It was a good day for the 5–4 Steelers ... for a while. They held off the very game Raiders after blowing a 14–point fourth-quarter lead to snap a two-game losing streak with a 38–35 win, capped off by Chris Boswell’s 18-yard field goal with two seconds left. But few minds were on the Steelers saving their season; most were on the future of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who suffered a sprained foot when he was sacked by Oakland's Aldon Smith with 7:51 left in the game. Roethlisberger, playing in his second game since returning from a knee injury that sidelined him for four games, couldn’t put weight on the foot as he was taken to the sideline, and reports after the game indicated that he would be out for multiple weeks.
It’s a tough break to lose Roethlisberger for any additional time, but the Steelers have proven this year that they can get past injuries to major players. Running back DeAngelo Williams, pressed into service as the starter after Le'Veon Bell suffered a knee injury last week, gained 170 yards and scored two touchdowns on 27 carries. And top receiver Antonio Brown had a career day, catching 17 passes for 284 yards and adding 22 yards on two rushing attempts. It was the most receiving yards in franchise history, topping Plaxico Burress’s 253 in 2002, and Brown set the record by turning backup quarterback Landry Jones’s short pass into a 57-yard gain to the Oakland 15 in the final minute that set Pittsburgh up for the win. After two Williams runs, Boswell won the game with his field goal.
On the other side, the Raiders took a painful loss that also showcased how many weapons this team has when it has the ball. Second-year quarterback Derek Carr completed 24 of 44 passes for 301 yards, four touchdowns and one interception that will undoubtedly keep him up at night this week. Trailing 35–28 with 4:21 left in the game, Carr attempted to hit tight end Clive Walford at the goal line but threw an ill-advised pass in the direction of cornerback Ross Cockrell instead. That ended what could have been the game-tying drive and negated the possible transformative effect of the Raiders’ next drive, when Carr did connect with Michael Crabtree on a pretty pass for a 14-yard score to tie the game with 1:15 left.
That interception aside, the Raiders showed once again that they have the talent to test any defense. Running back Latavius Murray gained 96 yards on 17 carries, though he was also knocked out with a stunning hit from Steelers safety Mike Mitchell. Crabtree caught two touchdown passes, and rookie Amari Cooper added a score of his own, though Cooper also had a couple of missed connections with Carr that could have turned the game.
Where the Raiders have no margin for error is with a defense that struggles to keep up in the pass rush and in the secondary. The Steelers amassed 597 total offensive yards, including a 334-yard, two-touchdown game from Roethlisberger. That’s something Oakland’s front office will have to address in the draft and in free agency, though it speaks well to the job general manager Reggie McKenzie has done that the Raiders have built a competitive team out of what was once a depleted roster in so short a time.
As for the Steelers, who found a way to keep pace in the AFC playoff race despite losing another key player to injury, they'll have to press on with Landry Jones under center.