Packers’ QB situation leaves Steelers guessing
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers playing status against the Steelers this Sunday is still up in the air.
PITTSBURGH – With Green Bay’s All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers still not cleared for contact, the Steelers continued preparations for their game Sunday at Lambeau Field as if they will face Packers backup Matt Flynn.
But deep in the recesses of their minds, the Steelers (6-8) also know that it’s possible Rodgers could be cleared to return from his fractured collarbone and play for the Packers (7-6-1).
It’s a guessing game that should end today. Though Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy said Rodgers looked both “sharp and ready to play,” he has yet to get medical clearance. McCarthy said he will announce today who his starter will be Sunday.
The Steelers aren’t in a guessing mood.
“I have no idea,” said Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons when asked if he thought Rodgers would play. “Hopefully not.”
That sentiment is understandable.
In two career games against the Steelers, Rodgers has thrown for 687 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions.
Though the Steelers beat Rodgers and the Packers, 37-36, at Heinz Field on a last-second 19-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Mike Wallace in 2009, it was Rodgers who got the win over Pittsburgh on the bigger stage, leading Green Bay to a 31-25 victory in Super Bowl XLV.
Rodgers was named MVP of that game after passing for 304 yards and three touchdowns.
“He’s got the quickest release,” said Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. “He’s like (Dan) Marino the way he gets rid of the ball.
“Rodgers is very athletic. Probably his overall feel back there – he just knows where everybody is and he’s so quick with the ball – it is hard to get him.”
Though the Packers have won their last two games with Flynn at quarterback – including a stunning 37-36 win over Dallas Sunday after falling behind 26-3 at the half – they have struggled overall since Rodgers suffered a broken left collarbone in the first quarter of a Nov. 4 game against Chicago.
Including losing to the Bears after Rodgers went out, Green Bay is 2-4-1 without its Pro Bowl quarterback. Flynn, who also played for Buffalo and Oakland this season, was re-signed by Green Bay a month ago. Flynn spent the first four years of his NFL career as Rodgers’ backup.
Flynn has gotten more comfortable with each game, and last week threw four second-half touchdown passes against the Cowboys.
“I’ve looked at all their games. The plays are the same,” said LeBeau. “We’ve got to get ready for that. Obviously, Rodgers is going to make them go. But they’ve been going real well in his absence. They’re still averaging around 400 yards per game. That’s a tremendous amount of offensive output.”
Rodgers has completed 66.9 percent of his passes for 2,218 yards with 15 touchdowns and four interceptions. He has a passer rating of 108. Flynn has completed 63.8 percent of his 127 passes for 914 yards and six touchdowns with three interceptions for a rating of 91.1.
The biggest difference int he quarterbacks, in addition to the accuracy and efficiency, could be in ability to escape pressure. Rodgers has been sacked 18 times. Flynn has been sacked 14 times in his brief time as the starter.
Until Rodgers is officially declared out of the game or Flynn is named the starter, the Steelers are guessing. They know the Packers could be sandbagging, waiting until the last moment to announce Rodgers will start.
“I think he can,” Timmons said of Rodgers playing despite not taking first-team snaps in practice. “He’s been playing for so many years. The guy’s a veteran. He’s got a strong will. Anything’s possible.”
The forecast for Sunday’s game, which originally called for temperatures in single digits at game time, has changed to the possibility of 3 to 6 inches of snow. The Packers have sent notice for 650 workers to help clear Lambeau Field of snow Sunday. The pay is $10 per hour. … Defensive lineman Brett Keisel was limited at practice Thursday. Keisel has missed three of the past four games with a foot injury but said he wants to return because the final two games of this season might be the last of his career. … After sitting out Wednesday, wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, tight end Heath Miller and safety Troy Polamalu were full participants at practice.