By Steve Corkran
Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013 at 5:00 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Some players exited the Raiders facility Wednesday and headed for far-away places, anywhere, to get away from the daily grind of the NFL, if only for a few days. For quarterback Terrelle Pryor, it was business as usual.
See, Pryor isn’t one to take days off. Each day is another opportunity for him to get better. To that end, he spent two days with offensive coordinator Greg Olson and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo watching video and getting a better grasp of “situational football,” Pryor said.
Pryor used another day to work with throwing mechanics guru Tom House, a former major-league pitcher who has carved out a niche as a specialist for athletes seeking ways to improve their throwing.
Olson first recommended House to Pryor this offseason. Pryor followed through, worked with House and returned a refined quarterback. During the bye week, House traveled to Oakland, where he helped Pryor iron out a few kinks.
In particular, Pryor said, House pointed out that Pryor got a bit out of whack with his balance and keeping his ear over his right (back) foot when he throws.
“I wasn’t exploding as much as I should be,” Pryor said. “That was the main thing, getting my balance and getting my ear back there all the time and sitting on the back foot. That was a thing we really attacked and got better at as that bye week progressed.”
By the end of the week, Pryor felt confident that he had tightened up his throwing mechanics, improved his understanding on ways to direct the offense and positioned himself to succeed the final 10 games and beyond.
“I got better,” Pryor said. “It was a great time to get some work in. I didn’t really get any days off. There’s no time to get off anyways. You have to work constantly to improve.”
Pryor said Olson is fond of cautioning against so-called “briefcase coaches and players.”
Here’s Pryor’s explanation for just what that phrase means and how it does nothing to describe his approach to his craft.
A briefcase player is “a guy that after practice and the meeting you just take off and go,” Pryor said. “You have to stay and spend some extra time on your work and your craft because when it comes down to it at the end of the day there’s no replays at the end of the game. It’s for real.
“You’re gonna be looked at how you play and overcome stuff in that game at the end of the day. You have to make sure when you go out there and game day you know what’s going on.”
Few work as hard or as long as Pryor.
– Courtesy of @VicTafur, the Steelers lost their past seven games outside the Eastern Standard Time zone, dating to a Nov. 2011, win at Kansas City. Also, the Steelers are 0-4 on the West Coast since they beat the San Diego Chargers in 2005.
– From the Something Has To Give Department:
The Raiders last won a game coming off a bye in 2002, the season they advanced to the Super Bowl. Since that season, the Raiders are 0-10 in such games. The Steelers last beat the Raiders at the Oakland Coliseum in 1995.
Barring a tie Sunday, one of these streaks is going to end.
– Pittsburgh native Stefen Wisniewski returned to practice Wednesday, just in time to get ready for his first game since Sept. 29 and against a team he grew up rooting for.
Wisniewski doesn’t hide the fact that he’s from Pittsburgh or that he watched them all the time as a youngster. He also makes no bones about wanting to beat the Steelers just a little bit more than other teams.
“It’s cool to play against a team that you grew up watching,” Wisniewski said. “It’s also cool for bragging rights. I spend my offseasons out there, so I want to be able to hold my head high and wear my Raiders gear with pride when I’m walking around Pittsburgh this offseason.”
Coach Dennis Allen said he’s confident that Wisniewski will be able to play Sunday. That takes on added import because of the difficulty in playing against a Dick Lebeau defense, where there’s a heavy burden placed upon the center to pick up potential blitzes in advance and bark out the proper protections.
“Absolutely,” Allen said. “Communication is going to be critical against this defense and making sure we can identify where the rushers are coming from, and Wiz has done a great job of doing that for us all year long so it’s good to have him back out there.”
Wisniewski said there’s similarities between the Raiders defense under Jason Tarver and the Steelers defense. There’s also plenty of differences, such as the way Lebeau disguises his blitzes.
“Tarver likes to bring a lot of overload stuff,” Wisniewski said. “He likes to kind of bluff one side and bring the other side. The Steelers will just kind of have everyone milling around in there and then some of them are coming, some of them are dropping. So, definitely different things but a lot of the same misdirection stuff.”
– With the release of defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi today, the Raiders are down to four players from their 2012 draft class.
Linebacker Nathan Stupar was the first to go, at the end of training camp in 2012. Bilukidi lasted a little more than a year longer. He played in 13 games last season and five this season.
The remaining players are: offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom, linebacker Miles Burris, wide receiver Juron Criner and defensive end Jack Crawford.
Of the six players selected by general manager Reggie McKenzie in his first time spearheading a draft, none has developed into a long-term starter.
Burris flashed last season and earned a starting job when veteran Aaron Curry suffered an injury during the offseason. He’s now on the mend from offseason knee surgery and not assured playing time when he returns.
Criner hasn’t been active for any games this season. Bergstrom is on season-ending injured reserve. He started one game last season. Crawford is a seldom-used backup.
– Running back Darren McFadden had an extra week to heal his hamstring. Allen said it appears as if the added time off helped McFadden quite a bit, as it did the other players.
“I don’t think anybody’s 100 percent at this point in time during the year,” Allen said, “but he looks explosive.”
– If Tony Pashos (hip) and Andre Gurode (knee) aren’t able to play Sunday, Allen said, it’s likely that the Raiders will sign Jack Cornell from the practice squad and place him on the 53-man roster as a means of adding depth.
– Allen stopped shy of calling Sunday’s game a must-win game, but he didn’t shy away from its importance.
“It would be big for us to come off a bye and get this win and start what I’m saying (is the) stretch run of the season, and start it off right,” Allen said. “This isn’t make or break, but this is a big game for us. We need to play well and we need to get in these games against good teams and find out ways to win.”
The Steelers started 0-4 but rebounded with victories in each of their past two games.
“This is a good football team that we’re playing,” Allen said. “They understand how to win. They know what the formula is to win in this league and they’ve done a really good job of it the last couple of weeks.”