The Pittsburgh Steelers dropped to 1-2 on the season after suffering a 34-31 defeat at the hands of the Oakland Raiders. Pittsburgh’s offense was clicking thanks to its wide open passing game, however the hapless defensive performance allowed the Raiders to score on their final five drives to score the game’s final 13 points. Oakland’s only lead came as the final gun sounded when Sebastian Janikowski booted a 43-yard field goal to overtake the Steelers.
Ben Roethlisberger looked magnificent with 36 completions in 49 attempts with 384 yards, 4 touchdowns, and no turnovers. Unfortunately, the running game wasn’t even pedestrian, it was simply nonexistent. The O-line opened no holes, and the running backs never broke tackles to advance the offense. The Raiders may not have been able to contain the passing game, but they did force four fumbles, three of which could be attributed to Steeler receivers (Antonio Brown – 2, Mike Wallace – 1) being stripped. The two fumbles that Pittsburgh lost were drive killers that changed the wave of momentum back in favor of the Silver and Black.
Pittsburgh’s defense was on the sidelines much of the first half. However, as turnovers altered the flow of the game and field position, the Blitzburgh defense looked more like Swiss cheese. Darren McFadden was able to find plenty of running room today on 18 runs and 113 rushing yards and a 64-yard touchdown run. The fleet Oakland wide receivers were often found in open space between linebackers and defensive backs. Ike Taylor played pretty solid cover skills, but the other DBs (Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen, Ryan Mundy, among others) exhibited awful coverage.
The outcome of the game may seem to be of paramount importance, however the health of Oakland wide receiver, Darrius Heyward-Bey is far more significant, given the vicious hit that he suffered at the hands of Steeler strong safety, Ryan Mundy. Carson Palmer threw a post pattern in the endzone early in the 4th quarter for Heyward-Bey, who nearly caught the ball. He was then pushed by Mundy, which was followed by an unintentional helmet-to-face mask contact that appeared to immediately knock Heyward-Bey unconscious. After 12 minutes of laying nearly motionless in the endzone, Heyward-Bey was carted off the field. He could be seen opening his eyes and speaking to the medical personnel. Then, the moment of relief came as he gave a thumbs up to the home Oakland crowd. Heyward-Bey was taken to a local hospital with a neck injury.
You Win Some, You Lose Some
Ben Roethlisberger and the entire passing game – Pittsburgh takes advantage of matchups, finds open receivers, and the entire passing game looks unstoppable. The wealth is being spread to everyone. Heath Miller is a key cog in the Steeler passing game. He has been an under-utilized threat for years. At least Todd Haley is showcasing Miller’s full repertoire.
The O-line pass blocking – It was tremendous to see Roethlisberger working in and out of the pocket and stay relatively clean all day. I expected Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly to tee off on Pittsburgh’s interior linemen, but was pleasantly surprised to see Ben have an opportunity to make plays.
Bye Week – The hope is that Troy Polamalu, James Harrison, and Rashard Mendenhall will all be able to return to the lineup following the bye week against the Eagles. Maybe that will yield a resurgence to a once proud defense and ground game.
Ball Security – Steeler ballcarriers fumbled the ball on four occasions. Perhaps they need to hire James Caan and make each fumbler carry the ball around “campus” a la Omar Epps (a reference the movie, The Program).
O-Line run blocking – Oakland had been porous in its first two contests against the run. The Steelers took advantage of this by gaining 54 yards on 20 carries. Ugh.
Pass Rush – One sack….just one sack on a less than mobile quarterback like Carson Palmer is unacceptable. Dick LeBeau dialed up pressure, likely in order to counteract the secondary deficiencies. But, only LaMarr Woodley reached Palmer, and that was in the first half on a twist blitz.
Third Down Defense – Pittsburgh had several opportunities to get off the field and allowed Carson Palmer to look like Palmer circa 2004. In the second half, Oakland was 7 for 8 on third down. That’s not winning football during “winning time.”
About the Author
Written by Rob Stroup
I grew up in western Pennsylvania, so I have followed the Pittsburgh sports teams (Steelers, Penguins, Pirates) since the womb. It has become a tradition to make the yearly trek to a Steelers and Penguins game each year despite the distance. I hope to make writing a profession because I thoroughly enjoy attempting to paint a picture with words.