After watching the Oakland Raiders deflate Heinz Field with a come from behind 27-24 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, a few things became abundantly clear.
To begin with, it is more than obvious that JaMarcus Russell has been holding the Silver and Black offense hostage. Sine Bruce Gradkowski took the reigns; the Raiders have won two of his three starts with both victories coming against the first place Cincinnati Bengals and the defending champion Steelers respectively. Not to mention the fact that Tom Cable now feels comfortable enough to call halfback options and ridiculous trick plays with Gradkowski under center.
These types of things never happened with Russell calling signals.
Secondly, it is also a scientific fact that the Steelers are incapable of beating the Raiders the year after winning a Super Bowl. Consider this Sunday a not-so-subtle middle finger from Al Davis to Art Rooney delivered by Tom Cable and manifested on field through hometown hero turned villain, Bruce Gradkowski.
Good thing those terrible towels can double as rags to wipe up tears.
When the Steelers were defending champs in ’06, they took an “L” in Oakland which would be one of only two victories for the Art Shell led Raiders.
In present day, the Steelers became yet another Pennsylvania victim of the Raiders in ’09. With a win over the Eagles early this year, Coach Cable can file his taxes in the Keystone State since he now owns all of its professional football.
What happened Sunday is the exact reason why Raider Nation continues to keep the faith.
Mike Tomlin promised that his team would unleash “hell” on the NFL. After Louis Murphy caught his second TD of the afternoon, Tomlin must have realized that his personal “hell” would be unleashed in the locker room on his own team.
The following is true.
The Raiders actually had a 300-yard passer and a 100-yard receiver in the same game.
An offense that has struggled to crack the 200-yard barrier scored an unprecedented 21 points in the 4th quarter despite the defense giving up two scores to the Steelers. The icing on the cake would be Murphy’s 11-yard TD catch, capping a game winning 10-play, 88-yard drive, giving the Raiders a lead with just 9 ticks left on the clock.
The defense yielded its typical big plays but made enough stops to keep this game within reach.
In the end, it was the calm resolve of Gradkowski that urged this team to a fourth win this season.
Under pressure all day long, Gradkowski rarely had time to set his feet and fire. The instances when he did resulted in plays like the 75-yard TD strike to Murphy.
For a team struggling to find its identity, this might as well have been the Super Bowl for the Raiders.
Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes aren’t dead but they’re certainly on life support.
Four wins against eight losses is nothing for Raider fans brag about. However, with three of those wins against opponents with winning records and playoff aspirations, it is more than enough to give hope to a struggling franchise.
Winning in Pittsburgh is not a surprise. There is enough talent on this team to compete with any opponent in the National Football League (New Orleans not withstanding). Getting these kinds of efforts every single week is the challenge Coach Cable has struggled with this season.
Hopefully, this win fuels a late charge to spoil a few more Sundays for the opposing fans and gives a springboard to propel this franchise out of the doldrums and into contention.
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