19 November 2010
The ghosts of football past are whispering in your ear, “Remember…remember.” Suddenly your mind opens to visions of the 1970’s in the National Football League and a once-powerful rivalry between two teams that held tight onto the color black and the darkness of rough play it included. Terry Brashaw was the quarterback, wearing number 12, leading the offense; the ‘Steel Curtain’ holding opposing offenses to negative yardage. Between 1972 and 1976 the black and gold faced the black and silver five consecutive times in the playoffs. When the teams met, hits were explosive and blood was common on the jersey of any player on the field. The Steelers won the Super Bowl at the end of the 1974 and 1975 seasons; many times the Steelers had to go through Oakland to get there. When your mind clears, you realize that many of those Steelers players are now enshrined in the NFL’s Football Hall of Fame in Canton, as are Raiders players, and you remember that many fans in the new generation never had the opportunity to watch some of the greatest games in NFL history.
Steelers and Raiders 2010
Last week, Steeler Nation was rocked by a loss to the New England Patriots at home; a feat that is hard to swallow. Last year, the Steelers were rattled and spiraled out of control following a game in which the Oakland Raiders came into Heinz Field in last place and handed the Steelers a loss. Dark days, clouds, and a threat of rain, but the Steelers have never been the type of team to lay in the mud and stare at the heavens asking ‘why’. Following week 10’s game this season, safety Ryan Clark said, “You can’t start dredging up things from the past.” Clark and the team may want to channel the ghosts of the Steelers past; the Super Bowl teams that made history and proved that the blood of black and gold pulses strongly through the veins of the NFL.
The Raiders will keep Jason Campbell in their offense at quarterback. Gradkowski, a Pittsburgh native, is being held back by Coach Cable while he recovers from a shoulder injury. The Raiders have speed at the receiver position that can burn a struggling Steelers defensive secondary. Zach Miller (tight end) will factor into the offensive scheme as well this week after nursing an injured foot. Miller leads the Raiders in receptions this year with 34, and told reporters that there is ‘no question’ that he’ll be in the game Sunday. Oakland is coming into Heinz Field off of a bye week. The Raiders team have shown that it still has some life left in it, and they have improved in winning road games. They would like nothing more than to eliminate the Steelers to move closer into control of the AFC West division that is up for grabs.
The Steelers hold a 2010 game record of 6-3; the Raiders are 5-4.
Prediction: Steelers 17 Raiders 10
How injuries could determine the winner
Both teams had several players on the NFL’s injury report on Friday.
Oakland listed WR Chaz Schilens (knee) out this week; CB Nnamdi Ashomugha (ankle), DT John Henderson (foot), WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (hamstring) and TE Zach Miller (foot), are listed as questionable. On Friday, every single player listed as injured had at least limited practice time.
Pittsburgh listed S Will Allen (concussion) and DE Aaron Smith (triceps) as out. DE Brett Keisel (hamstring) was listed as questionable. CB Crezdon Butler (quadricep), G Chris Kemoeatu (ankle), S Troy Polamalu (achilles), LB Lawrence Timmons (hip) and WR Hines Ward (concussion) were listed as probable. DE Nick Eason didn’t participate in practice on Wednesday or Thursday due to an illness. Ward, who was insistent that he’d be back this week, fully partipated in practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Butler, Keisel, Kemoeatu, Polamalu and Timmons all participated in Friday’s practice.
Eason and Ziggy Hood (defensive ends) will be challenged again this week while facing an Oakland running game that is second in the league. RB Darren McFadden has 757 yards this season. While the Steelers defense has been stingy over the first nine weeks of the season, they allowed New England over 100 yards rushing; the most any team that opposed them was able to put on the stats chart against them. If Timmons is able to return to the defensive lineup, Coach LeBeau may rotate Chris Hoke and Casey Hampton to keep the defense fresh.
Polamalu has not had a big season, and it is mainly because a lot of his usual across-the-field drift has been assigned to Timmons. Polamalu may have an ankle injury, but if LeBeau gives him the nod this week to play as he has in the past, expect number 43 to not only assist in the run defense outside the tackles, but also disrupt Campbell’s play calling.
