Ugh, that was ugly, demoralizing, humbling and many other words a person could use to describe this game. The Raiders came into this week's game on a high. And perhaps that was the problem.
After winning three straight and four out of five, they had everyone in the NFL talking about them. They had the analysts buzzing about what they could be capable of accomplishing. You can bet there won't be as much talk now. Not after a 35-3 beatdown at the hands of the Steelers.
What started out with the Raiders moving down the field for a opening drive field goal, thanks to some questionable penalties on the Steelers, soon turned into a rout. The Steelers would score 21 unanswered points in the 2nd quarter and the game was essentially over by halftime.
Much of the talk was about the Raiders getting healthy over the bye and the Steelers being riddled with injuries. But come gametime, the Raiders were still without Nnamdi Asomugha while the Steelers questionable players, Hines Ward and Troy Polamalu, both took the field. Zach Miller and Louis Murphy were back for the Raiders but they barely factored into the game-- at least not in a positive way. While the Steelers skeleton crew of offensive lineman seemed no worse for wear.
This was not the Raider team we had seen during the three game win streak. This was the team that got full of themselves after the Chargers game and went out and got burnt by the 49ers. And the big plays they made to come from behind against the Chiefs were not there to save them.
There were no heroes in this game. No valiant comeback attempt that fell just short. Just a few players that played well on an ugly day and a lot of players who maybe wish they hadn't read their own press.
I have been very critical of Houston this season. Mostly because he has been the whipping post for big runs in a lot of games. But it is nice to see him have a great game and be able to name him a Baller. He shared the top spot with the rest of the defensive line after their tremendous performance against the Seahawks in week 8. But this time he earned it all by himself. He led the team with 5 tackles. Nearly all of those tackles were quality run stuffs too. He also had one of just two sacks by the Raiders in this game. It was a big sack too because it was immediately following a Pittsburgh interception that set them in already in field goal range in the 3rd quarter. A Pittsburgh holding penalty, a run stuff for one yard by Houston, and then his sack, had the Steelers backed up 14 yards from the original line of scrimmage. They would have been better off having kicked the field goal on first down because they had to punt after that. Houston had another run stuff on the next Steeler possession for another three and out. He also didn't give up any big runs in the game through his position. Just one 8 yard run went through his gap all game. This game was a big step for him.
Sure, there may not seem like a lot to be proud of in this secondary, not everyone is at fault. By the same token, one guy can't do it all by himself. Branch was giving it his best shot though. He ended the Steelers 2nd drive with tight coverage on an incompletion for their 2nd three and out to start the game. The next possession he tackled the tightend after a short three yard catch. Then two plays later he had tight coverage again for an incompletion. Unfortunately the Raider corners were giving up huge chunks of yardage on the other plays, so his efforts were for not. The Steelers would score their first touchdown on the drive.
On the next Steeler possession, Branch came up to play the run and held the outside, forcing Rashard Mendenhall to cut his run inside where he was met by Tommy Kelly for a loss of yardage. Then, late in the 4th quarter, down 28-3, Branch forced a fumble ona a run play to give the Raiders a chance to save some pride. That too was to no avail but at least he played hard until the end despite eminant defeat.
The men in black and white stripes topped the Buster list for the Chiefs game after attempting to give the game to the guys in ketchup and mustard. And it appears they felt terrible for it because they seemed like they were trying everything in their power to keep the Raiders in this game. The Raiders were simply not taking advantage of the favorable calls. The penalty yards on the Steelers in this game was almost the same amount of total yards by the Raider offense 163 to 168. In the first half alone the Raiders had a total of 46 yards offense while the Steelers were penalized more than twice that (93). Not to say they weren't all good calls. But many of them were ticky tack and phantom. This is a refreshing and nearly unheard of sight for the Raiders to be certain. It is almost always lopsided the other way. But the fact is that the Steelers had to get out of their own way all day along with some questionable calls that are destroying the integrity of this game. And the Raiders still didn't capitalize.
Jonnie Lee Higgins
Led the team in receiving with 4 catches for 37 yards. While that isn't much, none of the Raider receivers were seeing the ball much. He was the most reliable receiver for the Raiders and two of those catches went for 26 yards on the first drive for the Raiders that led to their only points of the game.
Jeremy Ware, Chris Johnson
I can't decide who was worse between these two. Chris Johnson started the game with Nnamdi Asomugha being out and then CJ left the game with a groin injury and was replaced by an equally bad Jeremy Ware. But even before that, these two tag teamed their terrible play throughout the game.
Oddly enough, the first bad play by either of them was committed by both at the same time. They didn't block their assignments on a punt return which caused Nick Miller to get smothered for no return at the 11 yard line. Then it was CJ's turn to get things started off on defense.
The Steelers next possession would be their first scoring drive of the game and Johnson gave up the longest play on the drive. He was in tight cover but he didn't turn around to find the ball and gave up a 27 yard completion. The next drive, it was Ware's turn as he gave up an 8 yard catch. Then on the ensuing punt, Ware missed his blocking assignment again to get Nick Miller tackled for no gain at the 11 yard line again. Tag CJ, you're it now.
On the next drive Johnson gave up the longest catch again. It went for 20 yards and yet again, he didn't turn around to locate the ball. If he had, he might've had an interception or at very least a pass defended. Instead, the Steelers had the ball at the Raiders' 21 yard line. A few plays later, they would score their 2nd touchdown of the game. Back to you Jeremy Ware.
The next Steelers drive started deep in Raider territory after a Louis Murphy fumble gave them a short field. The drive took four plays and ended with Ware getting burnt for a 22 yard touchdown pass. The Steelers went up 21-3 at that point and that was the play that had Seymour so enraged, he went off the deep end and got ejected.
