Raiders hold off Steelers in front of packed crowd
As the Oakland Raiders hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers, there were no shortage of rivalry moments to be relived. During the 70s, each team played each other with enough tenacity to develop criminal records.
Quarterback Terrelle Pryor, though, had a different type of record in mind: a 93-yard touchdown run, the longest by a quarterback run in NFL history.
Pryor’s run was the first of three Oakland scores, as the Raiders (3-4) ran past the Steelers (2-5) by a final score of 21-18 in front of 52,250 at the O.co Coliseum.
The Raiders showed little meekness Sunday, sacking Ben Roethlisberger five times and blocking a Steelers field goal while causing kicker Shaun Suisham to miss another two.
As expected, the ground and pound was in full effect, as the Raiders scored all three of their touchdowns while rushing. Darren McFadden had two on the day, averaging three yards per carry on 24 attempts.
On the win, Raiders’ coach Dennis Allen said:
“I thought our defense was outstanding. I thought they were outstanding all game long. A couple of times they were put in some tough situations, we turned the ball over right before the half, which can’t happen, and our defense goes right back out there and stops them.”
Compared to a very strong showing of defense and special teams coverage, the aerial element was absent for the Raiders. Terrelle Pryor was only able to complete 10 passes the entire game, totaling a mere 88 yards.
Pryor also threw two interceptions, though one was the fault of rookie receiver Brice Butler as he tipped a well-thrown pass right into the waiting hands of Steelers defensive back Cortez Allen.
Allen wasn’t pleased:
“We still gotta learn how to finish better. When you have a 21-3 lead, we all knew this is the Pittsburgh Steelers and they’re not going to throw in the towel, they’re not going to give up.”
Not surprisingly, Pittsburgh roared back in the fourth quarter, cutting the game to 21-18 on a Le’Veon Bell two-yard touchdown run and two-point conversion with 1:24 left in the game. Oakland would recover the on-side kick to seal the win.
Special teams, led by coordinator Bobby April, looked like the Raiders’ catalyst for the whole game.
The coverage units played masterfully on all but one play, a punt that Antonio Brown nearly took for a touchdown before being tackled by punter Marquette King.
After showing big time progress, Jacoby Ford muffed two punts, losing only one. Had Ford lost both, the final score may have been much different.
Oakland played a mostly conservative second half, with the offense converting only one third down in seven tries. What’s become a troubling trend within the franchise, Oakland’s offense has only managed to average just 189 yards passing over the last seven games. Pryor said:
“With the way they (the coaching staff) put things together, sometimes it happens like that. … I’m very proud of the offense, the offense line, Darren, Marcel. We had the run game going well and we didn’t really have to throw the ball in the beginning at all.”
Special teams coordinator April deserves the game ball here. Without the incredible performances on kick coverage, the post-game conversation would be much different. The tackling was on point and King showed off his leg while punting the ball eight times for 372 yards.
Comatose offense aside, the defense looks like the Raiders lifeblood. Both Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins picked off Big Ben and rookie D.J. Hayden managed to hold his ground. Hayden seems to be maturing well as a rookie and the sky is the limit for him at this pace.
The Raiders have very little money tied into the 2013 roster. After the cuts of Darrius Heyward-Bey and others, the total offensive cost is a meager $31 million. The defense cost Oakland even less, $27.2 million, and has earned every penny.
Reggie McKenzie likely won’t be able to keep key contributors for the paltry salaries they earn now, but there are several players that could return next season and help to create a playoff contender.