The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Oakland Raiders defined the concept of “rivalry” in the 1970’s. From the Immaculate Reception to the “Criminal Element” their games are the stuff of legend. In the 21st century their match ups have been far less dramatic but equally significant for the Steelers.
If the Steelers-Radiers games of the current millennium haven’t carried the weight in the standings of their ‘70’s predecessors, they have served as an important bell weather for the direction of the franchise….
…And as Steelers Nation knows too well, the latest trip to Oakland’s Black Hole confirms that the Pittsburgh Steelers are a team headed in the wrong direction.
From Varsity in Jeanette to J.V. in Pittsburgh
Exactly 364 days ago the Steelers were faced with the task of stopping Robert Griffin III, one of the NFL’s most dangerous quarterbacks. The stat sheet shows that the Steelers were up to the task. The Steelers traveled to Oakland faced with a similar task, stopping double threat Jeanette native Terrelle Pryor.
- On the first play from scrimmage Darren McFadden executed a perfect play fake while Pryor burned through the entire Steelers defense for 93 yards.
It went down hill from that point on for the Steelers. The Steelers went three and out and then David Paulson missed a block allowing Junior Varsity punter Zoltan Mesko to suffer a partially blocked punt.
5 plays later, McFadden was waltzing into the end zone, and the Steelers were down 14-0, and there were still 12 minutes left to play in the first quarter.
Credit the Oakland Radiers staff for devising and excellent game plan and credit the men on the field for executing it. The Steelers were completely unprepared to defend Pryor during the first half.
- When they covered well down field Pryor took off and ran
- When the Steelers attempted to pressure him, Pryor either broke out ran or found men down field
Aside from being out executed and out coached during the first half, the Steelers also couldn’t cut a break.
- The Steelers looked to get a break with a special teams fumble recovery, but the ruling went against them.
- Ramon Foster suffered a concussion and had to be replaced by Guy Whimper
- Guy Whimper got injured and had to be replaced by Cody Wallace
- David DeCastro got injured and had to be replaced by Kelvin Beachum who was replaced by Mike Adams
Clearly the injury gods have it in for the Steelers offensive line.
An inability to create turnovers has bedeviled the Steelers all year long. The Steelers defense created three vs. the Raiders. It didn’t matter. The first turnover resulted in a field goal. The next a missed field goal.
The Steelers did manage cause and recover a fumble, yet that only brought the score to 21-10 with 12:11 left to play. Like the loss in London, the Steelers offense would put it together just enough to give Steelers Nation a tease.
- When the Steelers did things right, things still went wrong.
The Steelers defense forced a 3 and out with about 7 minutes left to play, and Antonio Brown answered with an electrifying 44 yard punt return. The Steelers had the ball at Oakland’s 31 yard line, only to see Brown fumble the ball on a pass that would have converted a 3rd and 3.
- Yet even then, the Steelers still wouldn’t go quietly into the night.
The Steelers defense forced a three and out, and the Steelers got the ball back at the 17. Ben Roethlisberger went to work. He completed passes to Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Le’Veon Bell, Jerricho Cotchery.
Yet, at 2nd and 3 at the 12, Roethlisberger burned a time out, later explaining the officials had wasted too much of the game clock deciding not to call a horse collar tackle on Bell.
Roethlisberger’s next pass was intercepted… but wait, no, the play was over turned. Le’Veon Bell scored on the next play. Emmanuel Sanders attempted to set up for a pass on the two point conversion failed, but ran it in anyway.
Sticking to the script, the Steelers failed to get the on-sides kick, yet Oakland couldn’t run out the clock. The Steelers got the ball back but again, true to form, Roethlisberger threw to Emmanuel Sanders in the middle of the field, and time expired.
More Than Just Black Hole Bad Luck
The Steelers had their share of bad luck vs. Oakland. While they did get a few calls, several more questionable ones went against them. And by game’s end they had played all eight offensive lineman dressed.
But the Steelers had their chances.
- Heath Miller’s end zone drop wasn’t a stroke of bad luck
- Shaun Suisham’s two missed field goals can’t be blamed on the officials
- The failure to adjust to Pryor’s unique skill set for an entire half didn’t come down to someone else’s judgment call
- No one pushed poor clock management at the end both halves on the Steelers
The Oakland Raiders tried with all of their might to give the game to the Steelers in the second half. Yet through the dropped passes, sacks, and bad decisions the Steelers refused to accept the offer.
And in doing so they looked every bit like an 0-4 team that’s found a way to make it 2-5.