Ready to renew their historic rivalry in Week 2, recent history favors the Las Vegas Raiders over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Las Vegas Raiders got the 2021 season off to another blood pressure rising win against the Baltimore Ravens. This week, they meet another AFC south foe and an old friend and rival in the Pittsburgh Steelers. It is a rivalry that leads back to some of the most memorable matchups in football history. The Steelers are one of the NFL’s most storied franchises with six Super Bowl Championships and countless Hall of Famers. They have been the cause of many heartbreaks for the Raiders and also causes of joy.
The old saying about rivalries is that both sides must have won consistently to call it a rivalry. Despite experiencing more success, the Steelers have always had issues when facing the Raiders. Since 2006, both teams have met seven times, and the Raiders currently have won five out of seven games. Is it fair to call it a rivalry? I kid, but since the Raiders have beaten more consistently as of late.
The games didn’t mean anything?
A lot of people would say, “Oh, I bet the games were early in the season or late when they didn’t mean much.” However, that would be incorrect. These games have been played during different times, most notably when the Steelers have been in the playoff mix.
It would be hard to pinpoint why exactly the Steelers have a losing record, but they do hold the biggest victory score-wise in these seven games with a 35-3 victory in 2010. We know the history of how far this goes back, the Immaculate Reception, and Lynn Swann complaining about the hits he would take from the secondary. They met in the playoffs five times between 1972-1976, with three of those matchups leading to one of them winning the Super Bowl, so again this rivalry is deep in tradition, but let’s speak on the last seven matchups.
The beginning of the roll…
2006: The Raiders had started this season 0-5, and there was talk of whether they’d win a single game. The Steelers were the defending Super Bowl champions but were having a tough start to the season. The Steelers rolled into Oakland and were battered by the Raiders’ defense as they forced four interceptions and five sacks. One of the memorable moments was Chris Carr returning one of the interceptions 100 yards for a touchdown, one of the two defensive touchdowns on the day for the Raiders. The Raiders would only win one other game that season, but it was a highlight to beat the rival Steelers.
2009: This was the season where the Raiders moved on from the JaMarcus Russell experiment and, at this point of the season, had gone with journeyman quarterback Bruce Gradkowski. It was a December matchup the Steelers needed, and with Gradkowski being from Pittsburgh, he wanted this game, and it showed. The first three quarters didn’t give much as the score was 10-6 Steelers after three. Then the fourth quarter came, and it was some of the most memorable eight and a half minutes in recent times.
The scoring started as Gradkowski hit Chaz Schilens from 17 yards to go up 13-10. The Steelers responded with a 60-yard touchdown run a minute later to retake the lead 17-13. Then, one minute and 45 seconds later, Louis Murphy caught a 75-yard touchdown, so the Raiders were up 20-17. The Steelers responded with a touchdown under the two-minute warning to go up 24-20, and well Gradkowski returned the favor with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Murphy with 15 seconds left. The highlight play was Murphy catching what looked like a duck falling out of the sky against two defenders before the touchdown.
A new decade but more of the same…
2010: Steelers beat the brakes off the Raiders 35-3, and Richard Seymour mushes Big Ben but gets ejected.
2012: An early-season matchup where the Raiders were rebuilding again. This game was highlighted by a 64-yard touchdown from Darren McFadden. Also, the Raiders overcame an 11-point, fourth-quarter deficit to win 34 -31.
2013: This midseason matchup gave us one of the most rewatched plays for the Raiders as quarterback Terrelle Pryor took the opening snap 93 yards and gave the Raiders the early lead. The Raiders held a 21-3 lead entering the fourth quarter and withstood a comeback from the Steelers to hold on 21-18.
The best of this rivalry in recent memory?
2015: This game is more than likely the best of the recent series. Both teams were in playoff contention and were having good seasons as they met in this early November matchup. The halftime score was 21-14 in favor of the Steelers. Following a third-quarter touchdown to tie things up, the Steelers retook the lead in the fourth and were up 35-21 with a little over 11 minutes to go. The Raiders responded to tie the game with 1:15 left as Derek Carr hit a wide-open Michael Crabtree for a 38-yard score. Then, the old Raider legend Antonio Brown, again I kid, but Brown went for 284 yards on 17 receptions caught a 57-yard reception to put the Steelers in field goal range. The Steelers connected moments later to win the game 38-35.
2018: The most recent matchup came in the first season of Gruden 2.0 and occurred again as the Raiders were in another losing season and the Steelers in playoff contention. This game wasn’t the most exciting early on. The halftime score was in favor of the Steelers 14-10. It was followed by no scoring by either team for the next 25 minutes.
Then, the Raiders went up as Derek Carr found Lee Smith to go up 17-14 with 5:20 left. The Steelers retook the lead with 2:55 to go, and then it happened again. Carr engineered a drive highlighted by a bomb into double coverage to Seth Roberts that put the Raiders at the seven after the 39-yard completion. Then, on fourth and goal, Carr found Derek Carrier for the final score to put the Raiders up 24-21. The Steelers had a chance to tie the game as the clock was running out, but kicker Chris Boswell slipped, and the kick was no good as time expired.
Given that most of the recent games were close nail-biters, should we expect another? The Raiders will come in banged up but riding high following the big Monday night win. Will we see further proof that the Raiders are dominating this recent rivalry, or will the Steelers make it closer? We will find out soon enough.
*Top Photo: Naomi Baker/Getty Images