There isn’t much any of us want to talk about right now. Recap after the jump. We’ll think about what it means later.
Finally, Stefan Logan does what he was brought in to do and gets a huge 83 yard return on the opening kickoff. That’s how you start a game.
The offense then goes three-and-out when Holmes drops a ball on 3rd & 6. All right, field goal. This game kind of got going before you did. Either way, its 3-0 Steelers.
Gary Russell makes his return to Heinz Field to take the next kickoff. We remember Russell. All he’ll do is catch it, walk forward for four yards, and fall over, right? Not quite. Russell gets it out to around the 40. Where was that last year?
Raiders get to 4th & 1. They leave the offense on the field. Why not? What are the Raiders going to lose if they fail here? One of our favorite QBs to play against, Bruce Gradkowski, rolls out on play action and hits Justin Fargas for a big gain (relative to the Raiders’ offense) and a 1st.
Darren McFadden gets the call on a 3rd & short and Casey Hampton absolutely stonewalls him for the stop. Janikowski on for the field goal, 3-3.
The next kickoff finds its way to Carey Davis. Yeah, okay. Steelers set up at the 28. The offense goes three-and-out again. Sepulveda punts an awkward 37 yards. Oakland sets up at their own 36.
The Raiders get a big pass on first down for 19 yards, and the defense subsequently tightens up. On 3rd & 10, James Farrior breaks into the pocket and forces Gradkowski to fire one out of bounds as he takes a hit from Nick Eason. The ref throws a late flag and your first thought is that Eason is getting called for roughing the passer. Not quite. They call intentional grounding as he was still in the pocket. Caught a break. Shane Lecher fires a 58-yard punt through the back of the end zone. Wow.
Ben hits Ward on a screen pass because if you haven’t heard, they hate each other now and they have no chemistry. Dan Dierdorf makes a comment about how the Raiders have looked like a much more solid run defense today. As soon as he finishes that sentence, Mendenhall takes off on a 60 yard run. Literally. Sixty. They hand it to him again and again and he turns it into a 4th & about a football’s length. Ben runs a sloppy looking sneak and they have to measure again. Short. The Raiders take over at their own 5 yard line. Fine by me.
Justin Fargas is a tough runner. He starts moving the Raiders out of their own end zone as the quarter winds down.
What is the deal with those Levi’s commercials? They’re jeans. They’re playing up wearing jeans like it’s the 60s again and you’re defying the Vietnam war, out running around on the beach having bonfires and making out and no one wears shirts. They’re pants. Chill out.
Louis Murphy beat William Gay (shock) and Gradkowski just barely overthrows him. Lecher gets off another beauty of a punt. Logan gets destroyed and fumbled, but good ol’ Anthony Madison is there to keep a hold of it.
Ben hits Ward for 27 yards on first down because he hates him now. Then he fires again and hits Holmes on his way to the corner of the end zone. 61 yards in 52 seconds and the Steelers are up 10-3. Just what the doctor ordered. We don’t need this offense to play down to their opponents’ level any more this year.
Reed boots the kick deep and Greg Gumbel doesn’t even know who’s returning it. He says Michael Bush but it’s a dude wearing #86. What sloppy broadcasting. The NFL.com gamecenter says it’s “T. Stewart.” I’m not going to look up his first name because catching that kickoff is probably all he’ll ever amount to.
Somewhere on 2nd & 7, Lawrence Timmons busts into the backfield and gets to Gradkowski. Instead of just walking up and tackling him like he’s totally capable of, his grabs him by the facemask (and doesn’t even get him down anyway). Automatic first.
Right after that, he rolls out to his left and gets a huge run downfield. Ike Taylor pushes him out of bounds and for some reason the QB gets right in his face and starts talking. Who are you, Philip Rivers? Yeah, you pulled off a nice run, but… oh wait, the Raiders suck so it comes back on a holding call. Good thing you’re such a manly man. Now you look like an idiot.
After a timeout, Silverback nails Bruce but he gets a pass off downfield to Johnny Lee Higgins again. William Gay again on the fail. Raiders are inside the 30. Raiders bust out some trick play on 3rd down. Michael Bush runs to his right and fires a missile at about 300 mph over some dude named Chaz. Janikowski kicks an awkwardly hooking field goal and it’s 10-6.
Steelers set up at the 26 and even Fast Willie Parker can spin out of a Raiders tackle. He breaks off another run and the Richard Seymour helps him out with a hands-to-the-face penalty and an extra five yards. With the Raiders all set up to defend the run now, Ben tries to take advantage with a big pass. Love that call. No one’s open, but he avoids the blitz and takes off for a 19 yard run. It gets called back on holding, but some receiver (couldn’t tell who, it was so fast) absolutely blew up a Raiders’ DB on a block.
Ben hits Mike Wallace’s feet. Kemoeatu false starts. on 3rd & 24, Ben hit Holmes short of the first and he can’t get the extra yardage. The punt team comes out and Dan Sepulveda hits the coffin corner and downs a punt at the 5. Awesome.
As if getting the ball at your own 5 isn’t bad enough, the Raiders fals start for a 1st & 12 after half-the-distance. Bush or Fargas or someone gets sucked up by LaMarr Woodley for no gain. Lawrence Timmons lands a vicious hit on the next play. On 3rd & 7, the Raiders look content to punt as Fargas takes a draw for 3 yards. Some great linebacker play in there.
From their own 48, Ben fires downfield to Heath Miller (great call) but Miller somehow drops it. Bizarre. Mike Wallace makes up for being silent last week as he makes a solid catch for the first down. Next play, Ben throws low but Holmes gets lower and hauls in the catch. First down. That brings us to the two-minute warning.
