Through more than 56 minutes on Sunday, the Packers showed perseverance, maturity, playmaking ability, and mostly sound fundamentals.
The last four minutes were more challenging.
The record books will confirm that Green Bay lost its fifth game in their last six played Sunday at Pittsburgh, 23-19. What the final score will not indicate are the strides made by a young team trying to find their way in an unforgiving NFL.
After throwing touchdown passes to Romeo Doubs and Jayden Reed, first-year starting quarterback Jordan Love threw a pair of passes intended for Christian Watson, both of which were intercepted, thwarting Green Bay’s comeback attempt.
The first pick was authored by veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson, who tip-drilled Love’s pass to safety Keanu Heal in the end zone with 3:20 remaining.
Trailing 23-19 with 0:03 remaining, Love’s end zone heave toward the goal line was intercepted by Damontae Kazee, sealing the win for Pittsburgh.
Still, though, the Packers never lost their fight, even taking the lead in the third quarter after an Anders Carlson field goal, making the score 19-17.
But an earlier blocked PAT attempt in the second quarter loomed large, with the Packers unable to simply try to tie the game at the end of regulation after Pittsburgh got a pair of field goals from Chris Boswell late in the third quarter and with 5:14 left to play.
“You see how close we are, a play here or a play there,” Packers running back Aaron Jones told reporters after the game. “I feel like we just keep pushing at it. If we keep putting in the work, it’ll go in our favor.”
Jones himself would like to have one key play back that hurt Green Bay’s cause. After catching a Love pass with :51 remaining in the game, instead of attempting get out of bounds and stopping the clock, with no timeouts left, Jones tried to gain positive yardage, resulting in about 20 precious seconds coming off the clock.
All in all, Love showed poise, solid footwork, better decision-making, and showed glimpses of what he could become.
He completed 21 of 40 for 289 yards and two touchdowns, but his two late interceptions cost him and the team, despite the Packers outgaining the Steelers by 75 yards.
“We’ve got to score a touchdown right there,” Love said of the late drives. “But I think we did some really good things, and there’s obviously a lot more to clean up. But I definitely like the direction we’re heading as an offense.”
Pittsburgh 6-3 has now won nine straight wins when the game is decided by one-score games dating back to last season. All six of their wins this season have come by eight points or fewer.
Green Bay (3-6) welcomes in the Los Angeles Chargers for a noon kickoff this coming Sunday at Lambeau Field.