Week 12 Preview: Packers Face Near Certain Destruction in Pittsburgh

In his Wednesday press conference, Mike McCarthy told the assembled reporters “You cannot advance to where you want to go without adversity.”

Even if that statement is little more than a truism, the Packers certainly have faced plenty of adversity this season. Beyond losing the greatest quarterback in the known universe, the defense has been beset by injuries, as has the offensive line for much of the season.

The team’s most significant offseason addition quit on the team, only to resurface with the NFL’s equivalent of the Galactic Empire. The Packers’ most promising rookie sustained what looks like a season ending injury, only to show up in the headlines again due to an arrest.

Typically, a litany of adverse conditions would be followed by a “but.” “But for all this,” one would typically say, “the Packers still have hope.”

Except there is no hope. There’s no reason to think any of this will change. There’s no reason to hope Brett Hundley is going to suddenly rid himself of the habits that have doomed the offense, much like there’s no reason to hope the Packers will suddenly find a way to rush the passer and lock down opposing receivers. There’s just no reason to think anything is going to get better.

It’s true that the Packers will have to go through adversity to get where they want to go. But it’s also true that where they want to go is farther away than most would publicly admit and the adversity is also likely to last for quite some time.

Five Things to Think About During Sunday’s Game

1 - It’s been awhile since the Packers won in Pittsburgh. Nearly 40 years, in fact. The last time Green Bay beat the Steelers on the road, Bart Starr and Terry Bradshaw were the starting quarterbacks. The Packers won 20-12 on December 6, 1970 behind a fourth quarter touchdown pass from Starr to John Hilton.

2 - The Packers’ defense has done a good job at stopping opposing offenses on third down late in games. Green Bay ranks third in the league on third down in the fourth quarter or overtime, behind only the Saints and Vikings. The Steelers rank fourth.

3 - Aaron Rodgers has missed each of the past two games against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The last game Rodgers played against the Steelers was Super Bowl XLV in 2011.

4 - Two of the Packers’ three coordinators have held the same position with the Steelers. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers held the post in Pittsburgh from 1992 through 1994, while special teams coordinator Ron Zook was the Steelers’ special teams coordinator from 1996 through 1998.

5 - While the focus has been on the injuries on the offensive side, the defense has had to play without their starting unit for most of the year. The Packers defense has used 312 different lineup combinations so far this season, the third-most of any defense in the league.

Who Could Be an X-Factor This Week?

Jon says Quinton Dial

Kenny Clark’s gruesome (but thankfully not-too-serious) ankle injury was a serious blow to the Packers’ defensive line. Normally, that would be bad, but with the Packers facing the best running back in the league on Sunday, it’s a near-catastrophe. The Packers need someone to step up and match Clark’s interior push, and the best candidate right now is Quinton Dial. The Packers will need a big game from Dial if there’s to be any hope of containing Le’veon Bell.

Gary says Brett Hundley

I tried my best to think of someone who may be able to make an impact on this game, and I think Jon’s suggestion of Dial is a worthy one. However, I’ll state the obvious and take Hundley. How will the quarterback handle the adversity of being dragged through the mud by fans, bloggers and reporters? Hundley’s college years were spent at UCLA, a national program where he certainly faced scrutiny, too. It will be fascinating to see how Hundley responds after a dud last week.

What Happened the Last Time the Packers and Steelers Played?

Like the Ravens, the Steelers are also a very uncommon opponent for the Packers. This will be just the seventh time since 1990 the two teams have met, not counting Super Bowl XLV, and much like the last time these teams met, the Steelers won’t be getting the Packers at their best.

Green Bay last played Pittsburgh in December of 2013, when the Steelers traveled to Lambeau field to meet the Packers, playing without Aaron Rodgers due to a broken collarbone.

Even without Rodgers, though, the Week 16 contest turned into a very winnable game for the Packers. The defense forced two turnovers while the offense outgained Pittsburgh through the air and held a more than seven minute edge in time of possession.

But the Packers did themselves in. Starting in place of Rodgers, Matt Flynn threw a pick-six and lost a fumble deep in Packers territory, gift-wrapping the Steelers what would turn out to be the game-winning touchdown. Pittsburgh prevailed that day 38-31.

Who’s Going to Win on Sunday?

Jon says the Steelers will win handily.

The Steelers have an elite defense and perhaps the best receiver and running back in the game today. There’s little reason to pontificate about this game at length: Pittsburgh should dominate and probably will. The only question is how bad of a blowout the national TV audience will see.

Gary says the Steelers by three scores.

Please don’t go back and read my prediction of the game from last week. Don’t do it. Okay, so I was way off last week. I think I’ve come back down to earth on the Packers after an artificial high of sweeping the Bears. Green Bay doesn’t have enough talent healthy to hang with the Steelers. This game, much like the Ravens game last week, may be a lot closer than the final score.

For Further Listening

This week on Blue 58, it’s all about quarterbacks, specifically how the Packers ended up all but wasting another season due to inadequate backup quarterback play. Who’s to blame? Practically everyone.