Steelers notebook: Offensive line decimated by injuries
OAKLAND, Calif. — The Steelers' offensive line played well during a two-game winning streak, but it came unglued in a 21-18 loss to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday at O.co Stadium.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was under siege for much of the afternoon as an injury-depleted offensive front couldn't keep the Raiders from collapsing the pocket. Roethlisberger was sacked five times — including twice in the waning minutes — threw two interceptions and was hit five times.
In contrast, Oakland's Terrelle Pryor, sacked nine times by Kansas City, barely got his jersey dirty. He was sacked twice — once when he was chased out of bounds behind the line of scrimmage by safety Troy Polamalu.
Injuries knocked out three Steelers guards: Ramon Foster (concussion), David DeCastro (right ankle) and Guy Whimper (left knee). The Steelers' makeshift front in the fourth quarter consisted of backups Mike Adams (left tackle) and Cody Wallace (left guard). Kelvin Beachum started the game at left tackle but switched to right guard to replace DeCastro.
Taylor, Woodley struggle
It was a forgettable day for cornerback Ike Taylor and outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley. Both were consistently caught out of position on key plays that enabled the Raiders to keep the Steelers at bay.
Woodley, who failed to record a tackle, bit on a fake to running back Darren McFadden that enabled Pryor to slip into the open field for a 93-yard score on the first play from scrimmage — the longest scoring run for a quarterback in NFL history. Then he was caught flat-footed on Pryor's 4-yard TD run late in the second quarter that put Oakland up 21-3.
“It was my responsibility to make sure I take the ball (on Pryor's 93-yard run),” Woodley said. “I turned around and the quarterback had a big hole.”
Taylor surrendered four first-down catches on third down. The biggest came with 1:13 left in the third quarter with Oakland pinned inside its 5-yard line. Denarius Moore beat Taylor to the spot on a quick slant for a first down catch on third-and-7.
“They just won on third down. It wasn't anything new,” said Taylor, who had three tackles. “We knew what they were running, but we just didn't stop them.”
Again, Steelers fail to bring heat
Pryor is among the league's most sacked quarterbacks. But the Steelers had a tough time flushing him from the pocket. They didn't corral Pryor until defensive end Brett Keisel caught up with him early in the fourth quarter with the Raiders holding a 21-10 lead.
The Raiders' offensive line kept Keisel and Cam Heyward away from the Pryor. And linebackers Jarvis Jones and Woodley were largely ineffective because they were forced to respect Pryor's legs, especially after he gashed them on his 93-yard TD run.
Polamalu picks on someone else
Polamalu finally picked on someone else other than the Cleveland Browns. Until he intercepted Pryor in the first quarter, Polamalu's last four interceptions all came against Cleveland quarterbacks. He intercepted Cincinnati twice on Dec. 12, 2010.
Raiders couldn't give it away
The Steelers managed to stay within striking distance, mostly because of Oakland receivers Jacoby Ford and Brice Butler. Ford failed to field a punt that pinned the Raiders at their own 1, and he fumbled at the Oakland 11 early in the fourth quarter to set up Roethlisberger's touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders with 12:11 left in the game. Butler dropped a throw on third down and dropped a pass that was intercepted by cornerback Cortez Allen.
All four of the Steelers' takeaways have been on the road (New York and Oakland). … The Steelers are now 1-3 after their opponents score first. … Linebacker Lawrence Timmons had six tackles after getting 17 against Baltimore. … Running back Le'Veon Bell, coming off a career-best 93 yards, averaged only 1.8 yards on 13 carries.
Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @RalphPaulk_Trib.
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