Steelers falter late, again fall to Raiders in Oakland |
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Joe Rutter
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) catches a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders during the first half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)

OAKLAND, Calif. — On a day when the Pittsburgh Steelers got help in other stadiums around the country, they couldn’t get a favorable outcome in the one that mattered the most.

Derek Carr stole the late heroics from an injured Ben Roethlisberger by leading the Oakland Raiders to a 24-21 victory at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum that handed the Steelers their third consecutive defeat.

Carr threw a 6-yard touchdown pass with 21 seconds remaining, and the Steelers missed a chance to force overtime when Chris Boswell slipped on a 40-yard field-goal attempt, and his kick was blocked at the buzzer. It was his second miss of the day.

In the past three games, the Steelers had their fate sealed in the waning moments: an interception in the end zone at Denver, a last-second field goal by the Los Angeles Chargers and the comeback Sunday that gave the Raiders their third win in 13 tries this season.

The three losses for the 7-5-1 Steelers have been decided by seven, three and three points — each defeat more deflating than the one prior.

“We’ll see what this team is made of, you know,” guard David DeCastro said. “We really will.”

When the Steelers took the field, they had a chance to catch several of the conference’s higher-seeded teams and also put some distance between themselves and the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North. In addition to the Ravens, the New England Patriots and Houston Texans lost Sunday.

Instead, the Steelers remain perched in the No. 4 seed and maintain just a one-half game edge over the Ravens (7-6).

“Frustration is definitely setting in. You can see it,” DeCastro said. “You put a lot of energy into the sport and a lot of work into it. Losing games like this … it’s tough, man. There is still a lot ahead of us.”

It doesn’t get any easier for the Steelers, who play the 9-4 Patriots on Sunday at Heinz Field before traveling to New Orleans to face the 11-2 Saints.

“We all need to look in the mirror and figure out what is going on,” said Roethlisberger, who returned from a rib injury in the fourth quarter to give the Steelers a 21-17 lead with 2 minutes, 55 seconds left on a 1-yard touchdown pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster. “It starts with each individual. We have to look inside first.”

Roethlisberger didn’t start the second half while having his ribs evaluated, but when he jogged to the huddle with 5:20 left and directed the Steelers on a 75-yard touchdown march, it looked like the Steelers finally might end their two-decade misery at the home of the fabled Black Hole.

The 21-17 lead, however, was short-lived. Carr threaded a 39-yard pass to Seth Roberts that gave the Raiders a first down at the Steelers 7. Facing a fourth-and-goal from the 6, Carr found tight end Derek Carrier alone in the left flat for the go-ahead touchdown with 21 seconds left.

It was the second touchdown pass Carr threw to a tight end in the fourth quarter. His 3-yarder to Lee Smith with 5:20 left helped the Raiders take a 17-14 lead. He also connected with tight end Jared Cook for seven completions totaling 116 yards.

Carr completed 25 of 34 passes for 322 yards and had a 122.4 passer rating against a Steelers defense that held the Raiders to 10 points for almost 55 minutes. Carr was 12 of 16 on the Raiders’ final two series.

“The NFL is hard,” safety Sean Davis said. “You can’t just show up when you want to on Sunday and make a play. I believe and trust in the process. I believe in the grind, and I believe practice makes perfect. You play how you practice, and I think we need to take a step back.”

The Steelers are 0-4 since their last victory here in 1995. They have lost to Raiders teams that had 2-14, 4-12 and 4-12 records and one that is now 3-10.

Still, the Steelers nearly pulled off a miraculous comeback in the waning seconds that could have forced overtime and possibly ended their Oakland hex.

With 15 seconds left, Roethlisberger took a snap from the 30 and completed a pass to James Washington at the Steelers 39. Washington lateraled the ball to Smith-Schuster, who kept running down the left sideline until he was forced out of bounds at the Raiders 22 for a 48-yard gain.

Then, Boswell slipped on his approach, his kick was blocked and the game was over.

“It’s a tough way to lose it,” DeCastro said. “I can’t put a finger on why. Everything is still ahead of us, and we still control it, right? That’s a silver lining, but, yeah, it’s been brutal.”

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at [email protected] or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.

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