What Were They Thinking?!?

Jim Wexell asked that question more than once Sunday during the Steelers' nailbiting win over the Green Bay Packers.

From the notebook of a sportswriter who couldn't help but ask one question throughout the Steelers' 38-31 win at Green Bay:

* What are they thinking!?!

* It goes like this: What the heck were you thinking when Antonio Brown broke Yancey Thigpen's franchise record for receiving yardage?

* I was thinking that I haven't heard Thigpen's name mentioned this many times since he dropped a game-winning touchdown pass in my only trip to Green Bay.

* I know it was Christmastime, too, because a big, fat Santa stood on top of the highest snow bank in town and mooned the team bus as it was pulling into the stadium.

* Butt seriously, what were the Steelers thinking as the first quarter of their two-week parlay of needs went off perfectly when Buffalo beat Miami and New York beat Cleveland?

* "I haven't even checked my cell phone yet," Lawrence Timmons told our Dale Lolley.

* "Guys were whispering here and there," added Ramon Foster.

* What was Le'Veon Bell thinking when Eddie Lacy, the man with whom comparisons are inevitable because of last draft day, was running through the Steelers like they were the Notre Dame Fighting Irish?

* "He is a great player," said Bell. "I wanted to go out there and play at his level or better."

* After Lacy and the Packers forged a 7-0 lead, Bell ran five times for 36 yards on the Steelers' seven-play tying touchdown drive. Bell didn't get the ball on first-and-goal from the GB 1 as the Bruce Arians fans had to be smirking over the empty set pass play.

* But when Todd Haley calls an empty set on first-and-goal from the 1, there aren't the normal cascade of disasters that used to accompany the old offense. Easy touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders.

* What was left tackle Kelvin Beachum thinking when he allowed Clay Matthews to rush virtually untouched to sack Ben Roethlisberger on third-and-nine?

* The only guess is that Bell was supposed to help in the backfield but he instead went out for a pass.

* Beachum's opponents were quiet the rest of the game as the thinking continues that maybe the Steelers don't need to tap into that rich vein of first-round left tackles this coming draft.

* What was Cortez Allen thinking when he was missing tackles in the first half like he was back in London?

* Cortez is a man of actions and not words, as we found out on his interception return for a touchdown.

* What was the Twitter-verse thinking when Mike Tomlin went into halftime with a timeout in his pocket?

* "Idiot!" was listed on 47 ballots, followed closely by "Moron!" on 43. The remainder of the ballots cannot be listed at this time and in this space, but few echoed my ballot of, "Had to save the timeout to ensure the field goal."

* What was Steelers Nation thinking when punter Mat McBriar dropped out of formation to throw a pass on fourth-and-2 from his own 44?

* "No, no, no -- YES!" after the ball settled into David Paulson's hands for a 30-yard gain.

* But what was McBriar, an Aussie who hadn't thrown a pass that's counted in the last 10 years, thinking? That this is nuts?

* "A few weeks back maybe I was thinking 'This could be nuts,' but as you get more comfortable with something you are not used to doing I felt better and better about it."

* What was Roethlisberger thinking when, on the next play, he ran 13 yards untouched into the end zone for a 17-14 lead?

* "I saw the goal line and I was thinking of diving, but I thought about how muddy and nasty the field was and kicked it in a little bit and made sure I didn't get tackled."

* Seriously, where's Roethlisberger and who's the guy in the clean uniform who's impersonating him?

* But what was Bell thinking late in the third quarter when he fumbled for the first time in his NFL career on his own one-yard line?

* The picture of him sitting alone and forlorn on the bench with his head down was worth 10,000 of my words.

* Still, the Steelers held the Packers to a field-goal attempt, which Steve McLendon blocked. Ryan Clark picked it up and actually lateraled it. What the heck was he thinking?!?

* Apparently, no one asked.

* Sigh.

* OK, so why did the official give possession back to Green Bay after Ziggy Hood batted the bouncing ball after Clark clearly had possession?

* "It's human error," said Clark, probably ready to use that had he been asked about his un-wise lateral attempt.

* Why didn't the official review the play to check for possession?

* "Possession in the field is not a challenge-able aspect of the replay," said referee Carl Cheffers.

* Why in the world is possession in the field not a challenge-able aspect?

* "Replay can't get involved," said Twitter-verse rules aficionado Mike Pereira.

* Again, WHY NOT?

* The pool reporter did not ask Cheffers.

* Double sigh.

* The Packers took advantage of the officiating gaffe to take a 21-17 lead. After which, the Steelers ripped off 14 points in the next 3:42. Were the Steelers honked off?

* "I'm not going to speak for them," said Tomlin. "I was angry."

* As they do, most everyone in Pittsburgh was thinking "Fire Todd Haley!" after Roethlisberger's interception with a 10-point lead on the final play of the third quarter put the Packers back in the game. But it looked -- and sounded ("Alert! Alert!") -- like Roethlisberger audibled out of a called run play.

* With linebackers Vince Williams, Stevenson Sylvester and Chris Carter playing alongside other youngsters who tried but couldn't hold the 10-point lead, old man Brett Keisel stepped up to sack Matt Flynn on first down and then recovered a fumble on third down to give his team the ball at the GB 17. Was Keisel thinking this could be his last hurrah at the end of a glorious career?

* "It was awesome," Keisel said. "It'll be a game I can tell my kids about and be happy about."

* At the GB 10 with 1:35 left, and the Packers still hanging on to a timeout, the Steelers lined up for a field goal, which would've given them a scant three-point lead. But the Packers jumped offside to give the Steelers a first down. What must Packers coach Mike McCarthy have been thinking?

* Well, his answer wasn't on the quote sheet, but after watching his team make just as many silly mistakes as any other losing team on any given Sunday, he probably just shrugged, because even the winners get lambasted around the clock in this message board era of fandom.

* On the other side of the field, a TV camera caught Tomlin high-fiving GM Kevin Colbert on the sideline after the penalty.Tomlin was probably thinking he could both score a touchdown and run out clock so as not to use his defense. Colbert was probably thinking about a way to keep LaMarr Woodley.

* Bell ran four yards to the GB 1 when it became obvious to the Packers that the only way to stay in this game was to let the Steelers score. Everyone, it appeared, got the message except defensive tackle Josh Boyd, who was the only Packer to attempt to make the tackle.

* Most Steelers fans wished he had. It would've knocked the clock to under a minute. What was Tomlin thinking when he didn't take a knee or two instead of scoring so quickly?

* "I'm not into that," Tomlin said.

* Simple and pure, but it's not going to sit well with Steelers fans.

* I'm thinking they'll get over it. After all, it's Christmas and they're alive.

* And so are the Steelers.


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