PITTSBURGH — Ben Roethlisberger ended the game the way he started it by throwing a touchdown pass to Mike Wallace, a desperation 19-yarder on the final play that rallied Pittsburgh to a 37-36 victory over Green Bay on Sunday, ending the Packers' five-game winning streak and the Steelers' five-game losing streak.
The Packers (9-5) stalled in their playoff run as they couldn't hold leads of 28-27 and 36-30 in a frantic fourth quarter that was much like Oakland's 27-23 win in Pittsburgh two weeks ago, when the lead changed hand five times in the final nine minutes. Green Bay could have secured a playoff spot with its first win in Pittsburgh since 1970 and a Giants loss or tie on Monday night.
Roethlisberger went 29 of 46 with three TDs and 503 yards while becoming the first Steelers quarterback to throw for 500 yards in a game. He kept the Steelers' decisive 86-yard drive going by finding Santonio Holmes for 32 yards on a fourth-and-7 play and Heath Miller for 30 on third-and-15.
Down to his last play of the game, Roethlisberger found Wallace open in the left front corner of the end zone with Josh Bell in coverage. Wallace managed to get both feet inbounds on a play upheld by replay, and Jeff Reed — who also kicked three field goals — added the extra point.
Wallace also caught a 60-yard scoring pass on Pittsburgh's first play of the game as Steelers (7-7) joined five other AFC teams tied at 7-7 in the chase for the AFC's last playoff spot — and just in the nick of time.
The Packers' loss clinched the NFC North title for the Minnesota Vikings.
The Super Bowl champion Steelers have lost five times this season when ahead or tied in the fourth quarter, only to rally to win during a final quarter that featured four lead changes and a failed Pittsburgh onside kick attempt with the Steelers ahead.
Aaron Rodgers, who finished 26 of 48 for 383 yards and three touchdown passes and ran for another, threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to James Jones on third-and-14 with 2:06 remaining after Pittsburgh gambled and failed on an onside kick. But the Steelers, beaten so many times in the final minute this season, finally found a way to win a tight one.
The Steelers outgained the Packers 537-436 in a game that matched two of the NFL's best defenses but turned into a passing duel almost from the start. Pittsburgh avoided becoming the first Super Bowl champion to lose six in a row the following season.
It was a tense and discouraging finish for Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy, a Pittsburgh native who couldn't deliver the Packers' first victory in his hometown since shortly after the Vince Lombardi era ended. The Packers are 0-4 since last winning there in 1970.
The Packers trailed 7-0, 14-7, 21-14 and 27-21 as Roethlisberger also threw a 10-yard scoring pass to Mewelde Moore late in the second quarter that made it 21-14. But the Packers went ahead for the first time at 28-27 on Ryan Grant's 24-yard touchdown run halfway through the fourth quarter. Before that, Rodgers hit Greg Jennings on an 83-yard TD pass that tied it at 7 and scooted through the Steelers' surprised defense on a 14-yard TD run that made it 14-all.
Pittsburgh later retook the lead on Reed's 43-yard field goal, his third of the game, with 3:58 remaining, but Steelers coach Mike Tomlin — aggressively trying to shake his team out of a slide that was ruining their season — called for an onside kick. If the Steelers recovered, it might have allowed them to burn significant clock time.
Instead, Ike Taylor fielded the ball before the kick bounced the required 10 yards, giving the Packers a huge break and the ball at Pittsburgh's 39-yard line. The Packers went on to score but, at the end, simply left their exhausted defense on the field one play too many.
The game was nearly devoid of running attempts — Grant ran for a team-high 37 yards for Green Bay, Rashard Mendenhall gained 38 for Pittsburgh — but featured nearly 900 yards passing.
By winning for the first time since Nov. 9 at Denver, the Steelers gave themselves a slim chance to return to the playoffs if they can beat Baltimore (8-6) at home next Sunday and Miami (7-7) on Jan. 3, though their 1-4 division record and 4-6 conference record are among the worst of the contenders.
Roethlisberger broke the team record of 473 yards by Tommy Maddox during a 34-all tie against Atlanta in 2002.