Hammered by Patriots, Steelers must face impressive Raiders

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After the Patriots blowout are Steelers still an elite team or just another good team that may or may not make the playoffs?

New England hammered the Steelers 39-26 in every aspect of the game Sunday night making one wonder if the Steelers are still a championship contending team.

ToughDay
TOUGH NIGHT AT THE OFFICE —Steelers running back Mewelde Moore stands on the sidelines during final minute of loss to the Patriots Nov. 14. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Without two of their three starting defensive linemen and two key offensive linemen the Steelers looked very average as Tom Brady picked the defense apart going 30 of 43 for 350 yards and 5 touchdowns while the Steelers offense struggled putting only 3 points on the board in the first half.

However, the Baltimore Ravens 26-21 loss to the Atlanta Falcons helped as they remained in a tie atop the AFC-North Division.

The next game is another must game against the red hot Oakland Raiders who are coming off a bye. The Raiders are on top the AFC-West with a 5-4 record but have been blistering in their last five with a 4-1 record. They have an explosive running game and Jason Campbell has brought an exciting air attack as well. The Raiders’ defense has been one of the best in the game.

The Steelers as usual had an outstanding second half, especially fourth quarter as they put 23 points on the board but they had fallen too far behind, and Brady didn’t let up.

Brady maintained his mastery of the Steelers, throwing three touchdown passes to rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski, who played his senior season at Woodland Hills, and scoring one himself as the Patriots bounced back from a humbling 20-point loss to the Cleveland Browns. No NFL team wins more on its home field than Pittsburgh, but no opposing player wins there like Brady, who has won six of seven overall against the Steelers and four of five at Heinz Field. He now has 14 career touchdown throws and three interceptions against the Steelers.

“They beat us in all phases,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.

The Steelers played most of the game without wide receiver Hines Ward (concussion), whose streak of 186 consecutive games with a reception ended.

“I wanted to go back in, but they wouldn’t let me,” Ward said.

Brady methodically led drive after drive by throwing underneath Pittsburgh’s two-deep zone defense. The quick throws to Wes Welker confused the Steelers’ defense and negated Pittsburgh’s oft-successful blitzing schemes.

The Steelers, unable to solve New England’s defense for most of three quarters while trailing 17-3, took advantage of a 38-yard pass interference penalty to advance to the Patriots 8 late in the third quarter. But Roethlisberger threw incomplete on second and third down, and Jeff Reed missed a chip-shot 26-yard field goal—his seventh miss of the season.

Pittsburgh finally got into the end zone on Roethlisberger’s 6-yard throw to Emmanuel Sanders with just over 12 minutes remaining. By then, the game was all but over.

Pittsburgh was without Roethlisberger’s blind-side protectors, left tackle Max Starks (neck, out for season) and left guard Chris Keomeatu (knee, ankle) and, with backups playing, Roethlisberger was sacked five times. Rashard Mendenhall was held to 50 yards on 11 carries one week after Cleveland’s Peyton Hillis pounded New England’s No. 29-ranked defense for 184 yards and two touchdowns.

The Raiders game will be the first time in years that the game will be huge to both teams. The Raiders must win to stay in first place in the AFC-West where they are tied with the Kansas City Chiefs. The same is true for the Steelers who are tied with the Ravens on top of the AFC-North. A loss by the Steelers and a Ravens win would not only drop them out of the North lead but would put them in jeopardy of losing a playoff spot.

Basically the Steelers are going to have to find a way to win without the injured players which may include Ward, or watch another season go down the tubes after an impressive start.

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