The past couple of decades have not been good to the Las Vegas Raiders or their fans. However, there have been some bright moments. For me, some of the best games came against the Pittsburgh Steelers. More times than not, these games have been close. One game that stands out to me the most was from 2009.
In his third start with the Raiders, quarterback Bruce Gradkowski returned home to Pittsburgh and threw down one of the best games in his career. He completed 20 of 33 passes for 308 yards, three touchdowns. Moreover, he led a fourth quarter comeback win against his favorite team. That’s a “story telling” game right there, one I bet he still shares with his family to this day.
This game was hyped at the time. The Steelers were on a losing streak and the Raiders weren’t doing so hot themselves, sitting at 3-7 after a beating they took in Dallas.
Good ol’ at home rivalry
The game was pretty boring at first, I recall my brother and I being very quiet at the start. Both waiting to cheer but neither team really got going, as the first quarter ended with the score a whopping 3-3. The second quarter saw the Steelers pull ahead off a 34 yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Santanio Holmes. The Raiders would add a 43-yard field goal from Sebastian Janikowski and the half would end with the Steelers leading 10-6.
The third quarter was a scoreless tie, and both teams remained 10-6. Then, halfway through the fourth quarter, a shootout erupted.
4th Quarter Shootout in Steel City
The Raiders ate some clock after the Steelers botched a field goal attempt. Marching down the field with 8:21 left on the clock, Gradkowski hit wide receiver Chaz Schillens with a 17 yard pass to take a 13-10 lead. After the play, I was yelling at my brother and mom, because both are Steelers fans (I don’t know why, they have never been to Pittsburgh, haha).
The Steelers would answer back quickly, needing only two plays to take a 17-13 lead, off Rashard Mendenhall’s three-yard run with 7:13 to go. My family started back to yelling, and I had to shut up. That lasted until the very next drive. Gradkowski answered back and hit Louis Murphy with a 75-yard touchdown pass. This time, I was jumping up and yelling, and they were quiet. With 5:28 to go, the Raiders were up 20-17.
The Steelers slowed down and worked the clock, taking their time on the next drive. Finally jumping ahead at 24-20, leaving 1:56 left to play.
My brother was jumping up and yelling. At this point, I’m loving this and it’s a nail biter between family. Both teams wanted it and I was at the edge of my seat, just grinning.
The Final Drive
The Raiders were marching. A cheap shot to Johnnie Lee Higgins (who was taken out) resulted in an unnecessary roughness penalty. Half the distance to the goal placed them at the 11. Two plays later, Gradkowski hit Murphy in the back corner of the end zone for his second touchdown, taking a 27-24 lead with just :09 left.
Being that my mom and brother are Steeler fans, it is safe to say I enjoy these games the most, but how this one ended just had a great feeling on both sides. To go from a snooze-fest to shootout in a matter of minutes is huge. All of us walked out a winner that day because that was just a solid ending. The Raiders moved to 4-8. It was still a bad year, but they helped ruin any shot at playoffs Steelers had that day.
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Top Photo: Keith Srakocic