Splat. That was the feeling the Raiders had after descending to earth with a thud following a 35-3 loss to the Steelers. Oakland went into the game riding high with its first three-game winning streak since 2002. The Raiders' resurgence and relevance had become a national story, with fond remembrances of the old Steelers reunion leading into the game at Heinz Field.
Only one team resembled the glory years, however, and it wasn't the Raiders, who were thoroughly dominated for the first time a 35-13 loss to the Titans in Week 1. So with a 2009-style blowout loss suddenly on their recent resume, the big question is how the Raiders will respond when they go back to work and prepare to host the wounded Dolphins at the Coliseum.
What coach Tom Cable wants his players to do is put the loss behind them and concentrate on the fact that as bad as the game was, not much was really lost at all.
Although Oakland fell to 5-5 and is a game back of Kansas City (6-4), the Raiders are the only team in the AFC West that is unbeaten in division games (3-0). With games against all three division opponents still to go, the Raiders remain in control of their own destiny. Maintaining control will be tough if the Raiders struggle as if they did against the Steelers, for it's conceivable Denver will be the only one of the remaining six teams on the schedule with a losing record. Included in the non-division games are a road game at Jacksonville (6-4) on Dec. 12 and a home date with Indianapolis (6-4) on Dec. 26.
The Raiders found that all the areas of strength that led them to their first meaningful November game in seven years and are being counted upon for a playoff push deserted them against Pittsburgh. Their improved defense gave up 162 yards rushing, and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (18 of 29, 275 yards, three TDs) had ample time to pass.
Oakland's second-ranked running game had 61 yards on 18 carries, with leading rusher Darren McFadden stuffed to the tune of 14 yards on 10 attempts. Quarterback Jason Campbell was chased from the game as the Raiders surrendered six sacks in all, with Bruce Gradkowski emerging from the bench late in the third quarter and providing more yardage but no additional points. Cable said immediately afterward that Campbell would remain the starter against Miami.
"We have to acknowledge the fact that we got all 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 a lot of work to do and we've got a good team coming to Oakland next week in Miami."
Rookie Travis Goethel, who was challenging for the starting job at weak-side linebacker at the end of training camp only to miss the first eight games because of lower back surgery, saw time with the first team against Pittsburgh in place of Quentin Groves.
BY THE NUMBERS: 18.7
The Raiders' average drive start on their first 10 possessions in a game which coach Tom Cable thought would hinge a great deal on which team got the better field position.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL PLAYER NOTES
--DT Richard Seymour was ejected in the first half for striking Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger in the face.
--DE Trevor Scott suffered a knee injury on the last play of the first half on a Raiders punt that coach Tom Cable said looked to be an ACL tear that would put him out for the season.
--CB Chris Johnson didn't finish the game due to a groin strain that occurred in the first half.
--TE Zach Miller returned after missing the Kansas City game with an arch injury but caught just two passes for 9 yards.
--RB Darren McFadden had just 30 yards from scrimmage -- 14 yards on 10 carries and two receptions for 16 yards.