By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — The last time Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers traveled to Oakland to face the Raiders, the club’s record-setting quarterback was on his way to his worst NFL season.
Roethlisberger was in a motorcycle accident in the offseason and received a serious head injury. The week before the Oakland game, Roethlisberger suffered a concussion in a loss at Atlanta and had little recollection of the ensuing loss at Oakland, a 20-13 defeat when he threw four interceptions. Two were returned for touchdowns, and one was an amazing 99-yard runback.
“I remember throwing six or seven picks or something like that, and it being a crazy, hostile place, and losing the game,” Roethlisberger said Wednesday, although he admitted that under the current conditions he probably would not have been cleared to play in that game. He also didn’t recall being out of it.
“Seriously, though, it was so long ago,” Roethlisberger added. “I didn’t remember that I had a concussion the week before or any of this until you all brought it up. Honestly, I think the interceptions overshadowed everything.”
The Steelers franchise is 12-13 against the Raiders since 1970 with eight losses on the road and a 1-7 mark from 1976-90. The most recent battles with the Raiders weren’t as epic as those from the early years, but a dominant 35-3 win at Heinz Field in 2010 snapped a two-game losing streak.
“They’ve always played us tough,” Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel said. “We got the best of them the last time we played, but we’ve had some rough games with them since I’ve been here. So, we have to be ready for anything, and it’s especially difficult when you get them on the West Coast.”
Take A Knee
There was an uprising of sorts last weekend when Giants quarterback Eli Manning took a knee, but the Buccaneers defense clubbed him anyway. New York coach Tom Coughlin railed on Bucs rookie coach Greg Schiano about it afterward. Roethlisberger said he could see both sides of the situation.
“If I was that quarterback, I wouldn’t be happy with it,” Roethlisberger said. “But if that was my defense, I’d probably say way to go to the end of the game. But it’s hard. You never want to hurt anybody, especially this early in the season, so it’s not like it was a playoff game or something like that.
“There’s times when we’ll take a knee at the end of a half, and we’ll tell the defense (that) we’re doing it. We’re taking a knee. And everybody backs off. So, I think, at this level, that’s probably proper etiquette. … Someone could get hurt. It could start a fight. You really don’t know what could happen.”
Roethlisberger added that there basically was an unwritten rule that you don’t hit a quarterback in that situation, but he generally tries to communicate their plans to the opposing defense as well.
“If you’re going down,” Roethlisberger said, “there’s no need … I’ve had that happen before, where guys have jumped over and tried to hit us. It’s not fun. You tell your guys to fight to the end, and I can see doing that if it’s a running play. But not on a kneel-down. There’s no need for that to happen.
“If they change to rule on kneel-downs, I would do the same thing they do now. But I would put the quarterback about 10 yards back. Put two protectors back there and just snap it back to him and let him take a knee back there. You’d lose 10 yards, but who cares? Maybe that’s the best way to do it.”
No Retaliation Expected
During the Steelers thrashing of the Raiders, 12-year veteran Richard Seymour, the club’s 6-foot-6, 317-pound defensive end cuffed Roethlisberger after a play, knocking him to the ground. Seymour was ejected, and the Steelers were upset. Roethlisberger wasn’t concerned about a rematch this year.
“We’ve talked since then,” Roethlisberger said. “I saw him at the Pro Bowl, and we’re better off now. He’s not a bad person, so it was more of a shocking thing, more of a surprise. But we’ve talked since then, so we’re OK.”
Heath To the Pro Bowl
Steelers tight end Heath Miller generally has been regarded among the NFL’s best blocking tight ends, and he has had solid statistics but he has had just one Pro Bowl trip (2009) in seven seasons. Through two games this year, Miller has seven catches for 69 yards and two big touchdowns. What has changed.
“I’m trying to get him to the Pro Bowl,” Roethlisberger said. “He’s deserved it for a long time, but Heath is a weapon. And we have to continue to use him, out in the field, in the red zone.
“Like I’ve always says, he blocks like a lineman and catches like a receiver, and as long as we keep utilizing him it’ll be big (for the offense).”
Miller’s most productive season offensively was 2009 when he had 76 catches for 789 yards and six touchdowns.