Heart is Still Ticking!: Big Ben Pulls Out a Thriller Against the Packers

Chris StaafCorrespondent IDecember 20, 2009

Today's Steelers-Packers game will forever rank as one of the best regular season games I have ever seen. Ben Roethlisberger , with 503 passing yards and one buzzer beating touchdown pass to Mike Wallace , led the Pittsburgh Steelers to a thrilling, come-from-behind victory against the Green Bay Packers 37-36.

With the Jacksonville Jaguars ' loss to the undefeated Indianapolis Colts on Thursday, the Denver Broncos ' shocking home loss to the Charlie Frye -led Oakland Raiders and the field goal misadventures of the New York Jets against the Atlanta Falcons , the Steelers' play-off hopes went from improbable to feasible.

Of course the Steelers still need a lot of help besides win the final two games against Baltimore and Miami, but after today's thriller, it does not seem as impossible as it did last night.

Some observations and critiques

1. I completely understand why Mike Tomlin went for the onside kick. The Steelers lost games at the last second to the Raiders, the Chicago Bears , and the Cincinnati Bengals because the defense could not make stops when they needed one.

First off, if Ike Taylor does not touch the ball too early like he did and recover the ball after 10 yards, then Tomlin is perceived as a gambling genius. However, the onside kick failed and the Packers got the ball in prime field position so Tomlin looked like a fool. However, it was not foolish, it was great coaching and gamesmanship.

By doing the onside kick, Tomlin did two things. One, he challenged his much-maligned defense to step up and make a stop. Two, if the defense did not make the stop, then the offense would get a reasonable amount of time to win the game. In the games against the Raiders, Bears, and Bengals, the Steeler offense got less than 30 seconds to try to win the game. Today, Roethlisberger was given two minutes and six seconds, which of course proved to be plenty of time.

2. Steeler Nation should not be blinded by this win. Bruce Arians still needs to go. While Roethlisberger had his best passing day as a pro, it still boggles my mind that Rashard Mendenhall only got 11 carries. Willie Parker , who looked fast for the first time in a long time, only got six. The Steelers did play against one of the best defenses in the league but 19 rushing attempts on 70 total plays in absurd. 

Yes, Hines Ward, Heath Miller, Santonio Holmes , and Mike Wallace (more on him later) all had great games. Although the playcalling was more imaginative today than any other time of the season, 19 rushes when you led most of the game is akin to playing with fire. Luckily the Steelers pulled it out and saved their season for at least one more week but no matter what happens this season, play-offs or not, Arians must go.

3. William Gay: the worst cornerback in the league? I can't argue with that. Gay once again was picked on often. Tyrone Carter also had some costly lapses in the secondary, as did Ryan Clark , and Ike Taylor.

Rookie Joe Burnett was given a lot of playing time today and he did not impress, which begs the question, is Keenan Lewis that bad in practice?  I will go ahead and say it: without Troy Polamalu , the Steelers have the worst secondary in the league. Whether the Steelers are in the hunt or out of it, Dick LeBeau should bench William Gay before further damage can be done.

4. Mike Wallace has arrived. Few months ago, I touted Wallace as a serious Rookie of the Year candidate. Of course two months ago, he and Rookie of the Year favorite Percy Harvin had the similar receiving numbers. Wallace since then done very little while Harvin has become one of the most exciting game breakers.

Today, Wallace flashed his deep speed on the Steelers' very first offensive play of the game and showed amazing footwork, balance, hands, and concentration on the last offensive play of the game. The common ground on those two plays?

Both went for touchdowns, including the game-winner. Wallace's performance through most of the season and today pretty much has to mean that Limas Sweed will likely not be on the team next season. If you lose a gameday spot to Tyler Gresham , that pretty much means you are finished.

 Now where do the Steelers go from here? As I mentioned before, the Steelers' play-off hopes went from improbable to feasible (if that is the correct word to use here). Of course had Baltimore dropped today's game to Chicago, it would have been better but the Steelers put themselves in this situation. Games like today can propel a team forward. Here is hoping the momentum continues against the Ravens next week.

Next game: Dec. 27 against the Baltimore Ravens @ 1PM ET