On Sunday, September 23, 2012, the Oakland Raiders' Sebastian Janikowski finished off the Pittsburgh Steelers with a last second field goal 34-31. With their untypically sloppy play, though, the Steelers looked like a team already taking their bye. Their real bye week is this coming week, and it couldn't come at a better time. The Steelers need the extra week to regroup or this will be a long, disappointing season.
The sloppy play was all over the field. The Steelers (not the Raiders!) committed 10 penalties for 81 yards. Several were baffling mental mistakes like false starts and illegal formations. They had two penalties on a potential punt return touchdown by Chris Rainey that negated it. Ball handling? The Steelers coughed up four fumbles and lost two of them. Run blocking? Non-existent. The Steelers gained just 54 yards on 20 carries (2.7 yard average). The longest run was an eight yard scramble by Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers' special teams were sloppy, too, giving up 87 yards on two poorly covered kickoff returns.
Surely the defense would rise up against the 0-2 Raiders, especially staked to a 10 point lead twice in the second half. With game changers Troy Polamalu and James Harrison watching from the sidelines, the Steelers were pathetic against a Raiders team who had been offensively inept. The Raiders had only scored 27 points combined in their first two games. The Steelers promptly gave up a 64 yard touchdown dash to Darren McFadden in the first quarter. Throughout the game, defenders took horrible angles and tackled more like the sieve-like Cleveland Browns. The chippy secondary couldn't slow down the Raiders' walk-on receivers when the game was on the line. The "Blast Furnace" could only sack immobile Carson Palmer once. And they couldn't get off the field in the second half, giving up seven out of eight third down conversions.
The Lone, Bright Spot
Despite all the slop above, one Steeler shone bright: Ben Roethlisberger. With nothing else working, Roethlisberger was spectacular. Using ten different receivers, he passed 49 times for 384 yards and four touchdowns. He had no interceptions and avoided pressure coming through his patchwork line and was only sacked once. He is the master of an offense that again controlled the clock without an effective ground game (time of possession - 36:15). It is a joy to watch this elite quarterback keep his team in the game. He is a superstar.
The Steelers have a bye this week. Their next game is at home on Sunday, October 7 against the butter finger Philadephia Eagles in the battle for Pennsylvania. Perhaps the return of Rashard Mendenhall, James Harrison, and Troy Polamalu can aid Roethlisberger and elevate the Steelers back to clean, winning football. Enjoy the time off, Steelers, but you had better come back stronger.
Sean Durity is a Terrible Towel twirling Steelers fan living in Atlanta. He grew up cheering the 1970s dynasty and appreciates the organization's excellence even more as an adult. Follow him on Twitter @SeanDurity
More from this contributor:
Steelers vs Raiders broadcast on DirecTV, 09/23/2012
Steelers Gamebook, provided to media on Steelers.com
Steelers Game Notes, provided to media on Steelers.com