The Raiders are in Pittsburgh today to face the Steelers in a pivotal match up half way through the season that has some serious playoff implications. These are two of the favorites for a wild card playoff spot, so the winner today gets a big time tiebreaker in that process.
Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers started out with the ball at their own 21 yard line On the 2nd play of the drive Charles Woodson went down with a shoulder injury, and the the 3rd play was a swing play to DeAngelo Williams for a big gain. Woodson was already back on the next play after that, but the one play he was out was a big play right away for the Steelers. A couple of dropped passes from the Steelers led to a 4th and 4 from just outside of their field goal range though so Pittsburgh tried going for it and David Amerson tipped the pass away for a turnover on downs.
The Raiders took over at their own 34 yard line after the turnover on downs. The first play of the drive was a bit scary with the ball bouncing off of Amari Cooper and nearly being intercepted, but the next two plays were beautiful. One was a 44 yard run by Latavius Murray, and the next play was a 22 yard touchdown to Michael Crabtree. Just like that, the Raiders are up 7-0.
Pittsburgh was unable to respond with anything on offense, though they did manage an excellent punt that was downed at the Raiders own 2 yard line. The Raiders continued their streak of surprising passes in running situations with three straight passes deep in their own territory. The 3rd down pass was right on target but Clive Walford couldn't hold onto the ball, it would have been enough for a 1st down. Instead they had to punt but it was a good one despite Marquette King bobbling the snap, it went 48 yard punt with a loss of 3 on the return.
This time the Steelers did manage to get their team moving down field and it culminated in a field goal to make the score 7-3. There was one first down catch along the sidelines on the drive from Antonio Brown that should have been challenged by the Raiders but they decided not to. It ended up being okay as the Steelers faltered in the red zone and had to settle for the 3 points anyway.
Oakland got up to near mid field but that was it, out came Marquette King for another punt. The Steelers started at their own 16 because newly acquired punt return man Jacoby Jones ran the wrong way on his return. No problem for them, they immediately went deep for a 59 yard completion to Antonio Brown down to the Raiders 24. A couple more completions to Antonio Brown set up an easy TD run for DeAngelo Williams. They decided to go for the 2 point conversion (which was incredibly easy thanks to an uncalled pick play) to make the score 11-7 Steelers.
Derek Carr and the Oakland offense really needed to respond because of how easy the Steelers scored on the Raiders defense on the previous drive. They didn't, unfortunately. They got into Steelers territory but then a miscommunication with Amari Cooper on 3rd down doomed the drive. They did get an amazing punt from Marquette King this time though. It went 41 yards and was downed at the Steelers 2 yard line.
The defense did their job this time as Pittsburgh went 3 and out and had to punt from their own endzone. It took a great bounce for the Raiders as it bounced backwards to the Steelers own 39 yard line. Bill Musgrave decided to change things up on the Steelers by starting the drive with 5 straight run plays. The strategy worked as the next two passes were both completed to Amari Cooper, one a 1st down on 3rd down and the next a wide open touchdown to make the score 14-11 Raiders.
One massive problem the Raiders have had all game so far is Antonio Brown. He is on a record pace in this game. He had two more long completions on this drive, one for 16 but the other for 41 yards. It gave him 8 catches in the half for 152 yards, the rest of the Steelers team only had 67 yards receiving. The Raiders defense forced a 4th down at the 3 yard line after that but Pittsburgh went for it with a well designed run for the 2nd touchdown for DeAngelo Williams. They kicked the extra point this time to take the lead 18-14.
Oakland had one more chance with the ball before the end of the half, but they didn't do anything at all with it. They got the ball with just under 2 minutes left in the half, but their drive was done before even a minute was used up. Marquette King had to come out after that for his 4th punt of the half.
The Steelers unfortunately did not have any such problems moving the ball. They got an 11 yard pass interference penalty, and then followed it up with 2 more completions to Antonio Brown. The 2nd of those completions was on 3rd down and came up just short of the first so they settled for a field goal to make the score 21-14 Pittsburgh.
The Raiders kneeled out the clock with 30 seconds left in the half, they will get the ball first in the 2nd half. This has been a tough battle throughout the 1st half, thanks basically entirely to Antonio Brown. He has 10 catches for 180 yards in just that one half of football. If Jack Del Rio and Ken Norton Jr. can't make adjustments in the 2nd half this could end up being the greatest single game yards performance by a receiver in NFL history.