When the chapter is written on the 2015 Steelers, the overwhelming theme will be injuries. Injuries to their best players. All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey hasn’t played one snap in the regular season. Pro-Bowl quarterback Ben Roethlisberger missed 4 games with a left knee bone bruise and sprained MCL, and, may be out for a significant amount of time once again after suffering a foot injury against the Oakland Raiders. In Roethlisberger’s first game back against the Cincinnati Bengals, All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell went down for the season with what’s being called a severely torn MCL. All signs point to this year just not being meant to be.
With that being said, they still hold their playoff destiny in their hands after beating the Oakland 38-35 on Sunday. Here are my takeaways from the 5th win of the 2015 season.
• The offense with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the lineup looks like it can only be stopped by themselves. After the first drive that was littered with dropped passes—there were 3 total—the offense once again showed the promise it made in the preseason to put up 30 points a game.
In an all, Pittsburgh put up 597 total yards, 402 by air and 195 by ground and 38 points. Roethlisberger had 334 of those yards and 2 touchdowns before leaving with injury. He moved the ball efficiently down the field, Oakland had no answer. Only drops stalled the drives. One can only hope they can amass half of that production without #7 at QB.Side note: Roethlisberger passed Hall Of Famers Johnny Unitas and Joe Montana into 14th on the All-Time Passing yardage list, and collected his 40th 300-yard passing game.
• Antonio Brown looks like the best wide receiver in the NFL again. AB caught a Steeler record 17 passes for 284 yards on the day, 10 of them for 180 yards in the first half alone; a new career high for any half he’s played. He also rushed the ball twice for 22 yards, for two first downs.Brown suffered the most when Roethlisberger went down for 4 games, hopefully offensive coordinator Todd Haley makes a concerted effort to keep Brown highly involved if Big Ben misses significant time with this latest injury.
• The bend but don’t break Steelers D of the last few weeks looked broken from the Raiders first offensive drive of the game, giving up a 3 play, 66 yard drive that ended with a Michael Crabtree 22 yard touchdown reception. While the next 3 Raider drives produced only 66 yards combined, second year QB Derek Carr took advantage of a secondary that had steadily improved since the opening night confusion against the New England Patriots. Carr went 24/44 for 301 yards and 4 touchdowns, his third consecutive game throwing for more than 3+ TDs.
Oakland came into the averaging 25.4 points per game, 365.3 total yards per game. They exceeded both against the Steelers. Pittsburgh also allowed the Raiders to convert 6/14 (42%) on 3rd down and gave up 24 first down, 17 via the pass.
• Running back DeAngleo Williams was the pick up of Pittsburgh’s offseason, and will likely need him to be its MVP if they’re to make a playoff run. Steeler Nation knows all too well how bad the offense looked in the 2015 AFC Wild Card loss to Baltimore with Le’Veon Bell sidelined with injury.Against Oakland, Williams put up numbers reminiscent of his days as a starter for the Carolina Panthers; 27 carries for 170 yards with 2 touchdowns. He also caught 2 passes for 55 yards and a 2-point conversion. With Williams as Bell’s replacement in 3 games so far this season, he has 374 rushing yards (124.6 ypg) 5 rushing TDs and 75 receiving yards.
• This wasn’t the ugly, physical Steelers versus Raiders of the past. To begin, surprisingly only 1 penalty was called in the first half, coming with 55 seconds left in the half on a pass interference call against Oakland. For the game there were only 8 penalties accepted; 3 against Oakland for 21 yards and 5 against Pittsburgh for 41 yards.
Things did get sloppy in the second half in the turnover department, but that worked out in the Black & Yellow’s favor. The Raiders turned the ball over 4 times to the Steelers 2.
• The Steelers are still in control of their playoff hopes. By beating the Raiders, they would have the tie breaker over them if they finished the season with the same record. The New York Jets and Buffalo Bills are currently the Steelers biggest threats for the two AFC Wild Card spots; both won on sunday. The Jets (5-3) and Bills (4-4) face off on Thursday night. The Steelers host the 2-7 Cleveland Browns in Heinz Field next Sunday at 1 PM.