Steelers Look to Fight Their Way Out of Black Hole in Oakland
(Sports Network) - The Pittsburgh Steelers have an apparent affinity for being boxed into a corner.
Bill Cowher's team was 7-5 and on life support heading into the final month of the 2005 season, and had to win four straight games just to make the postseason field as the AFC's sixth and final entry. The deck stacked against them in the playoffs, Pittsburgh promptly won four straight games (the first three on the road) against the top four teams in the postseason bracket.
The other team that made the Super Bowl during the Cowher era, the 1995 club, stood at 3-4 as the season neared its midway point.
In 2002, the Steelers rebounded from a 1-3 start to make the playoff field. In 1997, they dug out of a 1-2 hole to reach the postseason. In 1993, they were 0-2 before undergoing a renaissance.
Get the point?
As the Steelers head into Oakland this week to face the Raiders, even in the possible absence of starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (concussion), it is best not to start writing the team's epitaph just yet.
Without question however, it is time for the Steelers to get moving. Last week's 41-38 overtime loss in Atlanta dropped Cowher and company to 2-4, a full two games behind AFC North co-leaders Baltimore and Cincinnati. Pittsburgh has dropped four of five since its season-opening win over the Dolphins, and has suffered lapses on both offense and defense over that stretch. Adding insult to injury was the concussion sustained by Roethlisberger last week that could cause him to miss a start for the second time this season. Charlie Batch, who has played well in relief of "Big Ben" in 2006, would make his second start of the year if called upon.
In a scenario that would have seemed unthinkable about a month ago, the Steelers are just one game better than the Raiders as Week 8 begins. Oakland got its first win of Art Shell's latest tenure last week, downing the Cardinals, 22-9. Second-year-quarterback Andrew Walter recorded his first win as an NFL starter in that game, but also suffered a hamstring injury that sidelined him late in the contest. Walter is expected to start for the Silver and Black this week.
The all-time series between the Steelers and Raiders is knotted, 8-8, with Pittsburgh evening the series by virtue of a 24-21 home victory in Week 1 of the 2004 season. Oakland last defeated Pittsburgh in 2002, claiming a 30-17 victory on the road. The Steelers won in their last trip to Oakland, in 1995, and have won two straight away games in the series. The Raiders' most recent home victory in the series came in Los Angeles in 1990, and they last beat the Steelers in Oakland in 1981.