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October 27, 2013

NFL: Bumbling Steelers fall in Oakland

OAKLAND, Calif. — Terrelle Pryor took the opening snap of the game, put the ball in Darren McFadden’s belly and saw LaMarr Woodley crash down.

Then Pryor did what he does best, sprinting 93 yards for a record-setting run that helped the Oakland Raiders shake off any post-bye blues.

Pryor scored on the longest touchdown run ever by a quarterback and the Raiders hung on to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 21-18 Sunday for their first win after a bye since 2002.

“I was very surprised, because it’s never open like that,” Pryor said. “Very surprised. But with the game plan, the way they put things together, it doesn’t surprise me that sometimes it may happen like that.”

McFadden added two touchdown runs and the defense did the rest for the Raiders (3-4), who had been outscored by more than 13 points a game in losing their last 10 games out of the bye.

Ben Roethlisberger struggled against heavy pressure from Oakland’s front, and Shaun Suisham missed two short field goals as Pittsburgh (2-5) squandered any momentum gained during back-to-back wins following an 0-4 start.

“It hurts,” Roethlisberger said. “We felt like we were doing some good things and we were getting better. Today, 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.”

The Steelers took advantage by a fumble from Jacoby Ford to get in the end zone on a 9-yard pass to Emmanuel Sanders and cut the deficit to 21-10 early in the fourth quarter. But Roethlisberger also threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter.

Le’Veon Bell’s 2-yard TD run followed by a 2-point conversion run by Sanders cut Oakland’s lead to 21-18 with 1:24 remaining. But Oakland recovered the onside kick.

The Raiders got the win despite generating no offense in the second half, gaining one first down and 35 yards of offense in the final 30 minutes.

But a defense that sacked Roethlisberger five times and forced two second-half turnovers did enough to give the Raiders their third home win in as many games with Pryor as the starter this season.

“We are becoming a football team,” safety Charles Woodson said. “I think we have some good players that have been assembled on this team, and we’re learning how to play together. We’re learning each other and what each other’s strengths and weaknesses are. We’re just making some plays out there.”

Pryor was far from his best after the first play, completing 10 of 19 passes for 87 yards and two interceptions. He did have his second 100-yard rushing game of the season, finishing with 106 yards on nine carries highlighted by the long run on the first play.

“You have to understand the beast that’s playing quarterback,” Steelers safety Ryan Clark said. “You have to understand what he brings to the game and that that’s a part of their game and that they can do that. Once a guy like that gets in front of the whole defense, he’s a legit 4.4. It’s real. It just looks slow because he’s 6-6, but he was moving.”

The Steelers gained just 35 yards on the ground, allowing Oakland’s defense to tee off on Roethlisberger. He withstood the pressure to complete 29 of 45 passes for 275 yards but it wasn’t enough.

Pryor set the tone on the first play from scrimmage when he kept the ball on a read-option when the Steelers crashed on McFadden and used a strong block by Rod Streater on Troy Polamalu to sprint the length of the field. It was the longest run in Raiders history and longest touchdown run by a quarterback.

“We got the right look,” guard Mike Brisiel said. “Man, I don’t think anyone was close to catching him. He’s like a dad-gum gazelle out there.”

Oakland dominated the half as Pittsburgh gained 3 fewer yards in the opening two quarters than Pryor had on that one play to open the game.

The Raiders took advantage of a short field after a deflected punt by Rashad Jennings to make it 14-0 on McFadden’s first touchdown run. McFadden’s keeper from 4 yards from the wildcat formation in the closing minutes made it 21-3.

The Raiders survived a pair of interceptions in the half by Pryor, including a late one on a pass that hit receiver Brice Butler in the hands. Pittsburgh failed to capitalize on that gift when Suisham was wide right on a 34-yard field goal attempt in the closing seconds for his first miss of the season.

Suisham missed to the right again after a more than 9-minute drive to open the third quarter

“It’s no secret the impact my missed field goals had on the game,” Suisham said. “We would have won the game if we made my field goals. It’s a tough one to swallow; no choice but to do it. I should have been better today and we lost because of it.”

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