OAKLAND, Calif. -- Ben Roethlisberger was limping across the locker room and his right knee was bleeding, too. It was another tough day at the office for Roethlisberger in the stadium that is quickly becoming one of his least favorite places to visit.
When he turned around to face reporters after washing away the blood and sweat from another head-scratching loss by the bay, one would have never known by the look on his face that Roethlisberger had just played one of the best statistical games of his career.
Six years ago when the Steelers visited the Raiders, Roethlisberger had one of the worst games of his career. He threw four interceptions, including two that were returned for touchdowns, in a 20-13 loss that left the Steelers wondering how they managed to let the game slip away.
They had a similar feeling Sunday on a day when Roethlisberger put forth arguably his best effort in a loss. The Raiders sneaked away with a 34-31 victory at O.co Coliseum, but Roethlisberger wasn't to blame this time.
Roethlisberger threw for 384 yards and four touchdowns and recorded a 123.2 passer rating, the second-best passer rating of his career in a loss. He had a 123.3 passer rating in a 28-20 home loss to -- you guessed it -- the Raiders, at Heinz Field three years ago. He has thrown for more yards in a game only six other times and has thrown for more touchdowns just twice.
"We have to close out," said receiver Mike Wallace, who had eight receptions for 123 yards and a touchdown. "We kept letting them back in the game. We can't do that. We have to be able to close out the game if we want to be a playoff-caliber or Super Bowl-caliber team. We can't lose games like that. We just have to close out the game. We can't get where we want to get if we don't close out games."
The Steelers twice had 10-point leads in the second half. After the Raiders cut the lead to 31-28, the Steelers were driving in Oakland territory when Antonio Brown fumbled as he attempted to get extra yardage.
The Raiders tied the score a few minutes later when Sebastian Janikowski made a 32-yard field goal with 6:30 remaining.
"I should have gotten down, and it changed the outcome of the game," said Brown, who had seven catches for 87 yards and a touchdown.
The Steelers had a chance to drive for the winning score, but the Raiders forced a Roethlisberger incompletion on third-and-9 from the Steelers 36.
Roethlisberger scrambled away from pressure and attempted a deep pass to Wallace while linebacker Miles Burris was trying to sack him. It was one of only 13 incomplete passes on the day for Roethlisberger, who was 36 for 49.
Drew Butler came on to punt for the only time in the second half, and the Raiders then drove for the winning field goal.
"The last third down, they brought the hot," Roethlisberger said.
"Heath [Miller] was the hot guy. We might have gotten 2 yards. I just missed Mike. I have to make that play."
It's the second time in three games the Steelers lost when they had the ball and a chance to win with a fourth-quarter drive. They lost the opener at Denver when Roethlisberger threw an interception when they were down by six with less than two minutes remaining.
"It's definitely disappointing," receiver Emmanuel Sanders said. "With six minutes left, tie ball game, every offense wants to go down and answer and score. Hopefully, the next time, if we get in the same situation, we'll be able to score."
"We had them on the ropes a couple of drives," Miller added. "For whatever reason, they got the stops and we weren't able to put them away. If you let good teams in this league hang around and hang around all game, sooner or later, they're going to make some plays, and that's what happened today."
Ray Fittipaldo: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @rayfitt1. First Published September 24, 2012 3:00 AM