The Pittsburgh Steelers look to get back in the win column today against the visiting Oakland Raiders, who are riding a two-game winning streak while bypassing their opponent for the pole position for the last wildcard spot in the conference.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was typically off his game in his first appearance returning from injury. History shows that the team’s record in his second game back is even worse, which does not bode well for today, but statistics are just that.
The Steelers will have to make do without Le’Veon Bell, as they did to start the year, but this time expect more names to be involved, such as Jordan Todman, in replacing him.
Defensively, Stephon Tuitt is back, and Cameron Heyward is playing after his new baby was born yesterday. It seems that whether Will Allen or Robert Golden starts is a game-time decision.
New returner Jacoby Jones will be making his debut for the Steelers. Whether or not he returns any punts is to be determined. Also making his NFL debut is Jesse James, who will dress for the first time in his rookie season, though he may be limited to special teams work at most. Also notable is Mike Vick on the inactive list after practicing and finishing the week as probable.
The Steelers’ inactives:
LB Terence Garvin
TE Matt Spaeth
RB Isaiah Pead
T Byron Stingily
CB Doran Grant
QB Mike Vick
DE L.T. Walton
And the Raiders:
CB Dexter McDonald RB Roy Helu Jr. DB T.J. Carrie LB Neiron Ball OL Jon Feliciano OL Matt McCants WR Rod Streater
The Steelers started with the ball, with Jones returning the opening kickoff to the 21. On first down, Roethlisberger threw incomplete to Martavis Bryant, hitting Antonio Brown for six yards on second. On third and four, Roethlisberger found DeAngelo Williams uncovered in the flat for a big gain of 33 yards, to the Raiders’ 40.
Roethlisberger floated a pass down the field to Heath Miller for an incompletion. Williams picked up six yards up the middle on second down. Again on third and four, Darrius Heyward-Bey dropped the pass after a fake. On fourth and four, Roethlisberger’s pass to Brown was tipped by the defender.
Allen started at safety. Derek Carr‘s first pass was defended by Ross Cockrell. Latavius Murray cut up the middle for a 44-yard gain to the 22, and from there, Carr found Michael Crabtree in the end zone for the score as he got hit, finding the space between Cockrell and Mike Mitchell.
After a short return from Jones, Miller was good for a 22-yard reception. After being stopped for no gain on first down, Williams found the left side for seven yards. On third and three, Roethlisberger went deep to Brown, but the ball was too far. The receiver had the separation for what could have been a touchdown. Heyward-Bey downed the punt inside the five.
From the two, Carr was chased to the sideline and forced to throw the ball away. A short pass to Jones for six yards set up third and four, an incompletion to Clive Walford, broken up by Allen. Jones’s return on the ensuing 48-yard punt went backwards, losing three yards.
From the 41, Roethlisberger threw to James for nine yards, his first target. The ball was tipped, but James adjusted. Williams drove for one yard on second down to move the sticks. Brown caught a 13-yard pass along the sideline. The Steelers are fortunate the Raiders didn’t challenge the call. Another reception for eight yards and a four-yard gain for Miller gained another first down.
Williams cut inside on the power counter to pick up nine yards inside the red zone. But he was bottled up for a loss on the following play. Roethlisberger’s third-down pass was behind Markus Wheaton. Chris Boswell‘s 34-yard field goal made it 7-3.
Boswell’s kick return was brought out to the 25, met by Shamarko Thomas. On first down, Carr’s throw was dropped by Seth Roberts for what should have been a routine reception. On second down, Murray was cut down after gaining three yards. Carr’s third and seven pass to tight end Mychal Rivera moved the chains.
At the 36, Murray was hit for a loss by Tuitt on a draw. But the fullback Marcel Reese found a lane thanks to a kick out block for 12 yards. Near midfield, Carr hit Crabtree down the field along the sideline, but the pass pulled him out of bounds. Lawrence Timmons broke up the pass intended for Lee Smith on second down. On third down, Carr’s pass again pulled Crabtree out of bounds as the Raiders lined picked up the blitz. The punt traveled about 40 yards with a five-yard return to the 17.
