision.

"It was an easy decision for me," said Mike Tomlin, who cited Bell's "versatility that he's displayed here but also at Michigan State.

"Obviously Lacy is a top-quality back and rightfully so. He was a great back at Alabama. Obviously, he is over 1,000 yards and is proving his worth in Green Bay. Probably it's just a matter of preference."

Even with Rodgers missing all but one series of the last seven games, the Packers remain the No. 4 offense in the NFL thanks to a balanced unit that ranks seventh in both passing and running.

Defensively, the Packers rank 21st in points allowed and 26th in yardage allowed.

The Packers also seem to have balance on defense, but not in a good way. Their 25th-ranked run defense allows 123 yards per game and 4.6 yards per carry, and their 22nd-ranked pass defense allows quarterbacks an average passer rating of 96.0.

It all adds up for the Steelers, who at 6-8 are still alive mathematically but who need to finish 8-8 with Baltimore, Miami and the New York Jets, as long as San Diego loses one or two of its remaining games.

It's a long shot, but it helps that the Packers won't have their blow torch working on the tundra.

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