PITTSBURGH – Ben Roethlisberger throws to the corner of the end zone, the receiver barely gets his feet down inbounds for a remarkable touchdown. Ten months after winning the Super Bowl with just such an improbable play, the Pittsburgh Steelers possibly saved their season with a nearly identical one.
Roethlisberger ended the game the way he started it, by throwing a touchdown pass to Mike Wallace, a desperation 19-yarder on the final play that rallied Pittsburgh to a 37-36 victory over Green Bay on Sunday that ended the Packers’ five-game winning streak and the Steelers’ five-game losing streak.
“The way the game ended was incredible, especially that last play,” center Justin Hartwig said, comparing the play to Roethlisberger’s 6-yard pass to Santonio Holmes that beat Arizona for the NFL title last season. “It was obviously pretty reminiscent of the Super Bowl.”
The Packers (9-5) stalled in their playoff run as they couldn’t hold leads of 28-27 and 36-30 in a frantic fourth quarter that was much like Oakland’s 27-23 win in Pittsburgh two weeks ago, when the lead changed hand five times in the final nine minutes. Green Bay could have secured a playoff spot with its first win in Pittsburgh since 1970 and a Giants loss or tie on Monday night but, instead, Minnesota clinched the NFC North with the Packers’ loss.
Roethlisberger went 29 of 46 with three TDs and 503 yards passing while becoming the first Steelers quarterback to throw for 500 yards in a game. He kept the Steelers’ decisive 86-yard drive going by finding Santonio Holmes for 32 yards on a fourth-and-7 play and Heath Miller for 30 on third-and-15.
Down to his last play, Roethlisberger found Wallace open in the left front corner of the end zone with Josh Bell in coverage. Wallace managed to keep both feet in on a play upheld by replay, and Jeff Reed – who also kicked three field goals – added the extra point.
Roethlisberger broke the team record of 473 yards by Tommy Maddox during a 34-all tie against Atlanta in 2002. His yardage is a league season high; Philadelphia’s Donovan McNabb threw for 450 against San Diego on Nov. 15.
“The guys were coming back to the huddle worn out, linemen, receivers, everybody,” Roethlisberger said. “We didn’t quit. Everybody believed we could do it.”
Including Wallace, who made no other catches except for his touchdowns.
“It was kind of hard to run,” Wallace said. “But that’s just Ben. That’s all I can say. That’s just Ben.”