Up next for the Oakland Raiders was a visit from the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers were coming off a 19-16 win over the Baltimore Ravens and the Raiders were coming off a bye week. Oakland return man Taiwan Jones ran the opening kickoff out from four yards deep and was brought down at the 18-yard line. But a holding call moved them back to the seven-yard line. That’s not the way to start off a game. But things got a little better on the next play. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor faked to running back Darren McFadden and the offensive line opened up a huge hole for Pryor to run through. He took off and left everyone in the dust for a 93-yard touchdown. The Oakland faithful were going insane. Kicker Sebastian Janikowski made the point after and the Raiders led 7-0 with 14:41 to go in the first quarter.
Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger led the offense on to the field and three plays netted exactly one yard. Punter Zoltan Mesko got off a high kick that was fielded by return man/wide receiver Jacoby Ford at the Oakland 34. He returned it to the 48 and fumbled. Luckily for him the ball went out of bounds. We will be discussing the many misfortunes of Mr. Ford later in this article. On third and two from the Pittsburgh 44, Pryor fired a pass directly at rookie wide receiver Brice Butler and he dropped it. That brought punter Marquette King into the game and his punt rolled into the end zone. The Steelers went nowhere again and this time, running back Rashad Jennings partially blocked the punt to set the Raiders up with great field position at the Pittsburgh 26.
On third and ten from the 26, Pryor hit wide receiver Denarius Moore for a gain of 14 yards. On first down from the 12, McFadden took a direct snap and ran up the left side for seven yards. McFadden got the call on the next play and took it right up the middle for a touchdown. Janikowksi made the point after and the Raiders led 14-0 with 7:28 to go in the first quarter.
The Raider defense continued to play well and forced yet another punt. However, the Steelers would be getting the ball back pretty quickly due to Pryor throwing an errant pass that was picked off by safety Troy Polamalu. Starting at the Oakland 48, Roethlisberger found wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery for a gain of 11 yards. From the 37, linebacker Sio Moore made his presence known and he sacked Roethlisberger for a loss of seven. They would get as far as the 29 and the drive stalled there. Kicker Shaun Suisham came on and made his 47-yard field goal attempt. That made it 14-3 with 14:14 to go in the second quarter.
The Raiders managed to get a few first downs on their next drive, but were forced to punt. The Steelers followed suit and Mesko got off another high one. I can recall a time when I was excited to see Jacoby Ford returning kicks. With his breakaway speed, he’s very dangerous. Unfortunately, he looked like the right fielder from the Bad News Bears as he tried to field this punt. He misjudged it, the ball bounced off of him and there was a mad scramble for it. Luckily the Raiders came up with the ball and started from their 28-yard line. On second and ten, Pryor found wide receiver Rod Streater for a gain of 12. McFadden rumbled up the left side for a gain of 19 yards and the Raiders were in Pittsburgh territory. Jennings and fullback Marcel Reece got a couple of carries and that gave them a first down at the 30. Pryor found Streater again for a gain of 16. A scramble by Pryor and a run by McFadden made it first and goal at the four-yard line. On second and goal, McFadden went up the middle again and got his second touchdown of the game. Janikowski made the point after and the Raiders had a 21-3 lead with 1:55 to go in the second quarter.
The Raider defense held the Steelers to a three and out and they punted again. Mesko didn’t get off a very good punt and the Raiders had the ball at the Pittsburgh 46. On first down, Pryor looked for Butler and the pass hit him right in the hands. That’s usually a good place to hit a receiver, right? Not this time. The ball bounced up and was picked off by cornerback Cortez Allen. That gave the Steelers another chance to put some points on the board with one minute to go. Roethlisberger connected with wide receiver Antonio Brown for a gain of 21 and running back Felix Jones for 11 more. Another completion to Jones moved them to the 16 with time running out. Suisham was brought in for a 34-yard field goal attempt and his kick never had a chance. It was wide right and the teams headed to the locker room. The Raiders were looking good with a 21-3 lead.
Now, I’d like to tell you about how the Raiders came out in the second half and dominated the game. I’d like to say that they won this game going away by a score of 42-10. Well, that didn’t happen. They ran a grand total of 22 plays and gained exactly 41 yards. It was worse than the second half of the game at Kansas City two weeks ago.
But, the Steelers actually managed to get things together in the second half. Starting at their 20, the Steelers went to work. On third and 17 from the 13, Roethlisberger escaped the pass rush and fired a bullet up the right side to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders for a gain of 18 and a first down at the 31. A couple of carries by running back Jonathan Dwyer got them another first down at the 42. A nine-yard pass to Brown and a facemask penalty on the Raiders gave them a first down at the Oakland 36. An eight-yard run by rookie running back Le’Veon Bell and a short run by Brown kept the chains moving. Another catch and run by Bell moved the ball to the 15. The Raider defense stiffened and the drive stalled at the 15. Suisham came on again to try a 33-yard field goal and it was wide right again. The Steelers took over nine minutes off the clock and had nothing to show for it. The score remained 21-3 with 5:49 to go in the third quarter.
