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This Raiders-Steelers matchup harkens back to a rivalry of the ages

Steelers plan disciplined approach to age-old rival, who may not understand such an approach. Also, the Steelers have added a new kick returner.

PITTSBURGH -- "The Raidahs."

Keith Butler did a decent job with the slang there -- for a Southern boy.

But the Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator was only allowed to even attempt '70s slang because he walked the walk. Butler played against the Oakland Raiders when they really were "The Raidahs."

"They're the same organization," said Butler. "They look for the same things: big offensive linemen, HUGE offensive linemen, speed on the perimeter with the wide receivers and running backs. It's the same type of deal for them. I don't think much has changed since I played against them."

Butler played for the Seattle Seahawks in the late 1970s and early 1980s, back when Steelers-Raiders was the class rivalry of the NFL.

Were the Raiders as dirty as their reputation?

Butler couldn't help but chuckle at the question.

"They were fun to play against," he said. "Al Davis would always go down there and stand on your end zone, where you're doing all your warm-ups, and sit there and cross his arms like he was going to whup somebody's butt or something. That's the way he was. He enjoyed the game. He enjoyed the physical part of the game. He enjoyed the psychological part of the game. That was Al."

And Al loved nothing better than playing the Steelers. The gamesmanship between those two teams was legendary.

Todd Haley, current Steelers offensive coordinator and son of Dick Haley, the director of player personnel for the Steelers back in the greatest decade for pure football, was asked if he had any juicy stories about the greatest rivalry of that era.
"Yeah," he said. "I was in the stands at Three Rivers for the Immaculate Reception and got hot chocolate spilled all over me. That's the most interesting one.

"I mean, I remember them vividly," Haley added. "I remember Swann getting carried off the field, and George Atkinson and Tatum and all those guys. They were a team you liked to hate."

Did he?

"Oh, yeahhhhh," Haley said.

And those feelings didn't change when he coached the Kansas City Chiefs.

"Not a lot," he said. "But, no, they're a good team. Defensively they're still doing what the Raiders have done for a lot of years, which is a lot of man-to-man, a lot of one-on-ones, and they're playing tight, physical football and they've got some guys up front who can bring it and disrupt you. Really, this is a good group."

This current Raiders team is 4-3 with a young, franchise-type quarterback in Derek Carr, the front-running Rookie of the Year candidate in wide receiver Amari Cooper, and a couple of pass-rushers in Khalil Mack and Aldon Smith who have All-Pro talent. Pulling the defense together on the back end is safety Charles Woodson. The 39-year-old has five interceptions in his 18th season.

"His picks come from being able to be in the middle of the field and being able to get to either sideline," said Darrius Heyward-Bey, a former Raider. "He's smart. He's studied the game. When you've played 20 years, there's not much new stuff you can throw at him."

While the games in the 1970s were often determined by which team could get away with the most, this game, the current Steelers say, will be determined in a more buttoned-down way.

"The team that's going to be most disciplined and doesn't commit as many penalties is going to be the most successful team," said Cam Heyward. "You look at this series the past couple of years, you had some games where a lot of penalties were drawn."

Coming off last week's 10-penalty loss, it's probably a good sign the Steelers are talking in such a manner. But that would be a departure from the past, a past when only one thing mattered:

Just win, baby.

NOTES -- Strong safety Will Allen, who's missed three games with a sprained ankle, said he felt good at practice Thursday, but he's still being evaluated for a return to the starting lineup. ... Reserves Terence Garvin (knee) and Matt Spaeth (knee) were the only Steelers to miss Thursday's practice. WR Markus Wheaton (ankle) practiced in a limited capacity. ... DE Stephon Tuitt practiced full-time after missing the last two games with a knee injury. He said "Right now the arrow's up. Right now I feel good." ... In an end-of-day roster move, the Steelers signed return specialist Jacoby Jones and released Dri Archer. Jones, 31 was released this week by the San Diego Chargers. This season he's returned 9 kickoffs at an average of 21.4 yards. He hasn't caught a pass and returned five punts for minus four yards. ... The Steelers re-signed QB/WR Tyler Murphy to their practice squad.

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