On first down, Roethlisberger finally connected on a deep shot, finding Brown behind the secondary for a total of 59 yards. From the 25, Williams pushed the pile ahead for three yards. On second and seven, Wheaton was tackled for a loss on a screen pass. On third and nine, Roethlisberger threw underneath to Brown, who worked through the first defender to pick up 13 yards and the first down with a stiff arm.
From the 12, Brown picked up nine yards on a quick slant to the three. On second and one, Williams punched it into the end zone for his fourth rushing touchdown of the season, giving the Steelers the lead at 11-7. Roethlisberger easily found Williams for the two-point conversion.
Boswell’s second kickoff was angled to the sideline and about five yards deep, fair caught for the touchback. Murray found immediate room but took a big hit from Mitchell at the end of a nine-yard run. On second and one, he slipped past Antwon Blake for three yards. From the 32, Crabree picked up 20 yards on a catch and run with three defenders caught flat-footed in zone.
Across midfield, Amari Cooper dropped the pass after nearly making a juggling catch. Both teams have been plagued by drops so far. On second down, Murray again escaped the first defender for positive yardage to set up a manageable third down. Carr’s pass to Cooper was incomplete, the ball off-target from the second-year quarterback with Allen in the vicinity. Jones back to receive the punt let the ball bounce, downed at the two-yard line.
Staying on the ground, Williams picked up two yards on first down. Roethlisberger’s screen pass to Brown bounced on the ground. On third and eight, his pass was defended by the cornerback to force a three and out. Jordan Berry‘s punt from his own end zone was a poor one, traveling just 36 yards.
Murray kept his balance to pick up about three yards on first down after being cut down. He second run picked up a little more than six to set up third and inches, which he converted.
Inside the 30, Jones was stopped for a loss of one on first down. Blake and Allen defended the outside run well, with Blake popping the ball out, but it went out of bounds after a one-yard advance. On third and 10, Carr finally found Cooper for a completion, with Blake slipping as he picked up 13 yards. Cooper was left wide open for the easy, easy touchdown from 15 yards out on clearly broken coverage as the Raiders retook the lead, 14-11.
Brown fought for a five-yard gain on a short screen pass on first down. On the end around, Brown was able to catch the sideline for a nice gain, picking up 16 yards. From the 43, Roethlisberger’s pass to Miller was broken up by the safety. Williams showed significant patience just to pick up about four yards on second down. On third down, Roethlisberger hit Brown over the shoulder down the field for a 41-yard gain. Roethlisberger took a shot at the end of the throw.
From the 12, Williams cut to the left to pick up eight yards. He grinded out two yards on second down, but was marked shy of the first. On third and inches, bringing in an extra lineman, Williams was stuffed short of the mark. Mike Tomlin went for it, and Williams converted, scoring for the second time, his fifth rushing touchdown of the season.
After a loss of one on first down, Heyward dragged the running back down on a pass after three yards. On third and eight, with 1:10 to play and the Steelers using a timeout, Blake came in on a corner blitz and buried Murray in the backfield, with Pittsburgh using its last timeout. The 39-yard punt was downed at the 41-yard line.
On first down, Roethlisberger’s pass to Miller at the sideline drew a pass interference call for 11 yards, across midfield. From the 48, Roethlisberger escaped pressure, stepped up in the pocket, and found Brown down the field for 19 yards. From the 29, Williams had a huge blitz pickup to give Roethlisberger the time to look for Wheaton in the end zone, but the pass was incomplete. He got the ball out to avoid a sack on second down. On third and 10, Roethlisberger hit Brown, but for nine yards. The booth called down to review the call. Boswell was brought out to convert a 38-yard field goal and take a 21-14 lead.