OAKLAND, Calif. -- After a two-week reprieve, the Steelers downward spiral reappeared, gaining steam like a Terrelle Pryor record-breaking run in a 21-18 loss Sunday to the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum.
Pryor took the game's first swing and knocked his hometown Steelers flat. They never truly got back up, and they may not be able to do it this season.
Pryor made the game's opening play look as though he were back at Jeannette High School. Pryor faked a handoff to the left, ran to the right and was never touched on his way to a 93-yard touchdown run. It was the longest by a quarterback in NFL history, the longest in Raiders history and the second-longest sprint against the Steelers.
"We can't choose to defer a kickoff and allow them to explode and spotting 7 on the first play of the game," said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, whose team won the coin flip.
Like Pryor, the Raiders never looked back, racing to a 21-3 halftime lead and their fourth victory in the past five games against the Steelers, whose fourth-quarter, 15-point surge was too little, too late.
"They just beat us," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "Yeah, it hurts. We felt like we were doing some good things and that we were getting better. We just weren't there, especially in all phases -- we didn't throw the ball well enough, we didn't block well enough, we didn't catch well enough, we just weren't good enough [Sunday]."
The loss, after two consecutive wins, kept the Steelers in last place in the AFC North Division at 2-5. Oakland improved to 3-4.
It was the kind of game in which Shaun Suisham, the AFC special teams player for last week, hit a 47-yarder to make it 15 for 15 this season and then missed two short ones, from 34 and 32 yards.
"We lost the game by 3," Tomlin said. "We missed two makeable field goals."
"It's a tough one to swallow," Suisham said. "We would have won the football game if I was better."
Tomlin, though, did not blame Suisham alone for the loss, adding "there were many instances you can point to that would have put us in position to win this game, not just in the field-goal area."
Among them were two Roethlisberger interceptions, one when Antonio Brown could not hang onto the ball, which was stripped out of his hands and picked off by Oakland cornerback Mike Jenkins at the Raiders 21 with 6:46 to go and the Steelers down by 11.
Roethlisberger (29 of 45, 275 yards) was sacked five times as the offensive line lost three players to injuries.
Le'Veon Bell, who had his best performance the previous week with 93 yards rushing, was held to 24 on 13 carries and the Steelers ground woes continued, netting only 35 yards.
There also was a partially blocked punt that led to the Raiders' second touchdown and a 14-0 first-quarter lead. Zoltan Mesko fielded the snap in his chest and by the time he punted, Oakland's Rashad Jennings got a piece of the ball and the Raiders took over at the Steelers 26.
It took them five plays to score on Darren McFadden's 7-yard run up the middle with 7:28 left in the first quarter.
Tomlin recently spoke of making the 2013 season "relevant." It now comes dressed as irrelevant for Halloween before a trip to the New England Patriots, where they have never beaten quarterback Tom Brady.
"We still got a season," Ike Taylor said. "We still got games left. We just can't start off slow, can't spot a team on the first play 93 yards."
Those 93 yards Pryor covered on his opening dash were more than he had passing all game -- he was 10 of 19 for 88 yards, sacked twice, intercepted by Troy Polamalu and Cortez Allen, and had a terrible 25.7 passer rating.
But he beat the team he grew up watching and rooting for.
"It's just another game," Pryor insisted, "another team in the roadblock."
Trailing, 21-3, in the fourth quarter, the Steelers finally scored a touchdown after their first fumble recovery of the season. Oakland's Jacoby Ford caught a pass and fumbled when Lawrence Timmons hit him. Brett Keisel recovered at the Raiders 11 and on third down at the 9, Roethlisberger scrambled out of trouble and hit Emmanuel Sanders with a 9-yard touchdown pass.
The Raiders led, 21-10, with 12:11 left.
Roethlisberger drove the offense 83 yards on 12 plays late in the game. Bell scored from the 2 and Emmanuel Sanders ran for the 2-point conversion.
The Raiders led, 21-18, with 1:24 to go. But Oakland recovered the onside kickoff attempt at the Steelers 46, eventually punted to the 2 and time ran out on the Steelers when Sanders caught a 34-yard pass to the 36.
They had their chances to make it closer before that and just could not come up with a play to do so.
After they missed recovering a Raiders muffed punt, Oakland drove 72 yards, McFadden ran the wildcat for a 4-yard touchdown and it was 21-3.
Pryor's second interception of the game, off a drop by rookie receiver Brice Butler into the hands of Allen, allowed the Steelers to get into scoring position late in the first half.
They reached Oakland's 16 but Suisham shockingly sent a 34-yard field goal wide right, his first miss this season after making his first 15. That came just before halftime. He would miss another, and the Steelers would go on to miss a chance to be playing for .500 next week, playing for relevance.
"Well, the reality is the proof is in the pudding," Tomlin said. "We didn't perform well and in a lot of instances, in all three phases. So I take responsibility for that."
He has plenty of company.
Ed Bouchette: email@example.com and Twitter @EdBouchette. First Published October 27, 2013 4:58 PM