By Teresa Varley
Steelers.com The Steelers suffered a disappointing 27-24 loss to the Oakland Raiders at Heinz Field, falling to 6-6 on the season.
The Steelers led 10-6 going in to the fourth quarter when the Raiders went up 13-10. The Steelers answered, but the Raiders came right back. The Steelers answered a second time, but couldn't hold off the Raiders on their final drive, dropping their fourth-straight game.
"You know, really not a lot needs to be said in regards to how that game ended," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "I'm not going to make any excuses for it. We didn't make a play. We didn't make a play to win that football game defensively."
Tomlin was asked why the Raiders were able to throw on the defense, with Bruce Gradkowski completing 20 passes for 308 yards and three touchdowns.
"Your guess is as good as mine," said Tomlin. "We had opportunities to make plays on the ball, we didn't. We fell down, they caught the ball - we didn't."
The Steelers got a much-needed spark on special teams to open the game when Stefan Logan returned the opening kickoff 83 yards to the Raiders 19-yard line. Roethlisberger completed his first pass of the game to Santonio Holmes for five yards, but they wouldn't go any further. Rashard Mendenhall was knocked for a one-yard loss and Roethlisberger couldn't hook up with Holmes on third down. Jeff Reed got the Steelers on the board with a 33-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
Gary Russell in turn provided a spark for the Raiders on the ensuing kick, when he returned it 34 yards to the Raiders 42-yard line. Bruce Gradkowski got off to a shaky start, fumbling the first snap, but recovering for a three-yard loss. Gradkowski got it back with a three-yard completion to Justin Fargas, and Fargas took it up the middle for nine yards on third down. The Raiders went for it on fourth-and-one, with Gradkowski rolling right for a 10-yard completion to Fargas. Darren McFadden took it off left tackle for two yards, and added a seven yard gain up the middle. On third-and-one Casey Hampton stuffed McFadden for no gain. Sebastian Janikowski tied the game 3-3 with a 48-yard field goal.
It was three-and-out for the Steelers on their next drive after Mendenhall had a three-yard carry, but was wrapped up in the backfield by Tommy Kelly for a four-yard loss. On third-down Roethlisberger was unable to hit Heath Miller, with the pass going through the arms of cornerback Chris Johnson.
Gradkowski hit Johnnie Higgins for a 19-yard gain to start the Raiders next drive. Fargas went off left end, but was upended by Tyrone Carter for a four-yard loss. A delay of game penalty was tacked on for spiking the football, setting up a second-and-19. Fargas went off right end for nine yards, but on third down Nick Eason and James Farrior pressured Gradkowski, forcing him to get rid of the ball and be flagged for intentional grounding, forcing a punt.
Mendenhall got the offense fired up when he broke through the line and took it down the sideline for a 60-yard gain for a first down at the Raiders 14-yard line. Mendenhall got the call after that, going up the middle for four yards and battling for another five yards. But it stalled when Mendenhall was stopped for no gain on third down, and on fourth down Roethlisberger was unable to get the needed yard.
The defense stepped to the plate, shutting the Raiders down on their next drive and forcing a three-and-out. Shane Lechler's punt was muffed by Logan, but Ryan Mundy came up with the recovery for the Steelers.
It was all about the quick strike for the Steelers on their next drive. Roethlisberger hit Hines Ward over the middle on a perfectly placed pass for a 27-yard gain to the Raiders 34-yard line. Roethlisberger stayed in the air, finding Holmes for a 34-yard touchdown to put the Steelers back in front 10-3.
Gradkowski got the Raiders rolling with a 16-yard completion to Zach Miller. A 15-yard face mask call against Lawrence Timmons gave the Raiders the ball at the Steelers 46-yard line, but they were pushed back after a holding call. After two short gains, Gradkowski converted third-and-14 with a 22-yard completion to Higgins. The defense slammed the door shut after that, bringing Janikowski on for a 43-yard field to pull within 10-6.
Penalties hampered the Steelers on their next drive, forcing them to punt. Dan Sepulveda buried the Raiders deep at their own five-yard line after a 54-yard boomer. And the defense responded, swarming the Raiders and forcing a three-and-out.
Roethlisberger went back to work, with a 13-yard completion to Mike Wallace and hitting Holmes for 10-yards. Mewelde Moore took it off right guard for seven yards, and it was back to Wallace for a six-yard gain to the 16-yard line. After a time out the drive came to a halt when Hiram Eugene intercepted Roethlisberger in the end zone.
The Raiders took over with just 59 seconds to play and weren't able to move the ball. The Steelers got it back, but took a knee to head into halftime with a four point lead.
Oakland got the ball to start the second half, with Fargas going off left guard for two yards. Gradkowski hit Miller for 10 yards to the 38-yard line, and took it himself for a 10-yard quarterback scramble, although a holding call at the end of the play backed them up 10 yards. Gradkowski hit Chaz Schilens for 23 yards to the Steelers 39-yard line. The Raiders tried to catch the Steelers off guard with a flea-flicker, with McFadden tossing it back to Gradkowski. But they didn't bite, and LaMarr Woodley sacked Gradkowski for a 16-yard loss. The defense kept pressure on him, forcing two errant passes and a punt.
Mendenhall got the lion's share of the carries on the next series, with his number called on five straight plays. On third down Roethlisberger went to Moore, but came up one yard shy of the first down.
The defense went into attack mode, with Woodley sacking Gradkowski for a two-yard loss. Tony Stewart was hit by Woodley after a one-yard reception, and on third down William Gay brought the pressure forcing an incompletion.
Roethlisberger went back to the air for a seven-yard completion to Holmes and two short carries by Mendenhall moved the chains. Roethlisberger hit Holmes again for five yards and found Ward for a 14-yard completion. After two Mendenhall carries, Roethlisberger was sacked for a nine-yard loss. Reed came on for a 53-yard field goal attempt, but it went wide left.
The Raiders took over with excellent field position at their own 43-yard line. Fargas had two short runs and on third-and-seven Gradkowski hit Miller for a six-yard gain. The Raiders went for it again on fourth down, with Gradkowski converting on a two-yard carry. Fargas went up the middle for seven yards and Gradkowski scrambled for a first down with an eight-yard carry. Gradkowski hit Higgins for five yards and McFadden took a pitch for a six-yard gain. Gradkowski let it fly then, hitting Schilens for a 17-yard touchdown to take a 13-10 lead.
It didn't take long for the Steelers to come storming back. Roethlisberger aired it out to Holmes, who caught it at the 39-yard line, and after a tackle-saving block by Wallace took it to the three-yard line for a 57-yard gain. Mendenhall battled his way into the end zone for a three-yard touchdown, to put the Steelers back in the lead 17-13.
As quick as the Steelers got on the board, the Raiders answered. Gradkowski went deep, hitting an open Louis Murphy in stride and went down the sideline for a 75-yard touchdown, to put the Raiders back on top 20-17.
In a game that suddenly became a shoot-out, Roethlisberger was the one firing, hitting Miller for 27 yards. Roethlisberger went to Holmes for a 20-yard gain to the Raiders 21-yard line. Roethlisberger took it himself for an eight yard gain and first down. Roethlisberger then hit a wide-open Ward for an 11-yard touchdown and a 24-20 lead.
The Raiders took over with 1:48 remaining on the clock, and fought back with a stunning 10-play, 88-yard drive that culminated in an 11-yard touchdown pass to Murphy for a 27-24 win.