The Raiders hoped to take a step up in class Sunday and instead returned to earth.
Gone is first place. That belongs to the Kansas City Chiefs. Gone is a three-game win streak, courtesy of a 35-3 beatdown at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.
It didn’t stop there. The Raiders lost their poise when Richard Seymour, by acclimation a team leader and their best defensive player, knocked Ben Roethlisberger to the turf with an open right hand to the jaw and was ejected following a Steelers touchdown pass.
The Raiders lost their running game, stopped in its tracks to the tune of 61 yards on 18 carries by a Pittsburgh defense that was as good as advertised _ maybe even better _ in terms of rushing defense.
The Raiders lost their dominance at the line of scrimmage, which had been evident over the past three weeks, and were whipped on both sides of the line by the Steelers.
They also look to have lost defensive end Trevor Scott, who sustained a knee injury (a possible season-ending ACL tear) while playing on the punt team on the final play of the first half.
Still intact is the Raiders ineptitude following a bye. They’ve lost eight straight times after an in-season week off.
You’ve got to hand it to the Raiders _ when they go down, they go down in flames.
Some news, notes, quotes (courtesy of those on site and the Steelers’ P.R. department) and observations from the Raiders’ most convincing loss of the season:
— When Seymour yanked on the hair of Ryan Clady last year against Denver, he wouldn’t talk about it. Not so with his knockdown of Seymour in the first half.
“Well, first of all, I thought I let my teammates down,” Seymour said. “You never want to do anything to hurt the team. That’s first and foremost. It was a lot of ongoing (stuff) and you’re just out there to protect yourselv. It’s still no excuse. I’m not sure exactly what happened on the play. I just turned around, and he ran up on me quick. It was just a natural reaction.”
Roethlisberger was indeed taking a chance, running up on a player, particularly when his aim was to rub Seymour’s face in the fact that the Steelers had just scored.
“I just said, `Let’s get ready for the extra point,’ ” Roethlisberger said.
Roethlisberger also said, “I was not expecting that from him. Let’s move on.”
If that’s the case, Roethlisberger doesn’t know Seymour. As defensive coordinator John Marshall and defensive tackle Tommy Kelly both pointed out during the week, Seymour is not a nice guy on the field. He’s let his emotions get the better of him before.
If Roethisberger’s goal was to goad Seymour into in infraction that would remove the Raiders’ best defender from the field, he was successful. He’s also lucky he didn’t end up with a broken jaw for his troubles.
“I wasn’t around it but I heard Big Ben said something and I guess Big Rich didn’t like what he said,” Kelly said.
Raiders coach Tom Cable said he never saw the infraction (even though it was shown on the scoreboard at the stadium). Reminds me of the time Terrell Owens raced to the middle of the field and raised his arms at the Dallas star, instigating a brawl, and 49ers coaches insisted they never saw it.
Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin made no such claim.
“I haven’t seen a quarterback get punched since I’ve been in this league after a play like that,” Tomlin said. “It was unfortunate. I’ve got big-time respect for Richard Seymour as a football player. The guys’ got an 11-year resume that’s pretty impressive. (The game) got away from all of us today.
“I’m not going to let that play cloud my opinion of Richard Seymour. I think he’s an awesome football player and professional. It just got away from us, all parties involved, today.”
Steelers guard Chris Kemoeautu said he and Seymour had been going at it “exchanging words and punches the whole game, but if he had something personal with me, he should have taken it out on me, not Ben.”
“We knew how physical it was going o be and we weren’t going to take any BS from them. If they were going to try and push us around after the whistle, we wer going to try and get the last push in. If it was going to exchange words, we were going to get the last word in.”
— Pittsburgh wound up with 14 penalties for a franchise 163 yards, the Raiders seven for 55.
“We had to give it everything we got, whether it was eye-gouging or spitting on each other. A lotof that was going on this game. It’s uncalled for, but in the heat of battle, it happens,” Kemoeatu said.
— Considering the climate in the NFL, particularly when it comes to protecting quarterbacks, the Raiders are probably holding their breath that there is no suspension to go along with what will be a hefty fine for Seymour.
Asked if Seymour should be suspended, Pittsburgh’s Harrison said, “I don’t see why not. They’re trying to suspend guys for hits when that’s within the whistles _ some hits that guys can’t even stop from doing . . . you tell me what the next step is for a guy who, blatantly outside the play, when it’s already said and done, and a guy is celebrating with his teammates, you punch him in the face.”
— Cable’s reaction was to move on.
“We’ve got to acknowledge the fact that we just got our tails whipped and move forward and don’t hang our heads and sit around and feel sorry for ourselves,” Cable said. “We’ve got work to do and we’ve got a good team coming to Oakland next week in Miami.”
— During the week, Cable talked about the possibility that field position would be a major factor. As it turned out, it was. The Raiders started 14 drives from an average of the 19.1-yard line and never beyond their own 28.
“It was big,” Cable said. “We weren’t doing enough offensively to change that. I thought the punting game was doing a good job of trying to balance it back up. Defensively, we were getting some stops but we weren’t able to get a couple first downs offensively where you are able to change it.”
— Here was Cable’s reasoning for yanking Campbell, which includes his rationale for staying with him against the Dolphins:
“They turned up the blitz a little bit more on him and it started to get out of hand a little bit for him. He’ll be the starter next week. There is no issue there. We just felt like a change was needed. As we all saw, it didn’t make a lot of difference.”
Guessing a lot of the fan base thinks there is an issue there.
— Campbell was 7 of 19 for 70 yards and an interception (and was fortunate to have a second pick returned for a touchdown by Ike Taylor called back on a questionable roughing call on Harrison). Gradkowski sparked some offense, but no points. He was 13 of 24 for 98 yards and forced an interception on Troy Polamalu when the Raiders had finally gotten deep into Pittsburgh territory.
“Today they were bringing a lot of blitzes, and their best players stepped up and made plays,” Campbell said. “We played against a real tough defense today and we’ve got to put this game behind us and bounce back.”
— Last week’s 39-26 loss to New England may have been the worst thing that could have happened to the Raiders, other than their own play.
“We got handled really good last week,” Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison said. “Compliments to New England _ they played a great game and executed well. We wanted to come out and try and dominate this game and get back to the way we play ball.”
Linebacker Lemarr Woodley said the game plan was simple _ choke off the run and get after Campbell.
“We knew what kind of team Oakland was and wanted to get in here and shut off the run,” Woodley said. “Once we did that, we forced them to go to the air, got some turnovers, hit their quarterback a few times and came out on top.”
— The Steelers rushed for 162 yards, but their lead back, Rashard Mendenhall, managed just 59 yards on 23 carries. The rushing yardage was inflated by 55 yards on three scrambles by Roethlisberger.
“They came out trying to enforce their toughness on us, but I don’t feel like nobody manhandled us today,” Kelly said. “I just feel like we didn’t execute our game plan. They didn’t run the ball down nobody’s throat. He got a couple of scrambles that hurt us.”
— According to the NFL Network, the Raiders complained to the league about the condition of the field before the game. Heinz Field is used by both the Steelers and the University of Pittsburgh.
“It was terrible,” Kelly said. “They got big divots like we’re playing golf out there. Come on, man. My shoe came off one time because my foot was stuck in the ground. You got professional groundskeepers. That should be taken care of.”
— Other than defensive end Trevor Scott, out for the year if he indeed has an ACL tear, the only player who didn’t complete the game other than Seymour was cornerback Chris Johnson (groin).