The Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers meet just once every four years.
For Aaron Rodgers, though, the gap between facing the Steelers was even longer.
Rodgers and the Packers defeated Pittsburgh, 31-25, in the 45th Super Bowl on Feb. 6, 2011. When the teams met again, though, in both 2013 and 2017, Rodgers was sidelined with a broken collarbone.
After 10 years and nearly eight full months, Rodgers was under center when the Packers met the Steelers Sunday. And Green Bay’s quarterback made the most of his rare opportunity to play against Pittsburgh.
Rodgers threw two touchdown passes, ran for a third and led the Packers to a 27-17 win.
Green Bay improved to 3-1 and leads the NFC North by one game over Chicago. Pittsburgh fell to 1-3.
Here’s the good, bad and ugly from Green Bay’s victory.
RANDALL COBB: The 31-year-old Cobb had a ‘Turn Back The Clock’ afternoon.
Cobb’s snaps increased with Marquez Valdes-Scantling (hamstring) out. And Cobb made the most of it.
Cobb caught five passes for 69 yards and two touchdowns. Cobb entered Sunday’s game with four catches for 58 yards and no touchdowns in his first three games.
The Packers sent an undisclosed draft pick to Houston in late-July for Cobb because quarterback Aaron Rodgers wanted one of his good friends back on the team. Cobb signed with Dallas in free agency in March, 2019, after spending his first eight seasons in Green Bay.
“Obviously without Aaron, I don’t think we would probably be pursuing that,” Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said after trading for Cobb. “But he’s still a really good player. This is a very important thing for Aaron and that’s why we did it.”
Cobb’s presence was certainly an important thing for Green Bay’s offense Sunday. Whether this was an aberration or the norm remains to be seen.
MASON CROSBY: The finest kicker in franchise history added another chapter to his brilliant story.
Crosby made his 24th straight field goal, which set a new franchise record. Crosby held the previous record, too, with 23 straight field goals.
Just one week earlier, Crosby made a 51-yard field goal as time expired that lifted the Packers to a 30-28 win over San Francisco.
RUN GAME: Green Bay entered the weekend ranked 30th in the NFL with just 79.7 rushing yards per game. On Sunday, though, the Packers rushed for 131 yards on 33 carries.
A.J. Dillon finished the day with 81 yards on 15 carries, while Aaron Jones had 15 carries for 48 yards.
“I feel like it does take a little while to get going,” Jones said last week about the run game. “I feel like we’re just getting into the groove of it and everybody’s just getting comfortable and we’ll be good in it.”
ALUMNI WEEKEND: Once a year, the Packers hold an ‘Alumni Weekend’ where they welcome back former players. In addition to the usual festivities this year, the Packers recognized the 25th anniversary of their 1996 Super Bowl championship team.
The loudest ovation came at halftime, when Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre was introduced. Favre won his second of three straight MVP awards in 1996 and led Green Bay to a 35-21 win over New England in the Super Bowl that season.
THIS AND THAT: Kingsley Keke had his first sack of the season, one in which he forced a fumble from Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Green Bay nose tackle Kenny Clark recovered. … Packers rookie cornerback Eric Stokes had his first career interception. … Roethlisberger threw the 400th touchdown pass of his career. Only seven other players in league history have hit that milestone.
AARON JONES: Green Bay’s Pro Bowl running back had seven fumbles in 692 career carries prior to this season. But Jones has put the ball on the ground the last two weeks, and his third quarter fumble Sunday was recovered by Pittsburgh and gave the Steelers a glimmer of hope.
Jones also fumbled early in the second half of Green Bay’s eventual loss to Tampa Bay in the 2020 NFC Championship and the Buccaneers recovered. Tampa Bay quickly scored that night, took a 28-10 lead and eventually toppled the Packers, 31-26.
For the most part, Jones has been sure-handed since arriving in 2017. But the Packers must get Jones back on track as soon as possible.
INJURIES: Left tackle David Bakhtiari is out until at least Week 7 with an ACL injury. Left guard turned left tackle Elgton Jenkins missed his second straight game with an ankle injury.
Outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith underwent back surgery earlier this week and might be done for the year. And Pro Bowl cornerback Jaire Alexander left the game with a shoulder injury.
These are without question four of Green Bay’s top-10 players.
The Packers are surviving without them for now. But getting some of those players back will be crucial, as Green Bay now has four of its next five games on the road.