Green Bay (1-7) is off to its worst start since 1986 and fell further behind the NFC North Division-leading Chicago Bears, who topped the New Orleans Saints to improve to 5-3. The Steelers (6-2) are the third AFC North team to beat the Packers this season and remain on top of the division with the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Packers, who turned the ball over five times to the Bengals a week earlier in a 21-14 loss last Sunday, fumbled the ball away twice to Pittsburgh, including one that was returned for a touchdown. Brett Favre also was intercepted late in the fourth quarter, and the Steelers capitalized on Duce Staley's three-yard touchdown run for the final score.
"There are things out there today that we did very well, and there are things that we didn't do very well," said Packers coach Mike Sherman. "Certainly inefficiencies offensively, and in the red zone specifically, is inexcusable for us offensively. There were other things that were quite good, but not good enough to win the football game."
The Packers finished a game with three or more turnovers for the fourth time this season, all losses. Green Bay also had two turnovers in losses to Cleveland and Carolina. Pittsburgh cashed in on each Packers turnover to silence the crowd of 70,607, including a pass that went off the hands of the normally sure-handed Donald Driver and to safety Tyrone Carter with 8:11 left in the game at Green Bay's 20-yard line.
"I didn't see (the ball) until the last minute," said Driver, "and me being the person I am, I stuck my hand up there and tried to catch it. (The ball) just came off off of them. I put this one on me and if I make that one, we win the game."
The Steelers scored four plays later when Staley slipped away from linebacker Nick Barnett for his first touchdown of the season.
Staley, who hadn't played this season after undergoing knee surgery Aug. 8, stepped in for the injured Willie Parker and finished with 76 yards rushing on 15 carries. All but eight of Staley's rushing total was in the second half. Parker injured his left ankle in the third quarter and did not return.
Like the Packers, the Steelers were playing with a scaled-down offense. Starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (knee) and running back Jerome Bettis (thigh) were both sidelined. Backup quarterback Charlie Batch, starting his first game in four years, was held to 65 yards passing and was intercepted once, but the Steelers were able to rush for 154 yards against a normally stingy Packers run defense.
Green Bay, as has been the case many times this season, finished with more total yards (268), but turnovers and penalties again were too much to overcome. The Packers had eight penalties marched off against them for 74 yards.
"We continue to turn the ball over, we continue to have penalties and we're not making any plays," said tackle Mark Tauscher. "When you mix those up, you don't have a lot of success."
After Staley's touchdown, the Packers took the ensuing kickoff and moved to Pittsburgh's 30, but elected to try for a first-down on fourth-and-four instead of attempting a field goal. Favre, who appeared to have room to run for a first down after scrambling to find a receiver, threw incomplete in the end zone to tight end Bubba Franks.
"I didn't feel like we could make it at that point," said Sherman about not electing to attempt a field goal. "I did not feel the confidence level that it was a makeable field goal. Going into the game, wind was such that it wasn't all all (a factor) and then the wind changed a little bit to our advantage, but still didn't feel like it was makeable at that distance."
It would have been a 48-yard attempt for Ryan Longwell, who missed from 31 yards earlier in the game into the same end zone.
"By no means was 49 yards into that wind in range (for us)," Longwell said. "I know we should have made the kick (we missed). We had a great first field goal. We're not as consistent as we've been over the years, but we'll just keep swinging away. Hopefully we get some good breaks."
Antonio Chatman's career-best 36-yard punt return to Pittsburgh's 35 with 3:09 remaining gave the Packers some hope. But Favre threw incomplete three straight times, including a pass that landed in the turf in front of wide receiver Andrae Thurman with 2:23 left.
The Packers inched their way to the 31 with 2:42 left, but Sherman again declined to attempt a field goal for the same reasons as on the previous series.
All Pittsburgh had to do from that point was take a knee to seal the win.
The Packers were forced to scratch starting running back Tony Fisher from the starting lineup when an MRI, taken on Friday, revealed a fractured rib. Rashard Lee started in place of Fisher, but was pulled after he fumbled the ball away on his second carry of the game. Gado, promoted to the active roster on Oct. 29 from the practice squad, took over for Lee and finished with 62 yards on 26 carries. Gado, a rookie out of Liberty, was on Kansas City's practice squad earlier this season before getting released. He was signed by the Packers on Oct. 17.
Gado scored his first NFL touchdown on a one-yard run to highlight a 12-play, 65-yard drive that consummed the first 7:34 of the third quarter. Favre's 13-yard pass to Chatman to the Steelers' 21 helped keep the drive alive.
The Packers had two golden opportunities to score in the first half and came away with no points.
The Packers drove from their own 8 yard line to Pittburgh's 13, using 9 minutes, 30 seconds late in the second quarter, but Longwell's 31-yard field goal attempt was wide right with 27 seconds left in the quarter. It was Longwell's fourth miss in 11 attempts this season and first miss inside 40 yards this season.
Green Bay was within two yards of Pittsburgh's goal line early in the second quarter and in position to take the lead when the Steelers used a 14-point swing to take a 13-3 lead. After two straight false start penalties moved Green Bay to the 12, blitzing cornerback Bryant McFadden forced Favre to fumble. The loose ball was picked up by safety Troy Polamalu, who got a key block from McFadden, en route to a 77-yard return for a touchdown.
Kicker Jeff Reed made field goals from 32 and 24 yards to give the Steelers a 6-0 lead midway through the first quarter. Antwaan Randle El's 43-yard run off a reverse on the first play of the game set up Reed's first field goal.
Lee fumbled the ball away on his second carry of the game, and the Steelers recovered on the Packers' 44. A 26-yard pass interference penalty on safety Marviel Underwood against wide receiver Quincy Morgan gave Pittsburgh a first down at the 16.
Like Pittsburgh's first drive, Green Bay's defense tightened up and forced the Steelers to attempt a field goal when running back Verron Haynes was stopped a yard short of a first down at the Packers' 7.
Longwell's 40-yard field goal with a minute left in the first quarter closed the Packers to 6-3.