Is the Packers' Loss to the Steelers a Blessing in the Long Run?

Matt Wells@@matt_wells16Correspondent IDecember 23, 2009

PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 20:  Mike Wallace #17 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs for a touchdown in the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers during the game on December 20, 2009 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

After a last-play loss to the already elminated Pittsburgh Steelers, the Packers are sitting at 9-5 and holding down the 5th seed in the NFC, the same place they were on Sunday morning.

While the loss was heartbreaking for Packer fans everywhere and probably did quite a bit of harm to their blood-pressure levels, let's sit back and look at what the loss does for Green Bay's playoff chances.

Entering the week, the Packers needed to win out while the Minnesota Vikings needed to lose their remaining three games to win the NFC North title, and with Minnesota playing the lowly Bears next week, those chances were extremely slim. So the wild-card is the only option.

Currently Green Bay holds the tiebreaker over Dallas, whom they are tied with at 9-5 and is holding the other wild-card spot. The Packers have games remaining vs Seattle and at Arizona. Assuming Arizona rests players as they will already have the 4th seed clinched, there are two wins, making the Pack finish at 11-5.

12-4 would still put the Packers in the same seed, with the division title out of reach and no team able to reach them for the wild-card. So the outcome of this game meant nothing really.

This is a perfect place for the Packers to find themselves in. A game against a good opponent to allow the team to see where they stand as a playoff contender. So what did we learn?

The Packers ranking as a top three defense in the NFL is an illusion, created by playing a lot of poor offensive teams. Two games against the Bears and Lions, as well as games against the Browns, Rams, 49ers will deflate yards allowed and inflate turnover ratio.

Against good teams, such as the Vikings, Bengals, Ravens, and now the Steelers, show this defense for what it is: a decent unit with ballhawking defensive backs and a front seven that can get to the quarterback.

It's a unit that can be very dominating, but needs work. The game proved that this team cannot get away with rushing three on obvious passing downs. Yes, they got penetration, but they need more.

Blitzing four gives the Pack a great chance at creating pressure, as the offensive line probably won't be able to block B.J. Raji, Cullen Jenkins, Clay Matthews, and Johnny Jolly consistently. But Ben Roethlisberger proved that three does not do the job.

However, the most important thing the Packers can take away from this game is our biggest draft need: cornerback. They can't cover without Al Harris, the best they can do is shut down half the field with Charles Woodson.

Now, Harris is 36 and coming off a torn ACL, so he might not be back. While Woodson is putting together a Defensive MVP year, he's not getting any younger.

The Packers have young corners in Tramon Williams, Jarret Bush and Josh Bell, but after Williams, there's not much talent there. This is the biggest problem that needs addressing in the draft, and the Packers were lucky to have it presented so clearly to them before draft time.

The offensive line still needs to be addressed, but is not as much of an immediate need as corner proved to be.