With all of the hype and hope for Raiders fan’s across the country going into Heinz Field in Pittsburgh this Sunday, I couldn’t feel more let down. This was my thought initially, however, after some thought the mistakes and miscues are fixable. These are my biggest points of this weeks loss.
The quarterback situation
Jason Campbell shows yet again that he is no more of a play making quarterback then JaMarcus Russell (ok maybe a little bit better) and has been rather a victim of good play around him and victim of circumstance for these recent wins . After staring 2 -2 on quick, non-read passes, Campbell floundered with the game on his shoulders as Darren McFadden struggled to get the ground game going against Pittsburgh tough run defense. I personally believe that Campbell stayed in the game way too long, after he clearly demonstrated his ineffectiveness in his abysmal sub-50 yard performance of the first half. Sure Bruce Gradkowski came in and threw an interception to Troy Polamalu, but at that point the game was out of reach and we were into a pass-only offense. The response of the other players, however, was undeniable. The tempo that entered the game with Gradkowski and the other players reaction to his entering showed just what energy he brings. Campbell failed to do what has kept him alive as a starter and that is avoid making mistakes, and in the end, the quarterback position cost us the game.
Without Nnamdi, the secondary struggles
Ben Roethlisberger picked the secondary apart, despite moderately decent play by Chris Johnson, Michael Huff, Tyvon Branch, and Stanford Routt. Jeremy Ware was burned on a few plays, including the touchdown to Emmanuel Sanders, but is to be expected from a rookie one-on-one with a perfectly thrown ball. Positioning cost us on a few catches, mainly against Huff and Johnson, and this was due to a lack of communication on the bunch formations ran by Pittsburgh. Our man-to-man coverage struggled in the 5-wideout sets that they employed. I think having Nnamdi play today would’ve helped slow the passing game down tremendously, but I will trade a loss to get him healthy for down the stretch if we want to make the playoffs (yikes that sounds weird).
Our physical offensive line got beat
McFadden couldn’t get anything going mainly due to the fact that the Steelers’ linebackers are everywhere at the same time. Both our ground game and passing game struggled due to the 3-4 of Pittsburgh dominating the line of scrimmage. Campbell had some plays where he was indecisive and it cost us a sack, but our offensive line simply didn’t matchup enough to create holes and time for our offense. Our play-calling could’ve been better, as some screen passes (that Campbell didn’t throw terribly) would’ve been nice, as well as maybe some trick play (reverse or wildcat or something) to get them off balance.
I will always wonder what if Gradkowski had started the game, and if that would’ve mattered – but in the end, it doesn’t. This loss, while a setback, is not the end of our season. We still control our own destiny as to how far we go this year. We have six more weeks of football to take control of the AFC West and get into the playoffs. This game was at the worst possible time for us, coming off our Bye week and losing the momentum we had, and Pittsburgh coming off a thrashing by the Patriots. Mike Tomlin had them ready to play today, while the Raiders were still shaking off the jet lag. The Raiders still played tough today, and I didn’t feel the usual sense of giving up, and the guy who set the tone was Richard Seymour. His intensity set the tone for the matchup, and I don’t think Big Ben will make another comment or accidentally push Seymour again after the solid right hook he received. I love what Seymour did and I don’t fault him at all. He is an intense guy and was tired of hearing the smack being talked.
Now it is time to focus on Miami in Oakland next week. I look for the Raiders to win big and rebound with emphasis after this loss to Pittsburgh, that is if Bruce Almighty starts in place of JaMarcus Campbell…damn I mean Jason.