Steelers vs. Raiders: Takeaways from Oakland's 21-18 Win over Pittsburgh
Terrelle Pryor set a franchise record with a 93-yard touchdown run, and the Oakland Raiders jumped out to an early 18-point lead against Pittsburgh before having to hold on for a 21-18 win over the Steelers on Sunday.
With the offense entirely shut down in the second half, the Raiders had to lean heavily on the defense to secure their third straight home win over the Steelers.
Running back Darren McFadden scored a pair of touchdowns, although it may not be enough to secure his future in Oakland. The NFL trade deadline is looming, and McFadden could be one of the players general manager Reggie McKenzie is looking to move.
Here are the top takeaways from the Raiders’ win over the Steelers.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
Pryor Races into Record Books
For the second time this season, quarterback Terrelle Pryor put the Raiders into the end zone on their first play from scrimmage. This time, he did it with his legs and set a team record in the process.
After a holding penalty on the opening kickoff pushed Oakland’s offense back to its own 7-yard line, offensive coordinator Greg Olson called for a read-option which Pryor executed to perfection.
He faked a handoff to running back Darren McFadden that completely fooled Pittsburgh’s defense, then took off around the right end of the line where there was a huge hole. Wide receiver Rod Streater held his block long enough to let Pryor slip through, and from there it was simply a footrace that Oakland’s quarterback wasn’t going to lose.
Pryor finished with 106 yards rushing but was held under 100 yards passing for the first time in his career.
The touchdown was the longest run from scrimmage in Raiders’ history, breaking the 24-year-old record held by Bo Jackson.
King's Punting, Tackling Prove Critical
Oakland’s struggles on offense in the second half meant a busy day for Marquette King, and the second-year punter held up well.
King punted eight times and had a 46.5-yard average that included a booming 58-yarder after the Steelers had pinned the Raiders back on their own side of the field in the second half. King also landed a pair of punts inside the 20-yard line and had a respectable 38.1-yard net.
He also made arguably the best tackle of the day when he dropped Antonio Brown following Brown’s 44-yard punt return. The play was huge because it saved a potential touchdown, and because the Raiders defense forced a turnover on the ensuing possession.
“I’d rather it not get back to Marquette,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “But at least he got him down.”
McFadden Scores Twice, Still Sluggish
Running back Darren McFadden had one of his most productive games of the season, although that isn’t saying much considering how the year has gone.
McFadden scored a pair of touchdowns on short runs. One came on a seven-yard run when he knifed his way through traffic into the end zone in the first quarter to give the Raiders a 14-0 lead. The second was on a direct snap four-yard run out of the Wildcat formation.
Overall, however, McFadden’s afternoon was mostly filled with disappointing runs. He carried 24 times for 73 yards, averaging 3.0 yards a carry.
The big question now is whether the former first-round draft pick has played his last game with the Raiders. The NFL trade deadline is Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET, and there’s a possibility Oakland might be dangling McFadden as trade bait.
Offense Stalls in Second Half
For the second time this season the Raiders built an early lead in front of their home fans, and for the second time, those same fans wound up having to sweat it out at the end.
At least this time Oakland was able to hold on for the win.
Four weeks after blowing a 14-point advantage and losing to the Washington Redskins, the Raiders jumped out to a 21-3 lead against the Steelers and nearly let it slip away when their offense went cold in the second half.
Oakland managed just one first down and only 35 yards after halftime. That opened the door for Pittsburgh to come back. The Steelers scored a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter and added a two-point conversion to pull within 21-18 with less than two minutes remaining.
When the Raiders failed to run the clock out, Pittsburgh had one final shot but couldn’t get another play off after Ben Roethlisberger’s 33-yard completion to Emmanuel Sanders.
The 35 yards were the fewest by the Raiders in the second half of a win since Oakland beat Pittsburgh in 2006.
Cornerbacks Make Pivotal Plays
Oakland’s pass rush on Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger played a significant role in keeping the Steelers offense under wraps for most of the afternoon. The Raiders secondary, particularly cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter, also came up big for the defense.
Jenkins had arguably his best game with Oakland. The veteran cornerback dropped Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders for a three-yard loss on a third-down play in the first quarter, then intercepted a Roethlisberger pass at the start of the fourth quarter. It’s his first pick since 2011.
Jenkins was also called for a helmet-to-helmet penalty, though the flag was picked up. Later, he stopped running after getting beaten on a pass play and waited for safety Brandian Ross to make the play.
Porter was credited with an interception, although the referee ruled it as a fumble after the play was reviewed.
Pittsburgh wide receivers Antonio Brown and Sanders combined for 16 catches and 170 yards, so it wasn’t a completely dominant day by the Raiders. They did make the pivotal plays, however, and that’s a step in the right direction for Oakland’s secondary.
Ford's Day to Forget
Jacoby Ford hasn’t been much a part of the Raiders’ weekly game plans in recent weeks. He might be even more missing in action after his performance against the Steelers.
Ford misplayed two punts, one of which nearly resulted in a costly turnover deep in the Raiders' territory. The other was downed at Oakland’s 1-yard line after Ford initially called for a fair catch.
Additionally, he fumbled away a possession on offense early in the fourth quarter that helped set up Pittsburgh’s first touchdown.
Ford was also supposed to be the spark plug on the kickoff return team, but he has apparently lost that job to Taiwan Jones.
“What we have to understand is that when you put the ball on the ground in a game like this, you’re giving them an opportunity to get back in the game and you can’t do that,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “Good football teams don’t do that. Part of it is just our ability to focus in.”
Moore Shut Down by Taylor
Denarius Moore has been Oakland’s most productive wide receiver over the past month. Against Pittsburgh cornerback Ike Taylor, however, Moore was little more than a side note in the box score.
Moore caught just two passes for 32 yards, both of which went for first downs. Beyond that, however, he was a non-factor. Taylor completely took him out of quarterback Terrelle Pryor’s progression, blanketing Moore for most of the afternoon.
None of Oakland’s wide receivers were very impressive. Rod Streater, who had been somewhat a forgotten man in the offense in recent weeks, led the team with four catches for 45 yards, but the passing game produced only 88 yards overall.
Brice Butler and Ford both had miserable days. Butler dropped a pair of passes, one which would have gained a first down and sustained a drive. The second bounced off Butler’s hands and was intercepted by Steelers cornerback Cortez Allen.
Ford also fumbled away a possession and caught just one pass for minus-three yards.
Jennings Blocks Another Punt
Rashad Jennings hasn’t done much as a backup running back to McFadden. He rushed twice for eight yards and didn’t catch a pass, as the Raiders leaned more on fullback Marcel Reece when McFadden was out of the game.
Jennings hasn’t let his lack of production slow him down on special teams.
The veteran running back came up with his second blocked punt of the season when he got a hand on Zoltan Mesko’s kick early in the first quarter. That set the Raiders up with prime field position, and five plays later, McFadden scored on a seven-yard run to push Oakland’s lead to 14-0.