Ben Roethlisberger did a nice job to bring the Steelers back from a 21-3 deficit, especially when he completed 7 of 9 passes for 85 yards on the 12-play touchdown drive. But the failure of the offense to produce touchdowns on a consistent basis continues to catch up with the team. After scoring just one touchdown in each of the previous two games, Roethlisberger did not manage a touchdown until the fourth quarter against the Raiders.
After gaining 141 yards last week against the Ravens, the running game reverted back to its early season form with just 35 yards on 19 carries. Worse, the Steelers did not have a run longer than 8 yards, though the Raiders are the only team in the league that hasn't allowed a run of 20 yards or longer this season. Le'Veon Bell scored on a 2-yard run and had five catches for 27 yards with just 24 rushing yards on 13 carries.
Antonio Brown (9) and Emmanuel Sanders (7) combined for 16 catches and Jerricho Cotchery made a nice 18-yard catch on second-and-16 to set up a touchdown. Sanders made two big plays -- a 9-yard touchdown catch and a 2-point conversion run -- but Brown committed a costly turnover when he fumbled a catch at the Raiders 21, ending a good scoring chance.
Injuries to starters Ramon Foster and David DeCastro and backup Guy Whimper forced a lot of juggling on the line. But, no matter who was in there, the Steelers had trouble running the ball, averaging just 1.8 yards per attempt and having negative yards on four rushes. Also, Roethlisberger was sacked five times for the third time this season. No matter who was in there, they had trouble blocking DE Lamarr Houston, who had a sack and two tackles for losses.
Last year the Steelers allowed a 64-yard touchdown run by Darren McFadden that changed the game in Oakland. This time it was Terrelle Pryor's 93-yard TD run on the first play from scrimmage that set the tone. The Steelers allowed a season-high 197 yards rushing to the Raiders and three rushing touchdowns, two by McFadden. That raised the season total of rushing TDs allowed to nine -- as many as last season.
LaMarr Woodley got caught inside right off the bat on Pryor's 93-yard touchdown run on the first scrimmage play of the game. And the linebackers got fooled on McFadden's 7-yard touchdown run from the wildcat, appearing to freeze when he faked a pass and allowing him to run untouched up the middle. The Steelers managed just two sacks against Terrelle Pryor, who was sacked nine times in his previous outing in Kansas City.
It's hard to argue with the play of the defensive backs when Pryor passed for only 88 yards, was picked off twice and had a passer rating of 25.7. But the Raiders converted 4 of 7 third downs in the first half when they built a 21-3 lead. Top receiver Denarius Moore had just two catches against Ike Taylor, but they were third-down conversions for 14 and 18 yards.
How long Mike Tomlin will continue to stick with punter Zoltan Mesko remains a mystery. Yes, he had season-long punts of 65 and 56 yards in the second half, but the blocked punt that led to the second touchdown was the result of Mesko muffing the snap. Shaun Suisham finally missed after making 15 field goals to start the season, and he did it twice -- from 34 and 32 yards. That was the difference in the result.
Falling behind early to bad teams (Vikings, Raiders) is becoming a habit for the Steelers, and that speaks to their preparation and attitude. Getting sucked in by Pryor on the first play from scrimmage is inexcusable. And the failure of the offense to produce touchdowns early was especially significant because it wiped out two takeaways. The team's penchant for losing games to teams with losing records, especially the Raiders, is becoming an epidemic.