Late FG keys win; Steelers now at 5-4



Steelers' record: 5-4 **One year ago: 6-3 Series record (including playoffs): Raiders lead, 15-13

Once upon a time, Steelers-Raiders was as good as the National Football League had to offer. Even though the teams weren't in the same division at any point in their respective histories, there was no matchup in football that was fueled by such hatred and at the same time had such a direct impact on Lombardi trophies through the 1970s. Even though these teams met for only the 28th time today at Heinz Field, the Steelers and Raiders played 10 times during the six seasons spanning 1972-77. Five of those 10 meetings came in the playoffs, and three of those five playoff games were AFC Championship games, with the winner of each of those three games going on to win the Super Bowl.

The Steelers and Raiders split those 10 games during the 1970s, 5-5; the Steelers were 3-2 in the playoff games; and 2-1 in the conference championship games.

For Coach Mike Tomlin, the basis for the Steelers' plan to defeat the Raiders today was simple and clear-cut: "Take care of the football. We've lost the last two games, and we haven't taken care of the ball. When Ben was down – particularly in the games when we were successful – we made a conscious effort to take care of the ball even at the expense of being dynamic offensively, or even being interesting. We can't be afraid to punt it. If we take care of the football, that's usually a good recipe for us."

The Pittsburgh Steelers hosted the Oakland Raiders at Heinz Field in Week 9.

During the two-game losing streak the Steelers carried with them into Heinz Field as they were to face the Raiders they had turned the ball over six times. The Chiefs had seven points off turnovers in their 23-13 victory in Kansas City, and the Bengals had 10 points off turnovers last weekend in their 16-10 victory.

The Steelers turned the ball over twice – once on an interception of a Ben Roethlisberger pass by cornerback David Amerson, and once when Antonio Brown lost a fumble on his only punt return that was recovered by linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong.

While the turnovers against the Bengals were converted into 10 points, the Steelers defense mitigated the damage today against the Raiders. Two plays after Amerson's interception, Mike Mitchell hit running back Latavius Murray to force a fumble that Jarvis Jones recovered at the Steelers 25-yard line. On Brown's fumble that was recovered by Armstrong at the Pittsburgh 39-yard line, the Raiders actually moved to a first down at the Steelers 11-yard line. But on a third-and-10 from that spot, Derek Carr's pass for tight end Clive Walford in the end zone was intercepted by Ross Cockrell and returned out to the 24-yard line.

Also a factor against the Raiders as far as turnover ratio was the fact the Steelers were plus-2 on the day, after intercepting Carr once and recovering three of the Raiders' five fumbles.

There were two – one that made it a close game after the Steelers had staked themselves to a 35-21 lead with 12 minutes remaining in the game, and then another that allowed the Steelers to pull out a victory without having to go into overtime without Ben Roethlisberger.

The first came with 7:51 left in the game and the ball on the Oakland 43-yard line. Getting sacked by Aldon Smith as he was trying to convert a third-and-10, Ben Roethlisberger had his foot get caught underneath him, and he had to be helped off the field. That served to suck the air out of Heinz Field and handcuff the Steelers offense, and by the time the game had ended he already was having an MRI on the foot.

The next came on a third-and-2 from the 28-yard line with 55 seconds left in a game that was tied at the time, 35-35. Landry Jones, filling in for Roethlisberger, threw a short pass over the middle to Brown, who took the ball and turned it into a 57-yard play that gave the Steelers a first down at the Oakland 15-yard line. Three plays later, Chris Boswell's 18-yard field goal provided the deciding points in that 38-35 victory.

Following the 16-10 loss to the Bengals in which many observers believed a Steelers defense that limited Andy Dalton to 213 net yards passing, held the Bengals under 100 yards rushing as a team, allowed only one touchdown, and had two interceptions had played well enough to win, Cam Heyward disagreed. His postgame assessment was that the defense needed to do more. It needed one more stop, it needed to make one more big play, it needed one more takeaway.

Based on that, it wasn't surprising to hear him assess the defense harshly after it allowed five touchdowns – including four on passes from Derek Carr – plus 440 total net yards, plus 3-of-4 red zone penetrations to be converted into touchdowns, all the while almost blowing what was a 14-point lead with 12 minutes left to play.

"We played like crap on defense," said Heyward. "The offense put up way too many points for us, and our special teams did more. To get to where we want to get to, you need to play a lot better on defense. I'm critical of myself. I'm critical of our defense. We have to play better … They ran it, they threw it. You name it, they did it. We have to get a lot better. Quick."

After a training camp and preseason in which he had to fight to convince the coaching staff he deserved a roster spot, Landry Jones has made one start and relieved Mike Vick in one game and Ben Roethlisberger in another. Jones has completed 28-of-47 (59.6 percent) for 456 yards, with three touchdowns, two interceptions, and a passer rating of 95.7. By comparison, Roethlisberger's passer rating for 2015 currently stands at 92.2.

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