The Steelers didn't need to throw any more long passes the rest of the game at that point. The damage had been done. And yet again we see the value Nnamdi Asomugha holds for this team. Without him, the Raiders get this.
When I put Routt as Honorable Mention among my Midseason Ballers & Busters, I mentioned that he is "feast or famine." But usually that is thoughout a single game. For this game, he was famine throughout. Or rather he was feasted upon, however you choose to see it. While his technique has certainly improved this season, his football IQ seems to have not. He blew an assignment in the Chiefs game that left Mike Mitchell scrambling to try and cover his man at the last second. Matt Cassel saw the confusion and it resulted in an easy touchdown pass. And Routt was back at it in this game.
The Steelers first sustained drive of the game was thanks in large part to a heaping helping of Stanford Routt. First he served up a 13 yard catch on 3rd down to keep the drive alive. Then a few plays later he was responsible for a wide open catch and run by Hines Ward to put the Steelers at the 16 yard line. On the play, Ward started on the left side and motioned right. You could see Chris Johnson pointing at Ward to tell Routt to shadow him across the formation, but Routt didn't follow. Ward was wide open because everyone else had assignments to tend to. A few plays later, the Steelers scored a touchdown.
Next time we saw Routt, he was blowing another coverage assignment. This time it was against speedster Mike Wallace. Then after Wallace caught the pass, Routt missed the tackle and Wallace took it 52 yards for a touchdown. And the rout(t) was on.
It is one thing to be fired up and go out and be the passionate leader of this defense. It is another to be completely out of control. Seymour was kicked out of this game because he basically punched Ben Roethlisberger in the face with a kneejerk reaction. And while Big Ben may deserve to get nailed in the jaw every now and then, Seymour let his team down by getting ejected before halftime. He had been in two scrums prior to that in which he had to be seperated by the officials and his teammates. This was not an "old school Raider football" thing either. The old school Raiders were about intimidation, not losing their cool and letting their temper get the best of them. It's called "Pride and Poise" for a reason. Bottom line is, if Seymour is going to lead this defense, he needs to be on the field to do it.
Those Campbell apologists would have liked to tell everyone after this game that is was not Campbell's fault for the problems on this team. But when Bruce Gradkowski entered the game in the 3rd quarter and went 5 for 5 to start his day, and it set up a 24 yard Bush run right up the middle, that blew that theory out of the water. Sure, there is plenty of blame to go around, but Campbell takes his share.
Campbell completed just 7 passes in 2 1/2 quarters for a total of 70 yards. His completion percentage was 36% with two fumbles and an interception. One of those fumbles wasn't really his fault and he recovered it. But he also had another interception that was picked and returned for a touchdown. He was miraculously bailed out when Jerome Harrison was called for a roughing the passer penalty.
Both Campbell and Gradkowski struggled in this game. Much of that can be attributed to a good Pittsburgh defense. The difference is Campbell looked like he is just winging it out there while Gradkowski looks like he actually knows the playbook. It is all about pocket presence and simply putting the ball where it needs to be, when it needs to be there. Campbell just hasn't shown the ability to accomplish either of those things consistently.
He was back on the field from injury, but from outward appearances, it was a partial return. He was clearly not playing at 100% in this game. And hopefully it was only because he was still injured. There is no other excuse that would make sense after his poor effort in this game. He was easily made irrelevant by a block on several instances. And other times, he seemed to just give up on plays.
One such play was the reverse the Steelers ran in the 2nd quarter. He, along with most the Raider defense, bit hard on the original end around. But he noticed the reverse as soon as it happened and was the Raider defender with the best chance of doing something about it. You would think he would immediately sprint to try and catch the ball carrier, but he jogged over as if he didn't think he had a chance to catch up and was simply in the area after the runner had picked up 19 yards. At the end of that same drive, with the Steelers on the Raiders' 16 yard line, Roethlisberger scrambled out of the pocket and there was no one home. The Steelers should not be able to completely clear out a zone like that. It is poor discipline on McClain's part that he was gone and there was a whole lot of open field for Roethlisberger to run free. And he ran right to the endzone for a touchdown.
Then for the icing on the cake, with just over a minute left in the game, the Steelers were set up at the 16 yard line again. They ran a screen play to their backup runningback and McClain was taken out of the play on a block. Yet again, there was nothing but open field to run 16 yards to score and throw a little salt in the wound.
Overall the entire Raider offensive line struggled against the Steelers. That comes as no surprise whatsoever. The worst offender of the bunch was Satele. He couldn't even engage in his blocks most the time. So often the Steeler defenders were just running right by him as he tried to catch up. The result was several run stuffs which contributed greatly to Darren McFadden gaining just 14 yards on 10 carries.
Near the end of the 2nd quarter, immediately following the Steelers third touchdown, He gave up a sack right up the middle that caused Jason Campbell to fumble. The Raiders would recover but the loss of yardage ended any chance they had to score before halftime.
After halftime, it was more bad news from Satele. But now it was time for the penalties. First it was a holding call that helped kill a drive. Then the next drive, immediately following a first down catch, he had a false start.
The first time we saw Murphy in this game, he was trying to make a catch on a long pass after he had gone out of bounds and was flagged for illegal touching. Next time we saw him, he made a 12 yard catch, took two steps and fumbled the ball. The Steelers were set up with a short field and they scored just before halftime to go up 21-3. The third time he saw the ball, he caught it but couldn't keep both feet in bounds. He is supposed to be this team's most reliable receiver. Last time the Raiders were in Pittsburgh, he was truly brilliant. There was little semblance of that last Sunday.
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