By Matt Pawlikowski
The Steelers still are searching for a run game, but the way they have worked the clock mixing things up, they may want to keep doing what they’ve been doing.
Ben Roethlisberger was steller again, posting 384 yards passing for the Steelers, hitting 10 different receivers and four touchdowns.
Problem is, to win football games, time of possession isn’t the only thing needed. You also have to hold onto the football and you need to play 60 minutes of football. Sunday against the Raiders in a 34-31 loss marked the second time in three games that an opponent was able to come back for a last second win.
“The old cliché, guess we got a marathon to run, it’s not a sprint,” Roethlisberger said. “We have to finish.”
Much like the season opener in Denver, Sunday’s game against the Raiders was a tale of two halves, especially for the defense.
In the first half, Pittsburgh’s defense brought back memories of years gone by. The second half? Well, when head coach Mike Tomlin elects to go for it on a fourth down play with a good chunk of time left in the fourth quarter deep in their own territory, that says it all.
“We had two ten point leads go away, it was the defense and as the leader of the defense I am going to take the heat on this one,” defensive lineman Brett Keisel said. “We let them come back and get this win, and we have to chew on it and we have to do that for two weeks. We have to get better on defense in order to keep people out of the end zone. I have to get better. If the offense scores 31 points you should win the game.”
The Steelers’ defense held Oakland to just over 100 yards in the first half, but it gave up over 200 in the second. Ironically, it was the defense that set up the Steelers first score, when Ryan Clark picked off Carson Palmer and returned it 26 yards to Oakland’s 36.
Roethlisberger then found Heath Miller from five yards out and not long after to give the Steelers a 7-0 lead. And while the offense did its part the rest of the game chewing up clock time and racking up 433 total yards it wasn’t enough.
Ten penalties hurt the team, including two on Antonio Brown’s touchdown return which nullified it but turnovers also played a factor as the Raiders seemed to draw strength from them, especially when Brown lost one early in the fourth quarter trying to make things happen after a nice catch. That lead to Sebastian Janikowski tying field goal with just over six minutes remaining.
“It’s a 60 minute ballgame, we do good for halves, but we have to do good for 60 minutes,” cornerback Ike Taylor said. “Teams are going to come ready to play and we need to find out how to finish. Point blank period. We are 0-2 on the road, we have to find a will and a way to win. No question.”
Offense – B+/ Quarterback – A
What more can be said other than outstanding? Ben Roethlisberger was almost flawless, as he spread the ball out with the short flair, and also showed he still has arm strength. Roethlisberger was 36 of 49 with four touchdowns an a 123.5 rating. He scrambled, he made things happen and it should have been enough to win the game.
Running backs – D
Sure they did good protection and they made some nice catches out of the backfield, but for a third consecutive game the Steelers rotation of four backs was ineffective against a team that has had trouble stopping the run its first two games. Jonathan Dwyer, who had been a workhorse the past few games fumbled late in the second quarter and that seemed to give the Raiders all the momentum they needed heading into half.
Wide Recievers – B
What more can be said then consistency and disciplined. Ten different players had catches with Mike Wallace leading the lot with over 123 yards. Yes, Antonio Brown and Wallace both fumbled, but they did so trying to make something happen.
Defense – D
Carson Palmer entered the game leading the league in passing yards, and finished the game with just 209, but Darren McFadden, who was averaging just 27 per game out of the backfield, was able to shred the defense for 113 yards and average over six yards per carry. Despite the fact LaMarr Woodley kept Palmer scrambling most of the afternoon and had a sack, the Raiders still were able to mount some impressive drives especially in the second half.
Almost play of the game
Antonio Brown’s 73 punt return in the beginning of the second quarter was perhaps one of the most exciting plays this year. It also may have been the decisive points. Brown, a pro bowler as a return man last season, fielded the ball, weaved in and out of traffic then put his burners on and scored seconds later. Unfortunatly two penaties, a holding and an illegal block nulified the run. What was sad about the call was that the hold would have had no effect on the run back.
Player of the game
Heath Miller – The Steeler tight end caught eight passes for 60 yards. He provided key blocks on other big pass plays. Whether it was a dump off, a pass down the middle or a key third down play, Miller seemed to be on the receiving end. He also had two touchdowns on the night.
“He’s a beast and he fought through some big time pain today and I didn’t even think he was going to play. That just shows what kind of teammate he is, what kind of warrior he is and the type of competitor he is. He had a heck of a game.”
“I intended to go for it all along. I wasn’t going to punt the football to them. We hadn’t stopped them enough in the second half to do that. It was inside of one, if you can’t get inside of one, you don’t deserve to win football games.” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin on going for a first down in chip shot field goal range for the Raiders on fourth down.
“We had them on the ropes a couple of drives and when you let good teams in this league hang around and don’t put them away, they are going to make some plays and that’s what happened today.” –Heath Miller
“I always feel if we don’t win as a team, I fail we all fail, its not about individual stats. We didn’t get it done when it mattered and that is all that really matters.” –Mike Wallace
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Matt Pawlikowski is a veteran journalist covering all things Steelers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.