"I told them we were one score away from them wanting to get on a plane and go back to Oakland," Steelers' coach Bill Cowher said.
"It's cold out there, they're 3-9. They really didn't want to go out there and play," Steelers receiver Hines Ward said.
The Raiders plead not guilty to all that.
"No question, I thought they did an excellent job in terms of effort," coach Bill Callahan said of his players.
"Guys came out and fought hard, it just didn't go our way," safety Derrick Gibson said. "When it goes bad, it just goes bad I guess."
"There is no doubt," defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield said. "I know on the defensive side, there is no quit out there. We are still trying. We're running the plays he (defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan) calls. We're not changing them ... we're not out there just free lancing."
"I can only speak for me but I know I tried to play my butt off," guard Frank Middleton said. "And the way it felt in the huddle, everybody on offense was trying to play their butt off. The whole 53-man roster did not give up, I can truly say that."
If the protests are true, that in itself is an indictment of the 3-10 Raiders. Defensive tackle Rod Coleman put the simplest spin of them all on it.
"We suck, that's all you need to know," Coleman said. "That's it. That's all I'm going to say. I don't care what you say to me I'm going to keep saying that."
He proceeded to repeat his first two words seven straight times.
Where do the Raiders go from here? Back home, for one, where they are actually a respectable 3-3. There, they will play the Baltimore Ravens. Then they will take whatever body composition they consist of -- dumb, flawed but game, meek surrendering prisoners of war -- onto the Monday night stage for the third time this year to play Green Bay.
Finally, they close at San Diego in a game that could have immense impact. It could be for the first pick in the NFL draft, depending on what the Chargers, Falcons and Cardinals do over the last three weeks.
They could regain a measure of pride with a win or two in these pre-Christmas weeks.
Or they could screw up their well-earned draft status.
NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
-- QB Rick Mirer (ankle) claimed he felt much better Monday and was optimistic he could practice Wednesday. Coach Bill Callahan, whose policy is not to divulge any injury news the day after a game, said he had no information regarding Mirer's status.
--T Lincoln Kennedy (concussion) said as head injuries have gone for him in the past, this injury was a mild one. However, the Raiders have already lost one player this year to post-concussion syndrome and he will be watched carefully. If possible, Kennedy wants to finish the season, which will probably be his last.
--C Barrett Robbins (knee) has an arthritic condition and even if he plays against Baltimore, will probably be held out of practice Wednesday for the third straight week.
--RG Mo Collins (knee) also has a chronic condition and needs as much rest as the team can afford him in order to play. He has now missed two starts this year but played after missing numerous practices.
-- DT Dana Stubblefield (ankle) played for the first time since Oct. 20 and came out of the game with no further damage after playing just under two dozen snaps.
-- SS Derrick Gibson (neck) made his return to the lineup after what looked like a serious injury and intercepted a pass against Pittsburgh.
-- DT John Parrella (groin), after missing eight games, is probably through for the year. All that is left is for him to agree with the coaches that he needs to go on IR so the team can bolster its injury-plagued roster.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Do you have some magic lotion we can rub on so we can stop struggling?" -- Wide receiver Jerry Porter.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
REPORT CARD VS. STEELERS
PASSING OFFENSE: F -- Easily the most inefficient passing game the Raiders have had in a decade. Rick Mirer averaged 1.3 yard per attempt when four sacks are figured in. Steelers' defenders "jumped" Raider receivers, overplaying them and rendering them virtually useless. Mirer tried discouraging them by completing a deep ball only a few times, never successfully. Pass blocking was horrid as Kimo von Oelhoffen beat LT Barry Sims three times for sacks. Twice, in Sims' defense, von Oelhoffen was blocked but Mirer walked right into his arms.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B plus -- When the Raiders were still in contact on the scoreboard, they ran as well as anyone could ask. Tyrone Wheatley (13 for 65) and Charlie Garner (9 for 57) averaged 5.6 yards a carry. But in the second half, down at least 10 at all times, they were 7 for 22 rushing and after two failures to capitalize on turnovers early in the third quarter, the game was in Mirer's hands.
PASS DEFENSE: F -- There was no pass rush (zero sacks) and coverage was so poor it was difficult at times to tell whether the Raiders were in an ineffective zone or just incapable of keeping contact in faulty man to man. Result: Steelers averaged 9.5 yards per pass attempt, more than seven times better than the Raiders fared.
RUSH DEFENSE: D -- The Steelers ranked 31st in the league in rushing going in. They hadn't had a 100-yard rusher all year. Jerome Bettis proceeded to hit them for 106 and the Steelers got 133 on 40 carries. Nothing spectacular, just a grinding performance that once more exposed the Raiders' meager run defense. At least the Raiders have solved their rush lane deficiencies. Now they can't seem to get off blocks.
SPECIAL TEAMS: F -- Total failure in every aspect. Even their one bright spot this year, punter Shane Lechler, struggled, helping Antwaan Randle-El blister them for 132 yards on five punt returns. The return game registered negative yards on punts and a mere 17.5 yards on kickoffs. Total meltdown.
COACHING: C -- Nothing wrong with the game plan (power running). It led to a 7-0 first quarter lead. But was a victim of defensive breakdowns when the Steelers scored 17 second quarter points. One-time third-string quarterback Rick Mirer, hobbling with an ankle injury, was forced to throw but was no match for the Steelers' defense at that point. That's not a coaching problem, it's a personnel issue. Strange coaching decision: nickel back Terrance Shaw spending the day defending Plaxico Burress. That awakened the slumbering Burress. Also strange: head coach Bill Callahan saying the Raiders planned to punt to Randle-El. Lechler said the opposite. Why such foggy communication? The decision to keep Mirer in the game although he was injured and immobile, probably made no difference. Backup Rob Johnson isn't much for being on the move either so it was a wash having Mirer in there.