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Old 12-06-2009, 05:08 PM   #1
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Default Raiders deal devastating blow to Steelers

Raiders deal devastating blow to Steelers
http://community.post-gazette.com/bl...k/default.aspx
By Bob Smizik | Sunday 4:25 p.m.

What at first had the look of a much-needed wake-up call for the Steelers turned into something considerably more alarming -- like a knockout punch.

Incredibly, the once-mighty Steelers defense allowed three touchdown in the final 8 minutes, 21 seconds this afternoon to the formerly hapless Oakland Raiders.

The result: A staggering 27-24 loss, the Steelers fourth straight, which drops them to 6-6 and put them on the outside looking in as far as the post-season is concerned.

Heinz Field has become the House of Pain for Pittsburgh teams. Pitt lost by one point Saturday, the SRashard Mendenhall ran for 103 yards on 20 carries against Oaklandteelers were humbled on Sunday.

Coach Mike Tomlin was asked if the team could stay together after four straight losses.

``We have to,'' he said. ``They professionals. I believe that they will. That's a uniquely close group.''

The hero for the Raiders was quarterback Bruce Gradkowski of Seton LaSalle High School and Dormont. He outplayed Ben Roethlisberger and almost personally dealt this defeat to the Steelers. Gradkowski, an NFL journeyman who opened the season as a backup, completed 20 of 33 passes for 308 yards and three touchdowns.

He was not intercepted, although Steelers defensive back Joe Burnett had one in his hands but could not hold on to it right before the game-winning touchdown.

[B]The Raiders came into the game ranked 31st in the NFL in total offense and 32nd in points.[/B] They were averaging only 10.5 points a game but doubled that against the Steelers defense, which surrendered yet another fourth-quarter lead. The Raiders accumulated more yards in the fourth quarter against the Steelers than they had been averaging for an entire game.

It was a crazy final 10 minutes after a somewhat boring first 50.

After blowing numerous scoring opportunities in the first half, the Steelers led, 10-6, midway through the fourth quarter when Oakland moved 57 yards in 11 plays to score a touchdown and take the lead.

The Steelers quickly regained the lead but Oakland came right back, moving 84 yards on three plays to go ahead, 20-17.

Once again the Steelers came right back to regain the lead, 24-20. But the Raiders would not be denied. Starting on their own 12, they moved 88 yards in 10 plays to take the lead with nine seconds remaining.

Asked what went wrong in his secondary, Tomlin said, ``Your guess is as good as mine. We had the opportunity to make plays and we didn't.''

Obviously, the Steelers desperately need the return to the lineup injured strong safety Troy Polamalu. But their problems go far deeper than his absence. The ability of Gradkowski to have his way with their pass defense was astonishing. Yet he did it and he did it without too much trouble.

The offense came awake in the fourth quarter and it should have been enough to win. But the defense -- once the Steelers pride and glory -- let the team down one more time.

Something is clearly wrong with this team
. It has played well on occasion but continually has struggled against weak team and now has lost a second time to an NFL bottom feeder. The other such loss was to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Tomlin is on the spot. Fans and media complain about the Bruce Arians offense and the Dick LeBeau defense but these are Mike Tomlin's Steelers and the buck stops with him. Tomlin has never dealt with this kind of adversity in his head coaching career. It remains to be seen what he can do although it's possibly too late to do anything.

The Steelers have what should be a win Thursday at Cleveland. But after that the schedule is Green Bay, Baltimore and Miami, which beat the New England Patriots today.

If the 6-6 Steelers continue to play as they have, they could well end up as the 7-9 Steelers and out of the playoffs.
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Old 12-06-2009, 05:13 PM   #2
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Default Re: Raiders deal devastating blow to Steelers

I don't know understand why this team is in such a funk. After the Denver win, the Super Bowl seemed like a certainty. Now, the playoffs are going to be tough to make.
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