The Pittsburgh Steelers have been one of the NFL’s most successful franchises over the last 50 years. No team has won more games than the Steelers since 1970 and along with the New England Patriots, no team has won more Super Bowls than the Steelers. Even Superman has his kryptonite and the Pittsburgh franchise has also come across some players or teams that have just had their number throughout the years. This series will look at the Steelers’ biggest forms of kryptonite.
Doing it a bit different today and instead of focusing on just one player, let’s take a look at a team that has been a major pain for the Steelers’ franchise over the last decade and a half. I’m of course talking about the Oakland Raiders.
The Raiders have finished with a record better than 8-8 just once over the last 14 seasons. Since 2006, the Raiders have won just 79 games, second fewest in the NFL during this span with them only finishing ahead of the Cleveland Browns. It has been a few decades of misery for the silver and black franchise but you would never expect that if you were to solely judge their franchise based on performances against the Steelers.
Since 2006, the Raiders are 5-2 against the Steelers, including a perfect 4-0 at home. The west coast has been an absolute nightmare for the Steelers’ franchise as their last win on the road against the Raiders came all the way back in 1995. Since then, it has been a lot of pain and heartbreak.
I hate to use the term “beating themselves” but it is hard to come up with a better way to describe the Steelers’ performance against the Raiders. Each loss has been equally frustrating and each loss can be pinned on a lack of execution by the Pittsburgh franchise.
In 2006, the Steelers were defeated by a then 1-5 Raiders squad at the Coliseum. Third year quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw a whopping four interceptions with two being returned for touchdowns, a 24-yard pick six by Nnamdi Asomugha and a 100-yard pick six by Chris Carr. The Raiders offense would be held out of the endzone but those two defensive touchdowns would be enough to hold on to a 20-13 victory.
The heartbreak would follow the Steelers back home for a 2009 matchup against the Raiders. Fighting for a playoff spot and coming off a three-game slide, Roethlisberger and company had a chance to get back on track against the lowly Raiders. While the defense did a great job in 2006, the same cannot be said for 2009 as the once stout defense allowed Raiders quarterback and Pittsburgh native Bruce Gradkowski to look like a Hall of Famer.
Playing in front of his hometown crowd, Gradkowski threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns with all three touchdowns coming in the fourth quarter. The nail in the coffin was a 11-yard touchdown pass to Louis Murphy that put the Raiders ahead 27-24 with just nine seconds later. The Steelers’ losing streak would reach five games and no loss was as infuriating as their 27-24 loss to the Raiders.
Almost 400 yards passing and four touchdowns. Surely that should be enough to win, right? That is exactly the performance Roethlisberger put up in a 2012 matchup on the west coast against the Raiders but yet again it still was not enough. With the Steelers up 31-21 in the fourth quarter, the team surrendered 13 unanswered points as the Raiders mounted a comeback to win 34-31 off a walk off field goal by Sebastian Janikowski.
2013 would see another Pennsylvania native quarterback defeat the Steelers as Terrelle Pryor ran rampant on the Steelers’ defense. On the Raiders’ first play from scrimmage, Pryor split the Steelers defense and ran for a 93-yard touchdown. That rushing touchdown would exceed the amount of passing yards the then Raiders’ quarterback put up for the day as he was held to just 88 passing yards. Still, it was not enough as the Steelers fell victim to defeat once again.
Our therapy session ends in 2018 with perhaps the most painful Steelers’ west coast performance to date. Clinging to their postseason hopes, the Mike Tomlin led team had a perfect opportunity to get back on track against the then 2-10 Raiders. Should be an easy win, right?
Not quite. The house of horrors known as the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum had one more cruel trick for the Steelers. First, there was an injury to Roethlisberger that would see him miss majority of the second half. With backup quarterback Josh Dobbs in the game, the Steelers squandered a 14-10 lead by allowing the Raiders to go ahead 17-10 with just over five minutes left.
And then the hero made his return.
Roethlisberger was back on the field, hoping to play hero and save the Steelers’ fortune. He did exactly what he set out to do, connecting with JuJu Smith-Schuster on a one-yard touchdown pass with 2:55 remaining. It was now up to the defense to hold the lead.
Though, just like many times in the past, the defense got swallowed by the Raiders’ black hole as Derek Carr carved up the defense, connecting with Derek Carrier to put the Raiders up three with 21 seconds remaining. All hope seemed lost but the Steelers had one more trick up their sleeve.
As improbable as it seemed, Smith-Schuster was able to take a hook and ladder pass all the way to the Raiders 22-yard line. It seemed the Steelers would be destined for overtime and then…the slip happened.
Kicker Chris Boswell who was already in the midst of a miserable season slipped while attempting to kick the game tying field goal. That was it. Game over. While the Steelers’ incompetence against the Raiders could be described as humiliating and even comedic at times, there was nothing more cruel than their 2018 loss in Oakland.
While the Steelers’ struggles against such teams such as the Patriots can at least be rationalized due to the Patriots’ unimaginable success, their consistent ineptitude against the Raiders struggles to be comprehended. This is a team with one of the lowest winning percentages over the last two decades facing one of the league’s most successful franchises. The wins should be piling up for the Steelers’ franchise but for one reason or another, the Steelers have been unable to navigate their way out of Oakland’s black hole.