RAIDERS 34, STEELERS 31Steelers' record: 1-2One year ago: 2-1Series record (including playoffs): Raiders lead, 14-12STORYLINEThe last time these teams played at this venue, it was 2006, the Steelers were the defending Super Bowl champions and the Raiders were a one-win outfit. But four interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns, helped the Raiders post a 20-13 victory that was a low point in the Steelers finishing 8-8 and missing the playoffs. This game seemed to carry the same theme – that to win, the Raiders would need help from the Steelers.Since Coach Mike Tomlin was the defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings in 2006, he could plead ignorance to what happened the last time, but his perspective on the game sounded like it could have applied to the Steelers' last trip here."The issues start with us, first and foremost," said Tomlin. "It starts with our game readiness and preparation, and the myriad of things that go along with that. The challenge is facing the Raiders who are thirsty for a win, and they are ready to do so in front of their home fans, which always creates an extremely hostile environment for visitors, particularly us, given the history there."TURNING POINTWith 4:26 left in the first half, the Raiders had 75 yards of net offense – 64 of that came on Darren McFadden's run – and were 0-for-4 on third downs. That's when Jonathan Dwyer fumbled, and the Raiders took advantage to score the tying touchdown. After dominating, the Steelers ended up with only a 17-14 halftime lead.STAT THAT STANDS OUTBy the end of the first half, Ben Roethlisberger had completed passes to 10 different receivers. It was the second straight week that Roethlisberger completed passes to 10 different receivers.WHAT WENT RIGHTOn the first offensive play of the game, QB Carson Palmer tried to go down the seam to WR Denarius Moore, but Moore fell down on the infield dirt when he tried to plant to stop for the ball. The ball sailed past Moore, and Ryan Clark made a diving interception that he returned 26 yards to the Oakland 36-yard line. It was the Steelers' first interception of the season.Three plays after Clark's interception, the Steelers faced a fourth-and-1, and Ben Roethlisberger quickly lined up the unit over the ball. In the past, Roethlisberger has simply tried to draw the defense offside, but this time he called a play at the line – and he got the ball to a slanting Mike Wallace for a 20-yard gain. Three plays later, Roethlisberger hit Heath Miller for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.On the Raiders' second series, on a third-and-long, LaMarr Woodley easily beat his man and sacked Carson Palmer to force the Raiders to punt from their own end zone.A third-and-5 turned into a punting situation for the Raiders when an attempt to get Darren McFadden outside first was strung out by OLB Jason Worilds and then Ike Taylor came up to make the tackle in the backfield.WHAT WENT WRONGThree plays after the Steelers took that 7-0 lead, a defensive breakdown led to the second-longest touchdown run of Darren McFadden's career. The Raiders got McFadden past the line of scrimmage and between the Steelers inside linebackers, and then he made a move to get past Ryan Mundy and it became a race to the goal line. McFadden won the race, and it was a 64-yard touchdown that tied the game, 7-7.The Steelers' third offensive possession was ruined by penalties. Ramon Foster was flagged for a false start on second-and-10, and then when Willie Colon was flagged for holding on the next play it was a second-and-25. The Steelers would punt on fourth down.Antonio Brown was the deep man on punts, and early in the second quarter he returned one 73 yards for a touchdown. But the play was nullified by two penalties on the Steelers – one for an illegal block in the back and one for holding while the ball was in the air. Referee David White did not identify the guilty party on either of those two penalties. A third-and-4 became a third-and-9 after a delay of game penalty, and then on third-and-9, a 22-yard catch by Heath Miller was overturned on a replay challenge.The Raiders were going to need some help to stay in this game, and the Steelers provided a bunch late in the first half. First, it was Jonathan Dwyer losing a fumble that CB Joselio Hanson recovered at the Pittsburgh 30-yard line. Then on a fourth-and-2 from the 6-yard line, Brett Keisel was flagged for being in the neutral zone, which gave the Raiders a first-and-goal at the 3-yard line. Darrius Heyward-Bey then caught the touchdown pass that tied the game at 14-14.After the Steelers scored on a Roethlisberger pass to Mike Wallace to open the second half and extend their lead to 24-14, Mike Goodson returned the ensuing kickoff 51 yards to jump-start an Oakland possession that ended in a short touchdown pass to Richard Gordon and a 24-21 score.The Steelers defense was unable to do anything to stop the Raiders from the start of the second half through the middle of the fourth quarter. Oakland had three offensive possessions during that span and the offense put up two touchdowns and a field goal to forge a 31-31 tie.On the first offensive play following the Oakland field goal that tied the game, Willie Colon was flagged for holding to set up a first-and-20. The Steelers helped the Raiders by committing 10 penalties and being minus-1 in turnover ratio for the game.EARLY BYE WEEK: GOOD OR BAD?The NFL first went to the concept of a regular season bye week in 1990. For the 1993 season, each team had two bye weeks, and then there also was the era of 31 teams (1999-01) where somebody was off every weekend. In 2000, the Steelers played an opener and then had a bye, and then in both 2001 and 2002 their byes were scheduled before the end of September.The Steelers' bye this season comes on Sept. 30, following three games, two of which were on the road. Typically, players will admit to preferring the off week fall somewhere around the middle of the season, but there usually is good to be found in it whenever it hits the schedule.This Steelers' bye possibly helps them get some injured players back onto the field. Troy Polamalu (calf), James Harrison (knee), Rashard Mendenhall (knee), and Stevenson Sylvester (knee) have combined for just one appearance so far this season (that by Polamalu in the opener).Mendenhall continues to be a full participant in practice and has had no setbacks, and Sylvester got himself back onto the field last week for the first time since having the arthroscopic procedure on his knee back when the team was still in Latrobe.
Sep 23, 2012 at 01:46 PM
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