Ben Roethlisberger was outstanding for most of the game, but he couldn't produce a score again in the final minutes. Roethlisberger passed for 384 yards and four touchdowns and repeatedly made plays by stepping away from pressure, including on the 22-yard TD to Mike Wallace. A sack and incomplete pass on third down of the final offensive series spoiled what had been a very good performance.
The running game continues to sputter and stall and produce no big plays. The backs rushed for 54 yards and averaged just 2.7 yards per attempt against a team that allowed 263 yards rushing a week earlier against Miami. Isaac Redman had a big 6-yard run on a daring fourth-and-1 gamble on the final series, but that was his longest run of the game. A big fumble by Jonathan Dwyer on his 30 set up the second Raiders' touchdown that tied the score. He never appeared after that.
It was a big game by Heath Miller, who had four of his eight catches and two touchdowns in the first half. He had a brilliant 22-yard one-handed catch ruled incomplete by replay. Mike Wallace had eight catches for 123 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown, but Antonio Brown had two big fumbles in the fourth quarter, one that proved costly. He was fortunate to recover the first in the end zone, but the other led to the tying field goal.
Roethlisberger had good protection for most of the game, especially in the first half when he had plenty of time to throw for 207 yards. He wasn't sacked until the final series, but the longest run of the game was 8 yards and that was on a scramble by Roethlisberger. Give Maurkice Pouncey and Willie Colon credit for opening the hole on Redman's fourth-down run, but it just wasn't enough against an average defense.
It's not alarming anymore when someone rushes for more than 100 yards against this defense. And pressure? Forget it. Darren McFadden was the latest to gouge them, gaining 113 yards on 18 carries with the help of a 64-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. DE Brett Keisel had a costly neutral-zone infraction penalty on fourth down that allowed the Raiders to score on the next play to tie the score at 14.
The defense was playing without LB James Harrison for the third game a row and the unit continues to get little pressure from the right side. McFadden's 64-yard score was a result of the defense getting caught in a fire-zone blitz. Carson Palmer continually exploited middle blitzes with short passes, especially on the winning field-goal drive. LaMarr Woodley had the only sack early, but that was it. Palmer outsmarted them on too many occasions.
Palmer completed 24 of 34 passes for 209 yards, but 18 of 24 came in the second half when he repeatedly threw under the coverage and converted 7 of 8 third-down chances. S Ryan Mundy, who made his third consecutive start because of a calf injury for Troy Polamalu, whiffed on McFadden's 64-yard TD run and was beaten to the corner on a 3-yard TD pass to Darrius Heyward-Bey that tied the score. Ryan Clark's interception on the first play of the game set up the Steelers touchdown.
It was not a good performance in a number of areas, beginning with Oakland's 37-yard kick return to start the game and a 51-yarder in the third quarter to set up a touchdown. P Drew Butler had punts of 35 and 29 yards, Antonio Brown had a 73-yard punt return for a TD wiped out by a holding penalty and a facemask penalty that pushed the offense into a deep hole. The only bright spot was Shaun Suisham's 33-yard field goal that kept him perfect this season.
A nervy but successful fourth-down decision by Mike Tomlin on the final series went for naught when the offense failed to mount a final scoring attempt. The Steelers continue to do good things on offense, but bad things happen when your top receiver fumbles twice in the fourth quarter. Still, the defense didn't make any significant plays and failed to protect two 10-point leads in the second half. The poor performance on special teams didn't help.
Gerry Dulac: email@example.com First Published September 24, 2012 2:15 AM