... against the No. 2 defense in the league, Ben Roethlisberger had the 10th-most productive passing game in NFL history in leading the Steelers to a 37-36 win over the Green Bay Packers.
What happened between those games?
“I have no idea,” said Roethlisberger. “It’s a crazy league. It really is.”
It’s a crazy season, too. Roethlisberger’s roller coaster ride has put the Steelers back in playoff position by throwing for 503 yards and a 19-yard touchdown to Mike Wallace with zeroes on the clock.
The extra point sent the Steelers home improbable come-from-behind winners after the zaniest game of a zany season.
“It’s amazing how one play can change everything,” Roethlisberger said. “If that last play’s incomplete, everyone’s down and we probably have the worst Christmas ever. But because that play was a touchdown, it’s a different ball game.”
The Steelers blew a 10-point lead; that much was predictable, or as predictable as regaining the lead, which they did with 3:58 remaining. Back to the unpredictable, the Steelers attempted an onside kick, which failed, and the Packers re-took the lead.
Roethlisberger and the Steelers took over at their own 14 with 2:01 remaining.
Roethlisberger overcame a sack with a 37-yard pass to Santonio Holmes on 4th-and-7; and then he overcame a holding penalty, and an interception on the following play, with the help of a defensive penalty. Heath Miller bailed out the team with a tough catch on 3rd-and-15 near the sideline.
“The guys were coming back to the huddle worn out, but nobody quit. Nobody,” Roethlisberger said. “Everybody believed we could do it.”
From the Green Bay 19, Roethlisberger threw high to Wallace at the 4, but Wallace was supposed to continue the route into the end zone, and Roethlisberger chewed the rookie out.
Then he went back to him two plays later. With three seconds left, Roethlisberger took the snap and looked for Santonio Holmes to his right, then Rashard Mendenhall, then Heath Miller, then Hines Ward. All were covered. That left Wallace, and he made the catch and dragged his feet for the game-winner.
The 19-yard play put Roethlisberger into the 500-yard club with nine other players. The record is 554 set by Norm Van Brocklin in 1951.
Roethlisberger completed 29 of 46 for 503 yards.
“We needed all 503,” he said.
He wasn’t intercepted and threw touchdown passes of 60 yards to Wallace on the Steelers’ first play, 10 yards to Mewelde Moore, and 19 yards to Wallace on the last play.
Roethlisberger joked that “we could’ve had 600” yards if not for several drops.
Had the Steelers not pulled the game out, Roethlisberger certainly wouldn’t have been in a joking mood because the Steelers were down to their last strike. But the catcher dropped the foul tip. And because Wallace was able to drag his feet the way Holmes did in ending the last great Roethlisberger drive, the Steelers have life.
“It was big,” Roethlisberger said. “And it’s big to win it that way. Of course it’d be nice to blow a team out, but to win it like that shows a lot of heart and it opens up something inside all of us that says this team never quits, it never backs down, and fights to the end.”