Offsetting penalties cancel out the next play, but Mewelde Moore makes his first appearance for a quick few yards and Mike Wallace snags a 1st. Ben throws a pick in the end zone after that. Dierdorf makes a big deal about Ben having so much time to throw that it made him throw a pick. What is he talking about?
Here you see the Steelers playing down to the level of a weaker opponent again. They let Gradkowski squirm around too much. Johnny Lee Higgins drops a deep ball but it doesn’t matter as the ref actually decides to call someone on holding James Harrison for once.
With no timeouts, the Raiders are conent to run the clock out. The Steelers awkwardly burn a timeout as if they’ll have any time to do anything. Fargas runs it again and the Steelers spend their last timeout with 15 seconds left. Shane Lechler is their punter, what are you trying to accomplish?
Moore fair catches with 7 on the clock. Dierdorf makes some big deal about Moore moving into the sunlight to catch that, implying that the sun got in his eyes and made him… catch the punt, I guess. His shadow was in front of him. The sun was behind him. Dierdorf sucks.
How is the score only 10-6? The Steelers definitely feel like the dominant team in this game, but it’s still a one-possession game. This is how the Steelers lost to teams like the Bears and Chiefs, and you have to think Mike Tomlin is making that point in the locker room right now.
Old reliable Anthony Madison stops Russell from having a ton of success on the opening kickoff. Zach Miller drops a pass, so today doesn’t seem to be a great day to be a tight end named Miller. Until Zach catches a slick sidearm pass for a first down on the next play. Gradkowski gets out of the pocket and overthrows an open Higgins again.
Gradkowski is too shifty. He almost gets dropped about 12 yards behind the line but Silverback can’t plant him. He gets off a nice run but once again a holding call takes him back. 2nd & 20.
That Chaz guy makes a catch for a first down in Steeler territory. Raiders run another trick play. Modified fleaflicker. McFadden runs left, throws way back to Gradkowski, but James Harrison makes an awesome read. He saw McFadden pull up instead of running forward while Gradkowski drifts back. By the time gets the ball back, Harrison gets to him and swallows him. 16 yard loss. Awesome defense.
With the momentum totally shifted, the Steelers tighten up and the Raiders stall. Lecher punts another one through the back of the end zone. Dude would be such a weapon if he had any level of control over his punts.
A few Mendenhall carries drag the ball to the 36. Ben makes a vintage Ben play and evades a sack to hit Moore, but he’s short of a first. Sepulveda punts to the 18.
Someone finally gets to Bruce. Woodley. He makes his presence felt again when Miller gets stuffed for a single yard. Gay finally makes a play and bats down a pass on 3rd & 11. Lechler punts to Pittsburgh’s 42.
The Steelers get a nice drive going. Ward makes a big catch in there. Unfortunately it comes to 3rd & 6 and Ben takes a 9 yard sack.
Jeff Reed keeps convincing management not to re-sign him as a 53-yard field goal drifts wide.
The Raiders use all four down to get their next first. Greg Gumbel starts talking about The Who for some reason. Gradkowski rushes and shakes off a Lawrence Timmons tackle. First down Raiders. Darren McFadden gets their next one.
That Chaz guy catches a touchdown. The Steelers are letting another inferior team hang around too long. 13-10 Raiders. The fourth quarter defense struggles again.
Stefan Logan hasn’t given up though, and he nets a 38 yard kickoff return. Turns out the offense isn’t done yet either. Ben hits Holmes deep for 57 yards, down to the 3. Mendenhall bounces it out an in for the score. 17-13. Aw yeah.
The Gary Russell we know and love returns the next kick. Nothing. The defense got booed leaving the field. Let’s see if they come out with some passion here. Not really. Gradkowski finally completes a deep thrown, and Louis Murphy scores a 75-yard touchdown. 20-17 Raiders.
Where was all this offense the rest of the game? 5:28 left. Tick tick tick.
Ben keeps juking out defenders and find Heath Miller open near midfield. Mendenhall rips off a nice 8 yard run. Ward picks up a quick screen pass for a first down. 4:03 left. Santonio Holmes gets the next one. Down to the 21.
Mendenhall goes nowhere, but the clock runs past 3 minutes with the ball in the red zone. Roethlisberger turns a seemingly broken play into an 8 yard gain and a first down. Enter, the two-minute warning.
Coming out of that, Ward beats his man and scores a touchdown. 24-20 Steelers. Why couldn’t they play like this any other time in the game?
Now it’s time for this defense to silence a critic or two. The Raiders are stuck at their own 12 with 1:48 left.
Higgins is open at the 29. First down. Gradkowski overthrows Higgins deep on the next play. He tries to fit a ball in to Chaz Schilens, but the defense swarms on him and not only does he drop it, he’s hurt. Some guy you’ve never heard of catches a crossing route but gets trapped in bounds by Ryan Clark after he picks up a first.
Keisel crushed Gradkowski a play later, but he gets the ball down to Louis Murphy. Gay and Mundy collide helmet-to-helmet and Gay is down.
41 seconds left. Ball at the Pittsburgh 40.
Apparently Joe Burnett changed his number to #27 and drops a ball. Louis Murphy doesn’t. First down at the 17.
Higgins drops a pass and Ryan Mundy destroys him. Ref doesn’t like it. Calls a personal foul. That was a bad call.
Ryan Clark makes an awesome play after that to knock a ball loose for an incompletion. Everything falls apart on the next play though. Louis Murphy is wide open in the back of the end zone. Touchdown. 9 seconds left. 27-24 Raiders.
Ben throws a hail mary to the end zone.
Limas Sweed drops it.