PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Fittingly on a day Oakland and Pittsburgh
brought back memories of the 1970s by playing an unpredictable game
featuring a comeback and a last-minute winner, the Steelers won by
The Steelers returned to their roots -- a strong running game and
creative pressure defense -- to open an early two-touchdown lead,
then held off the rebuilding Raiders to win 24-21 Sunday on Jeff
Reed's 42-yard field goal with seven seconds remaining.
Is Tyrone Wheatley (11 carries, 24 yards) the answer at running back or will Norv Turner have to make a change?
The Raiders have a lot of options at running back, and they will have to eventually evaluate what they want to do. Today, though, they faced a good defense and were stuffed. I'm not sure if they have anybody at running back who would've had a big day against them.
The Raiders are learning a new system and the receivers and running backs are going to take a few weeks trying to learn and get used to it. That's one of the bad things about bringing in a new coach with a new system -- everyone has to learn what the heck is going on. The offensive line has to find out what holes they need to open and the running backs have to know how and when to hit those holes. Meanwhile, the receivers and quarterback have to make plays when they get the opportunity to take pressure off the back. The Raiders will play better and so will Wheatley.
Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders. He's a regular contributor to Insider.
"We were good at times, shaky at times, but we still did what
we had to and won," quarterback Tommy Maddox said. "It was
disappointing we let them back in the game, but everyone's excited
The Raiders (0-1) showed off plenty of new, including coach Norv
offensive scheme redesigned to cover up their lack of playmakers.
Still, there was a lot of old left over from last year's 4-12
season, including four turnovers.
"The ball was on the ground way too much today and that hurt
us," said quarterback Rich Gannon, who passed for 305 yards, but
had a fumble and threw two interceptions. "I think we knew coming
in everything wasn't going to go perfect, but we made it difficult
The Steelers led 14-0 and 21-10 before the Raiders tied it on
Alvis Whitted's fingertip catch of Gannon's 38-yard touchdown pass
on fourth-and-12 and Gannon's 2-point conversion pass to an
uncovered Whitted with 4:51 remaining.
Maddox then led the decisive drive, hitting Hines Ward for 15
and 11 yards and Jay Riemersma for 12 ahead of Reed's game-winner,
which left no time for Oakland to respond.
Bettis, relegated to the bench behind new starter Duce Staley
despite being the No. 6 rusher in NFL history, was used only in
goal-line situations but scored a career high-tying three
touchdowns -- all on 1-yard runs. He had more touchdowns (3) than
yards rushing (1), as Staley, the former Eagles 1,000-yard rusher,
ran for 91 yards.
"It's definitely a first," Bettis said of his new role. "But
it feels good to contribute, and Duce and I have a good rapport."
Coach Bill Cowher was determined to get back to the Steelers'
traditional strengths, their running game and a big-play defense,
after experimenting during last year's 6-10 season with a
pass-heavy offense and a passive defense designed to allow few big
The plan worked perfectly for much of the first half. The
Steelers kept the ball for 8½ minutes on a game-opening 67-yard
drive that featured Staley running behind left guard Alan Faneca,
five straight third-down conversions and Bettis' scoring run.
"That what's this team has been in the past, and that's what
we're striving for," new offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt
Not long after that, Clark Haggans forced Gannon's fumble that
Aaron Smith returned 49 yards to the Raiders 20, and Staley carried
three times to set up Bettis' second scoring run.
The Raiders spent most of the first half going nowhere,
reminiscent of their 27-7 loss in Pittsburgh last season.
"We did everything possible to dig ourselves a hole and we dug
a nice little one," said Sapp, who had four tackles and no sacks
in his first Raiders game. "We got ourselves out of it, but we
just couldn't get it done."
The Raiders got back in it when Gannon's pump fake fooled safety
second quarter, making it 14-7 at the half.
Maddox's 39-yard completion to Ward, the Steelers' only
long-yardage passing play, led to Bettis' third scoring run and the
21-10 lead. But Maddox's fumble, recovered by Travian Smith, set up
Sebastian Janikowski's 38-yard field goal.
"They let us hang around, but we couldn't close the deal,"
Raiders wide receiver Jerry Porter said. "We should be coming out
of here with a win. We made a lot of errors."
Several Raiders had cramping problems, forcing on-the-fly
personnel moves that sometimes led to confusion. ... The Raiders
and Steelers have won seven Super Bowls between them, five in a
span between the 1974 and 1979 seasons. ... Raiders WR Jerry Rice
started and made two catches, but didn't play much in the second
half. ... Haggans had two sacks and two forced fumbles in his fifth
career start. .. Oakland won its first two challenges and used up
all three early in the second quarter. ... The Steelers are 81-1-1
when leading by 11 or more points under Cowher. ... Raiders CB
Charles Woodson, who signed last week, held the Steelers' Plaxico
Burress to one catch.
- Walt Anderson