Steelers Report Card: Game 12 vs. Raiders
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After throwing an interception in the end zone on his third failed trip inside the 20, Ben Roethlisberger completed his next nine passes for 151 yards and produced two touchdowns in the fourth quarter -- the latter with 1:56 remaining to give the Steelers what appeared to be the winning points. He missed only one of 11 passes in the second half, and that was the final Hail Mary.
The Raiders had the league's second-worst rush defense, so it's no surprise that Rashard Mendenhall finished with 103 yards on 20 carries. But 60 came on one run in the first quarter when cornerback Chris Johnson caught him from behind at the Raiders' 14. That means he had just 43 yards on 19 carries the rest of the game, though one was a 3-yard touchdown
Santonio Holmes had eight catches for a career-high 149 yards and made several big plays, including a 34-yard touchdown and a 57-yard catch-and-run to the Raiders' 3 to set up another. Hines Ward added six catches for 77 yards and an 11-yard score, the would-be winner, with a nice play to beat press coverage. Give Mike Wallace credit for the block to spring Holmes on his 57-yard play.
Roethlisberger was sacked just once and Mendenhall had his second 100-yard rushing game of the season. The running game averaged 4.9 yards. But 60 of the 132 yards came on one play and the line couldn't generate enough movement against a defense that was allowing 161 yards rushing per game. Plus, they were stopped on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 in the first half.
Give nose tackle Casey Hampton credit for at least three big run stops, especially on a third-and-1 that forced a field goal. And Brett Keisel had decent pressure on quarterback Bruce Gradkowski. But the Raiders kept grinding the ball on the ground and finished with 109 yards on 28 carries -- 63 by Justin Fargas. But Gradkowski got away from pressure too many times and added 20 yards.
LaMarr Woodley had two of the three sacks and was nearly unstoppable applying pressure. But when a team gives up 21 points in the fourth quarter to an offense that had managed just 10 touchdowns in 11 games, everyone is culpable. And, for the second time in three games, the defensive backs failed to get the correct call from James Farrior on the winning touchdown.
It was a complete breakdown all the way around. Ike Taylor got beat for a 75-yard score and couldn't stop a jump-ball pass on the final drive; Ryan Mundy had a unnecessary roughness penalty and gave up the winning touchdown two plays later. Joe Burnett dropped an easy interception on his first play after replacing injured William Gay that would have ended the game. Once again, no picks.
It was actually one of the better performances by the unit, unless you want to blame Stefan Logan for getting caught from behind on his 83-yard kickoff return to start the game -- his longest return of the season. The only real blemish was allowing a 34-yard return on the ensuing kickoff that led to a Raiders field goal. Otherwise, the Raiders averaged 16 yards in five returns.
This loss is more debilitating because the Steelers didn't even give this one away with turnovers. The repeated failures of the defense in the fourth quarter has been a problem that hasn't been corrected since Week 2. And why have Jeff Reed attempt a 53-yard field goal, leading 10-6, at the start of the fourth quarter? It just gave the Raiders a short field on their ensuing scoring drive.
First Published December 7, 2009 12:00 am