Not a great start for the Steelers. After electing to receive, Pittsburgh's offense looked sluggish. On second down, the unit barely got to the line in time to avoid a delay of game penalty. Then, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was basically sacked on third down, although it went down as a one-yard rush in the stat sheet. Pittsburgh's patchwork offensive line protected Roethlisberger well, but Oakland's coverage downfield was snug.
Thanks to a dubious roughing the passer penalty on outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley and a nice completion over the middle to wide receiver Johnny Lee Higgins, Oakland found themselves in Steelers territory. However, the Raiders failed to keep the drive going - they're 33% on third down on the season - and had to settle for a 41-yard Sebastian Janikowski field goal.
The Steelers went three-and-out on their second drive, as well. Roethlisberger's accuracy was really suspect; he missed Hines Ward deep on a trick play, then barely overthrew rookie Emmanuel Sanders on a third-down streak. On Oakland's next drive, safety Ryan Clark was shaken up after colliding with rookie Jacoby Ford on a first-down reception. To add insult to injury (literally), Clark was flagged for unnecessary roughness, even though he hit Ford in the back. Who knows if the refs have been advised by the league to be more aggressive in calling such penalties, but this was simply an injustice of a call. Halfway through the first quarter, the Steelers had already compiled 35 penalty yards. Fortunately, Oakland failed to maintain the drive after some excellent coverage from Pittsburgh's secondary.
Mike Wallace made a terrific catch in traffic, good for 27 yards and the Steelers' first first down of the day. He's really becoming Pittsburgh's best receiver. Then the wheels really started turning, as Roethlisberger converted on a 13-yarder to Sanders, then running back Rashard Mendenhall ripped off some nice inside runs. After a fake pitch, Ward caught his first ball of the afternoon. He was knocked out of last week's loss to the New England Patriots, ending a million-game-long streak of contests with at least receptions. Here's to Ward starting another!
After one quarter of action, the Raiders lead, 3-0, but Pittsburgh is in position to score.