MEMORABLE SERIES MOMENT
Steelers 17, Raiders 9
Nov. 11, 1973: Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
Those Pittsburgh Steelers may have been Three Bricks Shy Of A Load, but Terry Hanratty's 86 passing yards were enough for the visitors on this day. Hanratty bested the opposing combination of Ken Stabler and Daryle Lamonica, the latter throwing four interceptions in reserve. Steelers DE Dwight White picked off two of those passes, one off a Joe Greene deflection, the other set up a 14-yard Hanratty touchdown pass to Ron Shanklin. Later, Mike Wagner's fumble recovery at the Oakland 8 set up a Franco Harris touchdown run that put the game away at 17-3. The win pushed the Steelers to 8-1, but they would lose to the Raiders in the 1973 playoffs. The latter loss has been credited with providing the motivational impetus for a dynasty.
TALE OF THE TAPE
"(The Raiders) have a linebacking crew that's very, very mobile, very hostile. They really fly to the ball. Watching the two inside guys, Malcolm Smith and Curtis Lofton, they pick their way through the traffic, are able to take on blocks. They might have some deficiencies in pass coverage downfield, but as far as run-stuffing capabilities they come up hard. Khalil Mack is tremendous. He is really impressive on tape. As for the other pass-rusher, I had forgotten that Aldon Smith had been picked up by the Raiders. So I'm watching this No. 99 and I'm saying, 'Who is this guy?' I was just watching for a first impression, before I had checked my roster, and I was watching 99 and saying, 'Man, this guy is good.' It was Aldon Smith." -- Steelers sideline reporter Craig Wolfley.
Can the Steelers block the Raiders' pass-rushers?
At least with Le'Veon Bell, the Steelers could occupy either Mack or Aldon Smith with a passing threat in the flat. Not so much with DeAngelo Williams. And of course the Steelers are still working though Alejandro Villanueva's development as a new left tackle. It's not going to be easy. Ben Roethlisberger will need to get rid of the ball quickly to his big men, Martavis Bryant and Heath Miller, and of course Antonio Brown.
THREE QUESTIONS: With DL STEPHON TUITT
Q: What's up with the knee?
ST: "Right now the arrow's up. The arrow's up. Right now I feel good. I know with a knee issue you always want to be 100 percent, and right now the arrow's up and I feel like I'm 100 percent."
Q: You probably don't know much about the Raiders-Steelers rivalry from the 1970s, do you?
ST: "I had a teammate at Notre Dame named George Atkinson. His father played then, so I know a little bit. Actually, I know more than a lot of people think I should know. Are you kidding me? He told us some stories. It was him and another guy. It was a duo. It was him and -- who was the other guy?"
Q: Jack Tatum. That's the guy who once hit a wide receiver and he became paralyzed. Did you ever hear about that?
ST: "Yeah. He was telling me stories about how gory they used to play football back then. We joked around and said, 'Are those penalties now?' But back then they weren't penalties. Boy, what they were able to do to receivers who tried to catch the ball."
What to look for from the Steelers today against Oakland:
No doubt the Raiders will take what they saw from the Bengals last Sunday when they doubled the receivers over the top after Bell left the game. It'll be up to Williams to make those safeties respect the run today. And Roethlisberger not only will have to get rid of the ball, he and his receivers will need to focus and execute in the red zone. They must take advantage of their opportunities, and they'll get a few. Bryant needs to score a couple of touchdowns.
Tuitt will be back, and the coaching staff seems to finally have embraced Steve McLendon as both a NT and defensive end. So the big question about line depth is going away. Antwon Blake's play last Sunday did the same for the cornerback position. Ryan Shazier is healthy. Will Allen will most likely give it a go at strong safety next to the vastly improved Mike Mitchell. So the defense is at full strength, and it must stop the wide receiver tandem of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, because the Raiders' tight ends and running backs aren't too scary.
On paper, this game is a razor close call. Against near-equal competition the last five outings, the Steelers have a slight edge at the line of scrimmage, the Raiders have a slight edge on pass defense, and the teams are equally efficient scoring and stopping scoring. Since the Steelers' efficiency stats the last five weeks would have been much better with Roethlisberger at quarterback (and even though the Steelers are 1-5 in Roethlisberger's second game back following injury), I believe he and his receivers are too focused to lose this game. Steelers, 24-17.
BY THE NUMBERS
65: Career interceptions by Raiders safety Charles Woodson, fifth most in NFL history.
13: Number of years since Woodson has intercepted a pass against the Steelers (Kordell Stewart).
163: Number of games it took Roethlisberger to throw for 40,000 yards, fifth-fastest in NFL history.
130: Passer rating that would tie Raiders second-year QB Derek Carr with Stabler and Jim Plunkett for longest streak of games with such a passer rating.
3: Number of consecutive wins by Steelers over Raiders (1994-2000) is the longest streak by either team in series history. Raiders currently riding two-game series win streak.
10: o'clock in the morning, or the time it will seem for the West Coast Raiders at kickoff today.
* Let's make a correction here from Saturday afternoon's story release, because Cam Heyward and his wife Allie did have their first child, a son, on Saturday and Heyward will play today. That's how you start the day with a good omen.
* Heyward said the winner of this game will be the team with the least penalty yardage. But three of the last four games in the series have been won by the team with more penalty yardage. The Steelers are seventh in the NFL in fewest penalty yards per game. The Raiders are 28th.
* The Steelers' triplets were the cream of the NFL last season, but injuries this season have put them even, or worse, in comparison with the Raiders' playmakers. Cooper and Crabtree have combined for 6 touchdowns, the same as Brown and Bryant; Latavius Murray is 22 yards behind Bell in rushing, 556-534; and Carr has 15 touchdown passes to Roethlisberger's five. The reasons are obvious, but, still, who woulda thunk it?
* Cooper was the fourth pick of the draft and, according to Woodson, "He’s really a special player. I think everybody knew it the day he got here, the day he stepped on the field, just watching him work. The great thing about him is that he comes to work, head down, ready to work every day. Every aspect of the day, whether it’s walk-throughs or practice, he’s working on something. Whether it’s coming out of a break, working on his hands, or whatever. He’s what we like to call a lunch-pail guy, he just brings his lunch pail and is ready to go to work." Woodson compared Cooper to former Colts great Marvin Harrison, who in his first seven games caught 25 for 297 yards and 1 touchdown. Cooper's numbers through seven games are 38-565-3. The seven-game yardage total is the third most by a rookie since 1960. The catch total is seventh best.
* Ask a coach in the middle of the season if one of his rookies might some day make a position change and they're likely to look at you as the fool. But Steelers defensive coordiantor Keith Butler didn't when asked if just-activated rookie cornerback Doran Grant might some day play safety. Butler said, "Yes. There is nothing closed on him. This is the guy’s first year and we need to take time, let him play in this system and see how he does before we make a decision on him." Since there's some concern about Grant's long speed, perhaps safety would suit him. But that's no doubt a spring-time issue.
“He came here for a reason, to help complement a very good running back. Things changed. Now he gets the opportunity. He is excited about it. All of those great players want to play. And he wants to go out there and help us win." -- Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley on DeAngelo Williams.
Preview of today's Raiders-Steelers game at Heinz Field
MEMORABLE SERIES MOMENT