OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Steelers and Raiders played one for the ages Sunday, brutal contact football that would do their 1970s ancestors proud.
Yet, Oakland's furious 34-31 comeback victory at O.co Coliseum was nothing like the kind of football to which the Steelers have been accustomed, not in the '70s, not in the '80s, '90s, never. This was new-age football for the Steelers with their offense whipping up and down the field nearly at will and their defense getting whipped up and down the field by a mediocre Oakland offense.
Before the game, Raiders Hall of Famer Marcus Allen lit a torch dedicated to the late Al Davis. Sebastian Janikowski's 43-yard field goal with no time left then not only delivered Oakland's upset victory; the game may have marked the Steelers passing their own torch -- from a decades-long dominance of defensive play to one in which the offense might have to perform like this most every game to stay in the thick of things.
"If your offense scores 31 points you should win the game, you really should," Steelers defensive captain Brett Keisel said. "We have to do a better job on defense and keep them out of the end zone."
The Raiders overcame a 10-point deficit by outscoring the Steelers, 13-0, in the fourth quarter.
Janikowski tied the score with 6:30 left, kicking a 32-yard field goal. The Steelers' next drive then bogged down at the 36 and they punted.
Oakland took over at its 25 and Carson Palmer deftly drove them into Janikowski's easy range for the winning kick.
"I know when our offense goes out there and puts that many points on the board, they're giving us an opportunity to win the game," said linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who had his team's only sack.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had one of those games that victories are built around. He threw four touchdown passes, two to Heath Miller and one each to Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown. He had no interceptions. He was sacked once. He had 384 yards and a 123.2 passer rating.
It wasn't quite good enough. Part of the reason may have been two lost fumbles, one each by Jonathan Dwyer and Antonio Brown. One more reason may have been another paltry performance on the ground, where the Steelers managed only 54 yards on 20 carries.
"I think offensively we did the things we wanted to do," Roethlisberger said. "We no-huddled the whole second half, I felt we moved the ball down the field. There are plays out there I called that aren't in our playbook. I know that sounds crazy, things we had from years past, guys were on the same page and it worked."
Not so much on defense did it. The defense led the NFL last season in fewest points allowed, fewest total yards and fewest passing yards. They played for the third consecutive game without James Harrison and the second without Troy Polamalu, but this is not close to the defense they've been in the past.
They allowed a 64-yard touchdown run up the middle by Darren McFadden that tied the score after Roethlisberger's first of two 4-yard touchdown passes to Miller opened the scoring. Palmer was an efficient 24 of 34 for 209 yards and three touchdown passes. They sacked him once and Ryan Clark's interception set up that first score.
It wasn't enough.
The Raiders scored early in the fourth quarter on Palmer's third touchdown pass, 6 yards to Denarius Moore to close the gap to 31-28.
But Roethlisberger completed a 20-yard pass over the middle to Brown and it looked as though the Steelers were steaming toward another score when cornerback Pat Lee stripped Brown of the ball and the Raiders recovered at their 36. Oakland moved 50 yards to set up Janikowski's 32-yard field goal that tied it at 31-31 with 6:30 left.
"It's totally my fault," Brown said. "We had a key drive to close the game out, make a play. I should have gotten down. If those circumstances don't happen, maybe the game is in a different situation."
Yet there were few pick-me-ups by the defense and none on that drive that allowed the Raiders to swiftly move in for the kill.
"They made the plays at the end and we couldn't get it done when it counted," said Wallace, who led everyone with a career-high eight receptions for 123 yards.
The Steelers led, 31-21, after three quarters and seemed to finally have things in hand.
Roethlisberger ran the no-huddle offense for the first time Sunday on the first drive of the third quarter and finished it by throwing his third touchdown pass of the game, 22 yards to Wallace for a 24-14 lead.
But Oakland's Mike Goodson returned the kickoff 51 yards to the Steelers 48 and the Raiders responded with their own no-huddle offense and marched in for a touchdown, a 1-yard pass to tight end Richard Gordon.
"I put it on the whole team," Roethlisberger said when he was told a handful of teammates were taking personal blame for the loss. "There's no offense, no defense, no special teams, we're one. Whoever it is can take the blame but no one needs to shoulder this right now."
After a foiled Raiders onside kick, Roethlisberger took them 48 yards that ended with a bizarre touchdown pass of 11 yards to Brown. Just as Brown was about to cross the goal line, linebacker Philip Wheeler stripped the ball from him. The players and the ball fell into the end zone and the ball bounced away and then back into Brown's hands for the touchdown.
It was ruled a touchdown catch because Brown recovered his own fumble.
Another fumble, though, proved more costly.
Dwyer fumbled on a draw and the Raiders recovered at the Steelers 30. Oakland then tied the score, 14-14, on Carson Palmer's 3-yard touchdown pass to Darrius Heyward-Bey with 1:54 left in the first half.
The Steelers had led 14-7 after Miller's second 4-yard touchdown reception.
Clark returned an interception 26 yards to Oakland's 36. On fourth down at the 27, Roethlisberger threw a quick slant to Wallace for 20 yards to the 7. Miller caught his first touchdown pass on third down.
It was only the second turnover forced this season by the defense (special teams has another). Woodley's sack was only their fifth. They dipped to 1-2 for only the second time under coach Mike Tomlin, whose previous five teams reached the midway point at 6-2.
These are not the same old Steelers.
"It's our responsibility on the defense to go out there and shut teams down," Woodley said, "and we didn't do that."
It could turn into a trend.Steelers
For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Ed Bouchette: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter@EdBouchette. First Published September 24, 2012 4:00 AM