Oakland Raiders v Pittsburgh Steelers - Studs & Duds
David Wilson – Sep 25, 2012
In a game that few in the Raider Nation gave their team a chance of winning, Dennis Allen and his team overturned the Pittsbugh Steelers in a thrilling game. A game won on the back of outstanding heart, determination, and discipline. For Allen’s first win as a coach, this must taste sweet indeed.
Allen’s team were twice down by ten points in the second half, but just refused to lie down, and kept hammering back at the Steelers relentlessly. The defense created turnovers at key times, and that was a key to winning this game.
After being bullied by Miami last week, the Raiders offensive and defensive lines stepped up in a big way to show that they were the most physical football team on the day.
The win was all the more impressive as it was very much a team effort with contributions from many different players. As ever though, some stood out from the pack.
Carson Palmer QB - Denarius Moore fell on a route that caused Palmer’s interception on the first drive, so no blame to either player there. Palmer was mostly faultless all day. Whilst he only had 59 yards passing in the first half, and would finish with just 209, he did what he had to do to win this game. He threw some great balls under immense pressure, especially on key third downs, and really stood tall in the pocket.
On the touchdown pass to Moore, he escaped out left with defenders clutching at his jersey, and threw a perfect ball where only Moore could catch it. Palmer completed 24 passes to nine different receivers, including three touchdowns to different players. All three tight ends caught at least one pass, as did four receivers and two running backs. This is a quarterback who went through his progressions and found the open guy.
It was also Palmer’s audible play change on reading the defense that got McFadden the opportunity to make his long touchdown run.
Anyone who thinks that Palmer cannot be a top ten quarterback anymore, just watch the film of this game. He showed poise and experience, did what he needed to do to move the Raiders down the field, and never tried to do too much.
This was his signature game as an Oakland Raider, and was truly franchise quarterback play.
Philip Wheeler LB – Wheeler played tremendously and was the Raiders best defender. Pittsburgh may have had a lot of passing yardage in this game, but they didn’t make it against Wheeler, who showcased his ability in coverage.
He led the team in tackles once again, with seven solo and four assists. He is around the ball on almost every play. More than that, Wheeler caused two fumbles, one which was recovered by Oakland, and recovered a third fumble caused by Pat Lee on the Steelers final drive of the game. That may have been the key play., and it was fitting that Wheeler made it. This is the strong side linebacker that Oakland has been missing since Bill Romanowski retired, a genuinely talented three down player that needs to be signed to a long term contract.
Darren McFadden RB – Aside from that blistering 64 yard touchdown run (which alone gets him on the studs list), and one more for 16 yards there didn’t seem a lot of yardage for DMC out there against the Steelers. But McFadden ran hard all day, and was a constant threat in the running game that the Steelers had to account for. In the third quarter, on a third at one at the Steelers nine yard like and the Raiders down by ten, McFadden converted by lowering his shoulder and powering through the contact of several defenders. That conversion led to a Raider touchdown that kept the game alive. A good day’s work for a great running back.
The Offensive Line - Over the first two games this line has not played well by any means. Today things were different, and several players are deserving of credit. Jared Veldheer was faultless in pass protection once again, and that was a big factor in Palmer’s performance as he never had to worry about his blind side. Stefan Wisniewski had a great game, and moved Casey Hampton on a number of plays, including McFadden’s long touchdown run. Wiz run blocked as well as any lineman on the field, and was also very solid in pass protection. Oakland desperately needed right tackle Willie Smith to have a good game and to cope with Steelers linebacker Lamar Woodley. On the whole, Smith held his own very well in what looked like a huge mismatch, and although Woodley made a couple of plays, he was not a factor in the game.
The line as a whole protected Carson Palmer extremely well, and Allen has to be happy with their performance against a very strong Steelers defense.
Desmond Bryant DT - Bryant was a rock against the run, and was by far the best performer on the defensive line. He forced a fumble on a running play where he got penetration through the line, and generated some pressure in the passing game. Bryant can no longer be seen as just a rotational player on this defense, and is a rising star in his own right.
Sebastian Janikowski K – Out of seven kickoffs, all but two were touchbacks, and he made both field goals he attempted. The game winner from 43 yards was under huge pressure, and was another game winner for Seabass.
Honorable mention – Brandon Myers once again led the Raiders in receiving yardage with four for 55 yards. Not just that, but he has yet to drop anything this season (15 targets, 15 catches), and brings in everything that is thrown at him. Those catches have often come on key situations in the game, and he has shown the power to get some yardage after contact. What keeps him off the studs list is his run blocking. Against Pittsburgh, he twice got Darren McFadden stopped behind the line of scrimmage because he was over powered by a linebacker at the point of attack. If Myers can do better in his run blocking, it will make a big difference to this team.
Also showing a huge improvement here was special teams under Steve Hoffman. The two kick offs that were returned were for of 36 and 51 yards, and the coverage team allowed only two returns for 22 yards total. There was also a well executed onside kick which almost came off. No screw ups, no turnovers, and a night and day performance from the first two weeks.
Thrown into action as the starting cornerback he was never signed to be, Pat Lee actually did a pretty good job. He never gave up anything deep, made tackles when he had to, and caused the fumble which led to the Raiders winning field goal.
Rolando McClain had a good day at middle linebacker, especially against the run. He had a great run stuff on on a third and one in the fourth quarter when he got off the block of Maurkice Pouncey. If he can now build some consistency week to week he can become the player the Raiders drafted him to be.
It is tough to call Duds on a game like this, which the Raiders won against the odds in a genuine team effort. Only a few underperformed.
Tommy Kelly DT – Hard for me to put one of favorite players on the duds list, but Kelly was pretty much invisible all day. He generated almost nothing in pass rush, and did little against the run either. Kelly’s entire contribution to the game was one assist on a tackle.
Michael Huff S/CB – Huff stepped up into a role that isn’t really his and played some cornerback due to the injury epidemic in the secondary. He was generally abused in pass coverage by the Steelers throughout the game, and this isn’t a position that the Raiders want him playing very often. Huff is a solid player in all aspects of his game at safety, but this change of position does not suit him.
Matt Giordano S – Although Giordano continues to play well against the run, he is a liability in pass coverage as he showed on Sunday. On Mike Wallace’s touchdown catch in the third quarter, Giordano lost him so badly that whilst Giordano was standing in the corner of the end zone on the left, Wallace was standing almost under the posts waving his arms under the goal posts. When Wallace caught the ball, Giordano wasn’t even in camera shot. Not just this play though, Giordano had big problems all day against a variety of Steeler receivers.
This was just a huge win for the Raiders and for Dennis Allen as a coach. Not just because it was his first, but because it was such an all round team effort. Also because the Raiders had only three penalties on the day (Steelers had ten), which showed the start of a culture change not just in words, but in on the field play.
This team was ready to play in all phases of the game, and came away with an emotional win against a Pittsburgh team that was on paper far better. An improved performance from the offense will also stop calls for Greg Knapp to be fired (well, at least this week…).
A great game to put some confidence into the team for the trip to Denver to play the old enemy.
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