Raiders' Gradkowski is at home in Pittsburgh
ALAMEDA, Calif. — Bruce Gradkowski is heading home and the Oakland Raiders quarterback wouldn't mind if he and his teammates were greeted with a blanket of snow.
"Being from Pittsburgh and playing at Toledo and Ohio, you face all the weather you can face," Gradkowski said. "It'll be a nice fall, winter day. I'm looking forward to it. Early December, we might get some snow flurries. It'll be good."
Gradkowski, a former standout at Seton-La Salle High School, grew up in the Steel City, played in college at the University of Toledo in Ohio and his mother still lives 10 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh. Several other relatives also live in the area, making for a homecoming of sorts for the Raiders' journeyman quarterback who as a youth frequently attended Steelers games at Three Rivers Stadium and at the team's new home at Heinz Field.
Now, he comes in as Oakland's starting quarterback trying to salvage what's left of a dismal season.
The Raiders are 3-8 and coming off a 24-7 loss to Dallas on Thanksgiving Day. Gradkowski passed for 200 yards and a touchdown against the Cowboys, and in two-plus games already has thrown for more than half as much yardage (546) as JaMarcus Russell (1,064) did in nine starts.
Gradkowski has started twice before while playing in Pittsburgh, once as a rookie with Tampa Bay in 2007 and in Week 17 last season shortly after he signed with the Cleveland Browns when he passed for just 18 yards and compiled a quarterback rating of 1.0.
"It's always nice going back to Pittsburgh," Gradkowski said. "You have to have fun with it. My family, my cousins, they're die-hard Steeler fans. Last year, when I was with the Browns, it was hard for then. They wore neutral colors, but I think being with the Raiders this past year and getting to know these guys and being with this team, I know I'll have the family behind me on this one."
There's been some speculation Oakland will put Russell, the top overall draft pick in 2007, back into the starting lineup at some point this season. The Raiders, who invested more than $60 million in Russell, need to have a better idea where — or if — he still figures into their future plans.
Oakland coach Tom Cable is sticking with Gradkowski for now and hopes to find some balance to the offense against the Steelers.
"You've got to have enough run," Cable said, "But you've got to be able to do it throwing the football."
The weather in Pittsburgh is expected to be in the mid- to upper 30s this weekend, but snow is not in the forecast.
"Over the next month, we're going to play three times and will probably be in some severe weather somewhere, whether it's in Pittsburgh, Denver or in Cleveland," Cable said. "We've kind of talked it over and mentally we're prepared for that. Whether it's wind blowing and snowing, icy, whatever it is, it still comes down to both teams have to go out and perform in it."
The Steelers have lost their last three games and need a win to stay in the AFC playoff hunt, while the Raiders have dropped seven of nine and are just trying to make it to the finish.
Gradkowski, who took over when Russell was benched in the second half of Oakland's 16-10 loss to Kansas City on Nov. 15, provided a little spark for the Raiders offense but hasn't been able to sustain it. He has three touchdowns and three interceptions with a 66.3 quarterback rating.
"When I watch him on tape, I see a guy that's got very good accuracy and pretty good mobility, can release the ball from a variety of body positions and locations," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "It seems like he's been a sparkplug for that offensive unit."
Even with the improved play from the quarterback spot, the Raiders are still last in the league in passing, scoring and first downs and are 31st in total yardage.
"We just need to execute," Gradkowski said. "When plays are there we need to make them. (The Steelers) don't really lack in any position on defense, and they're experienced. We have to be ready for anything."
Notes: DE Greg Ellis (knee) was held out of practice and is questionable. ... Trevor Scott will make his second career start at weakside linebacker while the Raiders' former starter at the position, Thomas Howard, will start at the strongside spot.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- After years of lobbying, Big Ben has Steelers running the no-huddle
- Steelers hold high hopes for pass defense
- Steelers notebook: Brown calls Sanders’ comments about Roethlisberger ‘terrible’
- Joe Greene only 2nd player in Steelers history to get number retired
- Steelers offensive linemen looking to build on strong 2013 finish
- Inside the ropes: Shazier shows off speed
- Five questions facing Steelers entering training camp
- Steelers hoping that youth movement breathes life into team
- Inside the ropes: Roethlisberger may have his big receiver
- Steelers notebook: Team hasn’t called on Keisel, Harrison yet
- Steelers WR Wheaton wants to produce after injury-plagued rookie year