Steelers forced to re-evaluate after crushing loss

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Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor (2) runs for a 93-yard touchdown past Pittsburgh Steelers free safety Ryan Clark, left, inside linebacker Vince Williams (98) and cornerback William Gay (22) during the first quarter of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
 

by Will Graves
AP Sports Writer

PITTSBURGH (AP) – Two weeks of momentum vanished in 19 seconds. More than three hours later, the competitive portion of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ season likely followed suit.

Stung on the first play from scrimmage and stumbling on the last, Pittsburgh’s 21-18 loss to the Oakland Raiders thwarted any progress the Steelers (2-5) made during a brief two-game winning streak that suggested perhaps there was a chance they could somehow dig out of an 0-4 start.

Turns out, probably not. The same mistakes that dogged Pittsburgh during a winless September re-emerged in the Black Hole.

The defense surrendered a record-setting run by Oakland quarterback Terrelle Pryor. The offense limped to a miserable start, only reviving itself when things nearly got out of hand. The running game was abysmal and the special teams even worse.

Bad clock management. Questionable decision making. A game plan that dared not stretch the field. Even if the Steelers had somehow found a way to escape with a win, coach Mike Tomlin isn’t sure he would evaluate things any differently.

“Had we pulled the game out, I still would have been disappointed in the quality of play in the first half,” he said.

Because the Steelers lost, now Tomlin can feel free to lump in the second half too.

“I liked the effort, but it’s not effort oriented,” Tomlin said. “It’s result-oriented.”

And the results are repeating a well-established pattern, one Pittsburgh has been unable to shake for nearly a year.

The Steelers are 4-10 since quarterback Ben Roethlisberger left a 16-13 win over the Kansas City Chiefs with a dislocated rib last November. Nearing the season’s midway point, the only team Pittsburgh is ahead of in the AFC standings are the winless and apparently hopeless Jacksonville Jaguars.

“We felt like we were doing some good things, and that we were getting better,” Roethlisberger said. “(Sunday) we just weren’t there in all phases. We didn’t block well enough, we didn’t pass well enough, we didn’t catch well enough, we just weren’t good enough.”

Something that’s happening with regularity when forced to change their routine. Pittsburgh has lost eight straight games when playing outside the Eastern Time Zone. Nearly every loss has looked like Sunday’s debacle in Oakland. The Steelers have a tendency to fall behind early, which leads to them abandoning the running game and forces Roethlisberger to try and go it alone behind an offensive line that can’t stay healthy or effective.

Pittsburgh dressed eight linemen against the Raiders and needed every one of them. Guards Ramon Foster (concussion) and David DeCastro (right ankle) left early. So did backup Guy Whimper (knee). The injuries pushed struggling Mike Adams and little used Cody Wallace onto the field, further complicating a comeback attempt.

Roethlisberger absorbed five sacks in all and is on pace to be dropped more than 60 times, if he lasts that long.

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