Raiders take Steelers’ momentum away
OAKLAND, Calif. – Blown assignments on the opening play of the game put the Pittsburgh Steelers in a hole.
Shaun Suisham’s first two missed field goals of the season and a couple of late interceptions by Ben Roethlisberger prevented them from climbing out of it.
Pittsburgh never fully recovered after allowing a record-setting 93-yard run by Terrelle Pryor on the opening play from scrimmage and lost 21-18 to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.
Instead of building on the momentum from back-to-back wins, the Steelers (2-5) made some of the same mistakes that doomed them during an 0-4 start to the season.
“It hurts,” Roethlisberger said. “We felt like we were doing some good things and we were getting better. Today we just weren’t there in all phases. We didn’t block well enough, we didn’t pass well enough, we didn’t catch well enough. We just weren’t good enough.”
Pryor’s run was the longest TD run for a quarterback and Darren McFadden added two touchdown runs for the Raiders (3-4), who had lost their previous 10 games coming out of the bye week before beating the Steelers.
Oakland built a 21-3 lead, but then had to hang on for the win.
The Steelers took advantage by a fumble from Jacoby Ford to get in the end zone on a 9-yard pass to Emmanuel Sanders early in the fourth quarter.
Le’Veon Bell’s 2-yard TD run followed by a 2-point conversion run by Sanders cut Oakland’s lead to 21-18 with 1:24 remaining.
But Oakland recovered the onside kick, leaving the Steelers to lament the two fourth quarter interceptions by Roethlisberger and missed field goals of 34 and 32 yards by Suisham.
“It’s no secret the impact my missed field goals had on the game,” Suisham said. “We would have won the game if we made my field goals. It’s a tough one to swallow; no choice but to do it. I should have been better today and we lost because of it.”
The Raiders got the win despite generating no offense in the second half, gaining one first down and 35 yards of offense in the final 30 minutes.
But a defense that sacked Roethlisberger five times and forced two second-half turnovers did enough to give the Raiders their third home win in as many games with Pryor as the starter this season.
“We are becoming a football team,” safety Charles Woodson said. “I think we have some good players that have been assembled on this team, and we’re learning how to play together. We’re learning each other and what each other’s strengths and weaknesses are. We’re just making some plays out there.”
Pryor was far from his best after the first play, completing 10 of 19 passes for 88 yards and two interceptions. He did have his second 100-yard rushing game of the season, finishing with 106 yards on nine carries highlighted by the long run on the first play when linebacker LaMarr Woodley and safety Ryan Clark bit on the fake to McFadden.
“You have to understand the beast that’s playing quarterback,” Clark said. “You have to understand what he brings to the game and that that’s a part of their game and that they can do that. Once a guy like that gets in front of the whole defense, he’s a legit 4.4. It’s real. It just looks slow because he’s 6-6 but he was moving.”
The Steelers gained just 35 yards on the ground, allowing Oakland’s defense to tee off on Roethlisberger. He withstood the pressure to complete 29 of 45 passes for 275 yards but it wasn’t enough.
Pryor set the tone on the first play from scrimmage when he kept the ball on a read-option when the Steelers crashed on McFadden and used a strong block by Rod Streater on Troy Polamalu to sprint the length of the field for the longest run ever by a Raider.
“I was very surprised, because it’s never open like that,” Pryor said. “Very surprised. But with the game plan, the way they put things together, it doesn’t surprise me that sometimes it may happen like that.”
Oakland dominated the half as Pittsburgh gained 3 fewer yards in the opening two quarters than Pryor had on that one play to open the game.
The Raiders took advantage of a short field after a deflected punt by Rashad Jennings to make it 14-0 on McFadden’s first touchdown run. McFadden’s keeper from 4 yards from the wildcat formation in the closing minutes made it 21-3.
The Raiders survived a pair of interceptions in the half by Pryor, including a late one on a pass that hit receiver Brice Butler in the hands. Pittsburgh failed to capitalize on that gift when Suisham was wide right on a 34-yard field goal attempt in the closing seconds for his first miss of the season.
Suisham missed to the right again after a more than 9-minute drive to open the third quarter.
Game notes: The Steelers lost three offensive linemen to injuries: LG Ramon Foster (concussion), backup LG Guy Whimper (left knee), RG David DeCastro (right ankle). … The previous long TD run for a QB was an 80-yarder by Kordell Stewart for Pittsburgh against Carolina in 1996.