Jerome Bettis was on ESPN Radio’s Mike and Mike show early in the week saying that the Steelers don’t plan games against their opponents. “The problem that the Steelers had was that adjustment going into the game,” Bettis stated. He pointed out that the Patriots were prepared last week, but the Steelers could not modify their plays to impact the game enough.
All season, Steelers fans have questioned the play-calling by offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. His offensive play-calling has been predictable. Arians allowed a Q&A session with the media following practice on Thursday, possibly after so many journalists and fans were heard grumbling. Some fans were publicly calling for Arians to get a pink slip (with kicker Jeff Reed who was released following last week’s game). When asked if he might open up the offense more, Arians said, “I don’t think so…last week we had to (open the offense up), but we want to maintain balance as long as we can in the game. To me, (50/50) is the perfect ratio.” When asked how injuries to offensive linemen have affected play calling, Arians replied, “You can’t change what your game plan is, you just expect the next guy to step up and play and it gets taxing after awhile when it happens every [expletive] week.” Telling the media that the Steelers won’t change is bound to reach ears and eyes by opponents.
Dick LeBeau (defensive coordinator) is nearly as predictable this season. His defensive strategy is to stuff the run, forcing opposing quarterbacks to throw. Unfortunately, having wide receivers in the NFL blaze past the defensive backfield that is not playing in-sync has led to the Steelers watching scoreboards light up against them. Tom Brady picked the defensive backs apart last week, and Oakland will take advantage of the same weakness unless LeBeau mixes things up.
Coach Tomlin may have heat and the burden of proof on his shoulders, but the team needs him to step in and be more emotionally involved with the play on the field. As head coach, he has the ability to bend and not break, but he stood silent on the sidelines during most of this seasons’ games.
Roethlisberger and Ward take control
This week both veteran players decided to stand up and lead the team after Roethlisberger called Ward. Their ultimate decision: to challenge their teammates to follow their lead. When Arians was asked about the call and decision by the two key offensive players on the team, he said, “That’s what they need to do. They’re the vets, they’re the guys, they’re the ‘A’ players, and I’ve always felt they have done that. I know this. I’ve been here seven years and that’s the best two practices Hines has had in five of them because he hasn’t practiced on Wednesday in a long time. He wanted to prove to everybody that he was healthy. He had two great practices and sowed a lot of the younger guys how to do it.”
Roethlisberger can lead, but his reputation with his teammates suffered when he didn’t show good judgment during the off-season. Ward, whose smiles are usually seen on the field every week, haven’t been flashed nearly as often. These two men have the ability to motivate, and the Steelers could use more than just a pep rally; they need a metaphorical cattle prodding. This isn’t to say the team hasn’t played hard, but mistakes (like penalties, dropped passes, and turnovers) have damaged them emotionally, physically and on the scoreboard. Maurkice Pouncey has more juice as a rookie than many players who have been with the team for three years or more. Roethlisberger and Ward have been a compliment to each other in the past, and if they can get back their lost mojo, expect great things on the field Sunday.
Sun, 11/21 at 1:00 PM EST
TV: CBS KDKA
Radio: 102.5 FM/970 AM
Related Articles & Media
Coach Tomlin on the Raiders
Pre-game videos on Steelers.com
NFL Week 11: Raiders vs Steelers preview (nfl.com)
Enter the COMMENT TO WIN contest FOR FREE!!!* THIS ARTICLE QUALIFIES AS AN ELIGIBLE ARTICLE!
Please click here to read the rules, then return to this article to participate.
Are you a Steelers fan? Get the latest spam-free news in your inbox. Are you on Facebook? Friend Christina to talk Steelers. To email Christina click here. Twitter and re-Tweet this article by following @3Rivers_Writer
This Examiner covers Steelers news, injury reports, statistics, collecting, memorabilia, and player bios of not only current Steelers players, but also legends and Hall of Famers. She loves comments and questions, so don’t be afraid to follow her online.
OTHER EXAMINERS WHO WRITE ABOUT THE PITTSBURGH STEELERS (NFL)
Chris Adamski Matt Pawlikowski Danny Cox
* The Comment to Win Contest is NOT sponsored by foamcage.com
Save article to delicious