Monday, October 30, 2006
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Willie Parker was standing at his locker, getting dressed with his back to the rest of room, trying to hide the disappointment of a loss to a team he said the Steelers should beat. He was still wet from a postgame shower, but it wasn't the moisture he was trying to wipe away with a towel.
After a game in which the Steelers already have matched the number of defeats they had in 2005, Parker was trying to come clean with the realization that even the Oakland Raiders, the worst team in the NFL, can find a way to beat the defending Super Bowl champion.
Of course, it wasn't helping matters that Parker and the running game couldn't gain a yard when the Steelers still had a chance to salvage overtime. Especially against a team that is not exactly known for throttling the run.
"We're just not matching teams' intensity right now," Parker said, shaking his head with disgust. "We play a team that's 1-5, we're gonna play like we're 1-5. If they were a team that's 8-3 or 6-1 or 7-1 or 4-2, we're going to play like that caliber team. And we can't do that. We got to win this game."
When all was said and done yesterday in the Black Hole known as McAfee Coliseum, after the final one of Ben Roethlisberger's four interceptions was returned 100 yards for a touchdown, after Parker had 11 runs of 1 yard or less against a defense that ranked near the bottom of the NFL, the Steelers still had a chance to force overtime against a team that managed just 98 yards of offense.
But, in the end, in perhaps what will become a microcosm of a season that has taken another step closer to extinction, the failure to convert from first-and-goal at the Raiders' 1 in the final two minutes will ultimately serve as this team's epitaph.
The team that prides itself on being able to run the ball went backward, instead of forward, a moment that will only add insult to what was an embarrassing 20-13 loss to the Raiders.
"Huge, man," Parker said. "Really huge."
"We were going backward instead of going forward," guard Alan Faneca said.
"That's everything right there," left tackle Marvel Smith said. "When we get down on the 1, that's something where it shouldn't even be a question [if] we're going to get it in there. That's a situation where everyone has to knuckle up and do their job."