All week long the Oakland Raiders talked about the importance of needing multiple defenders to sack Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. On Sunday, they discovered they didn’t need that many after all.
The Raiders sacked Roethlisberger five times, matching their season high, hurried him into two interceptions and knocked him around numerous other times while hanging on for a much-needed 21-18 win.
It was another step forward for Oakland’s defense, which has gotten better each week.
The most impressive part? The Raiders were able to bring down Roethlisberger often with just one defender.
“When we got hands on Ben we got him down,” Oakland safety Charles Woodson said. “There were a couple of times when we could have got him and he ended up making a play. But the guy who hit him got him down. If he was escaping, someone else was there to get him down.
“That’s huge against Ben because he makes so man plays shedding guys off of him and spinning off tackles. Today our guys got him down to the ground.”
Rookie linebacker Sio Moore led the way with two sacks. Defensive end Lamarr Houston and tackles Vance Walker and newly signed Daniel Muir each had one apiece.
Moore, who also had a pair of quarterback hits, dropped Roethlisberger for a seven-yard loss on Pittsburgh’s second drive then sacked him for a nine-yard loss on the Steelers’ opening series in the third quarter.
“It’s really about targeting him in the right place and playing relentlessly,” said Moore, who has three sacks this season. “(Roethlisberger) is a good quarterback, so the less opportunities you can give him puts us in an advantageous situation.”
Houston’s sack upped his team-leading total to four.
“We talked about it all week, how tough it is to bring him down, how he works on spinning out of tackles,” said Houston, who finished with nine tackles (two for losses). “He’s really good at escaping tackles and escaping the pocket, so it was important that we were getting him down on the first try. That was one of the goals of our defense.”
Even though the Steelers had dropped two of their previous three games against the Raiders, Roethlisberger had played well. He passed for nearly 1,000 yards with nine touchdowns and only one interception in the three games before Sunday.
On Sunday, Roethlisberger completed 29 of 45 passes for 275 yards and a touchdown. His passer rating of 70.1 is a season low and his worst since Dec. 23, 2012, when he had a 58.6 mark against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Oakland defensive coordinator Jason Tarver has been creative in dialing up blitzes this season. Against Pittsburgh, however, the Raiders didn’t have much success sending the extra pass-rushers.
Most of the damage came from the defensive line.
“Our guys up front did a great job,” Oakland coach Dennis Allen said. “We were able to get pressure on the quarterback in a variety of different ways, not always with bringing extra rushers. Our four-man rush was able to do a good job of getting some pressure. We were around (Roethlisberger) a lot.
“Obviously he’s a big, strong guy and he’s hard to get on the ground. He was able to get out of a couple of sack opportunities and make some plays down the field. But I thought our defense…those guys flew around.”
And all they needed was one guy at a time to do it. The Raiders will take that any day.
*All quotes and information used in this report by Michael Wagaman were obtained firsthand.