No coach in the NFL will openly admit that an upcoming opponent is potentially a trap game. Doing so immediately gives bulletin board material to the other team and makes you appear that you are clearly superior. Even if that is the case it’s just not a can of worms that you want to open.
Is this really a trap game though? The Steelers are still not at full strength either in personnel or scheme, and neither are the Raiders. However, when you look at talent and potential, this is where you start thinking trap possibilities. The Raiders name alone brings the trap scenario into my head every time, but maybe that’s just me. Injuries or not, the Steelers will be the more talented team on the field , but the more talented team doesn’t always win.
When you think of Raiders vs Steelers, you immediately are taken back to the 1970′s, where the bulk of history for this rivalry was at its finest. If you’re too young to remember that then recent memories of these two offers some insight to how things were back then. We’ll dive more into the rivalry in Friday’s article though.
The last time these two teams played in 2010, the Steelers were 7-3 on the season, while the Raiders were 5-5 by the time it was over. Pittsburgh dominated 35-3, thanks in large part to Ben Roethlisberger’s 3 Touchdown performance and a stifling Steelers defense that never let Oakland get rolling. It was a penalty filled game with numerous fights and scuffles from start to finish. That’s just how it was in the dynasty years of the 70′s, two tough teams fighting it out.
The Steelers did what they were supposed too that day, but go back to 2009 and that wasn’t so much the case.
After a pretty boring game through the first 3 quarters, other than the fights, both teams went on a scoring binge in the final 15 minutes. The Steelers were up 24-20 with 1:56 to go, after Roethlisberger threw a TD pass to Hines Ward. The Raiders came back and shocked everyone, including themselves probably, by throwing a Touchdown of there own with :09 left in the game. Pittsburgh native Bruce Gradkowski tossed 3 scoring passes in the 4th quarter, and the lead changed 5 times in the final 8 1/2 minutes of play. The Raiders ultimately stole the game, scoring twice in the final 6 minutes.
That loss was part of an epic 5 game meltdown for the Steelers, in which they dropped contests to the Bengals, Chiefs, Ravens, Raiders, and Browns. Their 6-2 record dropped to 6-7 until they finally won again against the Packers. I don’t know about you but that memory still sends chills down my spine.
I’m not suggesting that if Pittsburgh loses this weekend that they’ll take a nose dive they can’t recover from, but at the same time if there was a trap game early in the year for the Steelers, this is it. We can make all the excuses we want but the fact is that the Steelers have been known to blow games they have no business even allowing to be close. It’s hard to swallow but if you take off your black ‘n gold shades, it’s a reality that is painful but true. It was more apparent in the Cowher years than the Tomlin years, but still that 2009 episode and the periodic losses in other years reaffirm that nothing is for certain.
The Raiders are struggling right now, starting out 0-2 after suffering a blowout loss to the Dolphins in week 2 and ever really being in the game in week 1 against the Chargers. They’ve got injuries all across their defense and of course they have a new head coach… Again. The Steelers have not lost back to back games since 2008 and before that it was 2007, the Raiders on the other hand are a bit different story. In 2011 they lost 3 straight, 2010 they lost back to back games twice, and in 2009 they lost 3 straight and 2 straight. The list goes on an on but you get the idea. Still, they aren’t a team that can be taken lightly, and Mike Tomlin will offer every reason under the sun to make sure his team knows that going into the bye week at 1-2 is not a desirable scenario regardless of what the rest of the AFC North is doing.
So far at 1-1, Pittsburgh is right in the thick of of the AFC North in a 3 way tie for first place. That may not seem like a big deal right now heading into week 3, but losing this Sunday in Oakland isn’t an option.