The Raiders punted and then the Steelers punted. This time Mesko got off a great punt that rolled down the field and stopped just short of the goal line. Raider head coach Dennis Allen challenged that the ball touched the goal line, but replay showed it never did. That was one incredible punt. An 18-yard pass to Moore got the Raiders out of trouble, but they would only get as far as their 30. King punted and the Steelers started at their 31. From the 34, Roethlisberger put up a deep sideline pass intended for Sanders and it was picked off by cornerback Mike Jenkins at the Oakland 16. But the fun was just beginning for the Raiders. On second and 11 from the 15, our good friend Jacoby Ford made another appearance. Pryor threw a screen pass to him and as he tried to head up-field, he was hit by several Steelers and the ball came loose. It was recovered at the 11 by defensive end Brett Keisel. From the 11, Roethlisberger found tight end Heath Miller in the end zone. But the play was reversed as replay showed Miller didn’t complete the catch. But, on third and eight, Roethlisberger scrambled out of trouble and tossed a pass to Sanders for a touchdown. Suisham made the point after and that made it 21-10 with 12:11 remaining in the game.
All the Raiders needed to do was control the clock for a while. They didn’t even need to score. Just keep the chains moving and the clock ticking. That is a recipe for success. That didn’t happen. They ran three plays, took 1:30 off the clock and gave the Steelers the ball back at their 40-yard line. On second and 12 from the 38, the Raider defense brought some pressure up the middle and Roethlisberger was sacked by defensive tackle Vance Walker for a loss of three yards. Roethlisberger looked for Brown on third and long and the pass fell incomplete. Mesko punted and the Raiders took over at the 20.
On third and eight from the 22, Pryor was sacked by Polamalu and King got off a nice 58-yard punt. Brown fielded it at the Pittsburgh 25 and returned it 44 yards to the Oakland 31. On third and three from the 24, Roethlisberger threw to Brown and the pass was tipped up into the air. Cornerback Tracy Porter got his hands on it before it touched the ground and made a great interception. The Raiders had dodged another bullet. Three plays got them five yards and they took 2:12 off the clock before King had to punt again. Brown fielded it at the Pittsburgh 20 and was thrown for a loss of three yards. With 83 yards and 4:22 to go, the Steelers brought out their no huddle offense. Completions to Cotchery, Sanders and Brown quickly moved them to the Oakland 40. Another pass to Brown and a short run by Bell made it first down at the 30. Roethlisberger was sacked for a loss of six by defensive tackle Daniel Muir. But, that was just a minor distraction for the Steelers. Completions to Miller, Bell and Cotchery got them a first and goal at the four. Roethlisberger looked for Cotchery in the end zone, but the pressure was getting to him and he heaved up a wounded duck that was picked off by safety Brandian Ross. That’s when a yellow flag made an appearance. Ross was called for defensive holding and the Steelers now had the ball at the two. Next, Bell went untouched into the end zone and that made it 21-16. Obviously, the next move was to go for two and Sanders ran up the right side for a successful two-point conversion.
Things were getting pretty interesting now and I was going out of my mind. The Raiders led 21-18 with 1:24 to go in the game. Next was an onside kickoff attempt that was covered at the Pittsburgh 46 by the Raiders. All they had to do was get a first down and this game was over. But the anemic offense couldn’t get a first down. They were forced to punt and King’s punt was a beauty that was downed at the three. With no timeouts and 18 seconds on the clock, Roethlisberger connected with Sanders across the middle for a gain of 33. That was the last play of the game and the Raiders barely held on to win 21-18. The win improved the Raiders to 3-4 and the Steelers dropped to 2-5.
For the Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger completed 29 of 45 for 275 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Antonio Brown led the Steelers in receptions with nine and Emmanuel Sanders had the most receiving yards with 88 and a touchdown. On the ground, the Steelers had a hard time. Le’Veon Bell led the team with 24 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown. All totaled, the Steelers had 35 yards on 19 carries and their longest carry went for eight yards. Defensively, safety Ryan Clark led the team in solo tackles with nine.
For the Raiders, Terrelle Pryor completed 10 of 19 for 88 yards and two interceptions. He also led the team in rushing with 106 yards. 93 of those yards came on one carry. Rod Streater led the team in receptions with four and receiving yards with 45. Darren McFadden carried the ball 24 times for 73 yards and two touchdowns. All totaled, the Raiders racked up 197 yards on 38 carries. Defensively, rookie linebacker Sio Moore led the team in solo tackles with five and sacks with two.
Well, as a Raider fan, I am glad they won. But that was U-G-L-Y!!! The play calling in the second half was terrible and I was having flashbacks to the days when Jon Gruden coached the Raiders. Granted, I liked Gruden, but when he’d get a double digit lead, he’d sit on it. All of the imaginative play calling was thrown out the window. Basically, it is known as the “prevent offense.” They’re very fortunate Suisham missed those field goals and that the defense sacked Roethlisberger five times and picked him off twice. Up next for the Raiders is a visit from the Philadelphia Eagles. They had a horrible time against the Giants yesterday and haven’t been playing very well. Until then, take it easy.
The Raider Guy