Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger seeking 1st win in Oakland
Venturing into the Black Hole has been nothing but a black cloud for the Pittsburgh Steelers since the Oakland Raiders returned to their home venue 23 years ago.
The Steelers are 0-3 at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum since winning there in 1995, the year the Raiders returned home after ending their stay in Los Angeles.
With the Raiders departing again — this time for Las Vegas — the Steelers’ visit Sunday will represent the final time to end that streak by beating another lowly Raiders team in front of their rabid fan base.
“That’s what makes it fun,” said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who never has won in Oakland. “You ask me about the venues and stuff and fans, it’s not an easy place to play.
“What an awesome challenge for us.”
That the Raiders sport a 2-10 record that is tied with San Francisco for the worst in the NFL means nothing in the historical context of the series. In the past three trips to Oakland, the Steelers lost to Raiders teams that finished the season with 4-12, 4-12 and 2-14 records.
“They are a prideful organization,” guard Ramon Foster said. “The history between the two organizations is too rich. No matter if they are good or bad, they are always going to fight.”
Roethlisberger also isn’t overlooking the Raiders’ record, citing the competitive game Oakland played against Kansas City in a 40-33 loss Sunday.
“You see what they did against one of the best teams in football,” he said. “They fought them all the way to the end.”
With Roethlisberger, the Steelers lost in Oakland during the 2006, ‘12 and ‘13 seasons. In two of those losses, he threw a combined two touchdown passes and six interceptions with 10 sacks. In the other game, a 34-31 loss in 2012, he had a 123.2 passer rating and passed for 384 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions with one sack.
Roethlisberger is looking forward to returning for one more chance to face the raucous fans in the stadium’s south end zone, the area affectionately known as the Black Hole.
“It’s cool if you respect sports and fans and venues,” he said. “It’s a neat one.”
He’s not alone in his assessment.
“That’s one of the places you want to cross off your list,” Foster said. “They are unique in support of their guys. They are unique in how they get loud. They know situations in which they should be loud in their stadium (to make it difficult) for opposing offenses.
“It can be unique, and if you are a true pro and know your job at hand, you’ll be all right.”
Easier said than done for the Steelers when they head not only to Oakland but also other venues in the Mountain and Pacific time zones.
Since Mike Tomlin became coach in 2007, the Steelers are 3-8 when visiting those time zones, plus two more losses in Denver in the postseason.
The Steelers are two weeks removed from a 24-17 loss at Mile High Stadium, and a 2015 victory at San Diego represents their only victory in the past six games played in those time zones since ‘11.
Tomlin downplayed travel and any potential jet lag as reasons for the team’s recent history when going beyond the Central time zone.
“I acknowledge the history … but it’s not a major component of logistical preparation and things of that nature for us as we get ready for this game,” Tomlin said. “It’s just not.”
The Steelers will continue their tradition of departing Saturday for Oakland, just like they do for any other road trip in the U.S. Roethlisberger, however, said the Steelers plan to leave Pittsburgh earlier in the day.
“I’ve been doing it for a while, and I’ve heard about people talking about it,” Roethlisberger said. “Whether it’s going to elevation in Denver of the West Coast … I’ve heard people say if it’s under 24 hours, it really doesn’t affect your body.
“We’ve always gone at the same time as long as I’ve been here. This year, we’re going earlier in the day. I guess we are going to try something different.”
And hope for a different result.
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at email@example.com or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.