Two weeks ago when the last Ballers & Busters came out, it was in a brutal loss at the hands of the Chiefs which ended the Raiders' six-game win streak in Kansas City. This week, the Raiders saw another streak end, their ten year long post bye week losing streak.
The one common theme among both this week's win and lasts week's loss was tough defense and an offense that started out well only to stumble in the second half. This time the Raiders had a 21-3 lead as opposed to a 7-7 tie and therefore felt no need to take the same chances, opting for letting their defense preserve the victory.
It almost didn't work out as the offense sputtered in the second half with just one first down and a turnover in scoring position resulting in a touchdown. The Steelers pulled within three points late and the Raiders defense was luckily able to hold them off long enough to keep them from completing the comeback.
Here are those who got the lead and preserved the victory and those who nearly blew it.
Sio has picked up his play greatly of late. He had two sacks in this game after having his first sack of the season on Alex Smith of the Chiefs last game. But the sacks weren't his only accomplishments in this game. On the Steelers' second offensive play, he swooped in to tackle a catch right in its tracks for a one yard gain to help the Steelers begin the game with a three and out. On the next series, he had a run stuff on first down to begin second straight three and out. Two possessions later, with the Steelers drive starting in Raiders' territory following an interception, Moore had his first sack for a 7-yard loss. The Steelers couldn't make up the distance and ended up settling for a field goal. The next series, he stretched out a run play to assist with a run stuff to help force another three and out. Thanks in large part to his defensive efforts, the Raiders headed into half time up 21-3.
To begin the second half, it was more of the same from Moore. On the second play of the third quarter, he had his second sack of the game for a 9-yard loss. His final big play came on special teams. With the offense doing nothing and the Raiders needing to take as much time off the clock as possible, Moore raced down field on a 53-yard punt and chased down the return man for a 3-yard loss. The Steelers would drive for a touchdown on the ensuing drive but thanks to Moore's special teams work, they had to go 83 yards to get it and it took too much time off the clock to allow them to complete the comeback. He finished the game tied for third on the team with 5 tackles (4 solo) plus the tackle on special teams and of course the two sacks. Big time game for a young rookie who appears to be coming into his own.
Nicely done, sir. After landing on the Buster list through most of the first six games of the season, he broke out in a big way. He started his day out by shooting in to stuff Steelers' receiver Emanuel Sanders on a catch behind the line for a loss of three yards on a third and four. His one bad play was when he gave up a 9-yard catch and tacked on a facemask penalty. Outside of that, receivers had a total of 2 yards of offense on him. But that's not the best part. He was responsible for two takeaways on the day. The first came early in the fourth quarter. He got behind his receiver and yet Roethlisberger put the ball up anyway. Jenkins looked like he was the intended receiver on the play as he hauled in the long pass for the interception. Later in the quarter, with the offense still not keeping the Steelers out of the game, he had hard hit on Antonio Brown to knock the ball loose where Tracy Porter scooped it up for the interception.
These two anchor the right side of the Raiders' defensive line. They had almost identical stat lines in this game. They work as a team on that defensive line creating plays for one another so best to keep them together in the Ballers.
Houston made the first big play on the Steelers' third possession. With the Raiders already up 14-0, he helped end the Steelers next drive with a tackle for loss of three yards. A couple series later, it was Walker's turn. In the same series, he had a run stuff and then ended it with a three and out when he pressured Ben Roethlisberger, forcing him to escape and make an illegal forward pass. Walker kept it rolling on the next Steelers' possession which he began with a tackle for loss. The next play, he pressured Roethlisberger and Houston sacked him. That's how it's done.
Over the third quarter and into the fourth quarter, Houston had three more run stuffing tackles. Then he returned the favor for Walker when he pressured Roethlisberger and Walker sacked him.
Without context, grouping these three in the Ballers together might seem odd. But these three worked together incredibly well all day - and it began on the record-breaking first play of the game.
Terrelle Pryor ran the read option to Darren McFadden running right and nearly the entire Pittsburgh defense bit hard on it. He pulled the ball out and kept it to run around the back of the formation. Thanks to McCants, the defensive end was completely cleared and pushed into the pile up of players. Just one player remained and it was All Pro safety Troy Polamalu. Rod Streater took him on with a fantastic block and Pryor has nothing but open real estate to put on the jets for an NFL record 93-yard quarterback touchdown run. One play, 7-0 Raiders.
These three weren't done either. McCants had the task of keeping Lamarr Woodley - the Steelers ONE true pass rushing threat and sack leader (5.0) - out of the backfield. He did just that and gave Pryor time to work. He used that time to help the Raiders score two more touchdowns in the first half.
The next touchdown drive, Pryor hit Denarius Moore for 14 yards on a third and ten to keep the drive alive. Two plays later; pay dirt. Pryor made his one big mistake of the day on the next series when he overthrew his receiver for an interception. The Steelers would capitalize with a field goal.
Pryor and Streater would then connect on three big completions. The first was a six-yard completion on third and five. Then on the Raiders' third touchdown drive, Pryor hit him twice - the first time he rolled left and completed a 12-yard pass and the second time he rolled right and completed a 16-yard pass to Streater. Pryor then scrambled for a 6-yard gain to the nine-yard line. Three plays later, Pryor lined up wide and McFadden took the direct snap in a wildcat formation for the touchdown.
He had two of the three scores for the Raiders in this game. The first on a 7-yard run in which he plowed through Troy Polamalu at the goal line to finish off the touchdown run. The second was the wildcat direct snap in which he ran right, set up as if to pass, and opted to take it in from four yards out for the score. On the second touchdown drive, he also had a 19-yard run. He was averaging a respectable 4.3 yards per carry in the first half. That averaged took a dive after repeated predictable run calls right into the middle of the line with the Steelers prepared to stop it.
The Raiders second touchdown was set up by Jennings when he came into get a hand on a Zoltan Mesko punt that caused it to travel just three yards and give the Raiders the ball on the Steelers' 26-yard line. His other big play was the of the game clinching/saving variety. He was on the hands team and recovered the Steelers' onside kick attempt.
Tracy Porter - His one big play came late in the game when the Raiders needed it most. It was a fingertip scoop interception off the Mike Jenkins hit. The Raiders weren't able to capitalize but it bought more time off the clock as it gave the Raiders offense three more plays. He technically gave up the only Steelers' touchdown pass but to his credit, Roethlisberger escaped what looked to be a sure sack to hit his man streaking across the goal line. Porter also had another pass defended.
Pat Sims - Steelers' running back Le'Veon Bell had just 24 yards on 13 carries (1.8 yards per carry) and the entire Steelers offense was held to just 35 yards rushing. Sims' work clogging the middle was a big reason why. He had three tackles on the day, one of which was a tackle for loss.