The Oakland Raiders set the stage for a huge road win against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Oakland started the game hot by stopping the Steelers’ first drive. Then the Raider offense got the ball and scored on just a few big plays.
The Steelers seemed to strip the ball from the Raiders every chance they got. Many times the Raiders were saved by the balls.
However, they could not help themselves on a few occasions. Latavius Murray put the ball on the grown after a hit which led to a concussion.
Back and forth, the two teams battled and exchanged big hits. Antonio Brown ran rapid in the secondary. He racked 180 yards just before the half. DeAngelo Williams did not allow the Pittsburgh offense to miss a beat without LeVeon Bell. Williams charged for more than 170 yards game.
Even with their starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the locker room with an ankle injury, the Steelers seized all the momentum at home.
Eventually, the Raiders found themselves with a 14 point deceit, thanks to a Taiwan Jones fumble after a Steelers touchdown. Oakland seemed headed for a loss.
Then they showed something we have not seen in years. Some belief and playoff fight.
Derek Carr threw seven touchdowns and zero interceptions in the previous two games. Hence, he was due for one.
Nonetheless, he lead a drive that brought the Raiders within a touchdown. Then he helped the team tie the game by throwing another touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree with just over a minute left.
It was not enough to win the game. A 50 yard pass to Antonio Brown delivered the dagger by setting up the game-winning field goal.
Regardless, the Raiders have nothing to be ashamed about from the 35-38 loss.
Yes, the defense played terrible. But what did we expect against the high powered Steelers offense?
We knew the Raiders had a terrible secondary. We knew the run defense was inconsistent. We knew the team had a bad history on the road.
What we did not know is if this team had the confidence to fight back.
The Raiders entered a hostile environment and they got hit in the month many times. Unlike years past, the team did not just get up but they struck back.
Of course it would have been great to win the game. But the Raiders are still learning to win.
Oakland is young at key positions including defensive line, corner back, wide receiver, quarterback and running back.
Forget morale victories or excuses. There are no such thing in football, which requires both teams to leave the field battered and bruised. Hence every football team is disappointed when they don’t get a win.
That said, I am still proud of my football team after Sunday’s loss. They battled until the final whistle.
Are they perfect? God no.
But the heart breaker against the Steelers shows Oakland is clearly headed in the right direction. The Raiders showed the competitive fight that you want to see in a young team battling for the AFC Playoffs.