Here are some random thoughts from Pittsburgh's 35-3 dismantling of the Oakland Raiders that didn't make it into my live-blogging:
Richard Seymour's sucker punch (video) on Steelers quarterback Ben Roethilsberger will surely get a ton of attention in the press this week, so I won't dissect it. What I do want to say is this: Can you believe the New England Patriots were able to extract Oakland's 2011 first-round pick for this guy? He's had a great year with the Raiders, sure - you know, when he hasn't been taking cheap shots at opposing quarterbacks and racking up ejections - but how do you give up your first-rounder for a 30-year-old defensive end? It's moves like that that will maintain the status quo, NFL food chain in the long-term: the Patriots will remain competitive, and the Raiders will continue their futile struggle to make the playoffs, even in one of the league's weakest divisions. No matter who New England selects with that pick in May, the Raiders got absolutely fleeced.
You have to feel excited about Pittsburgh's young wide receivers. I've gone on and on about how great I think speed demon Mike Wallace is, so I won't get into that much. Suffice it to say, he's on pace for over 1,200 receiving yards in this, his second season. I was particularly impressed by rookie Emmanuel Sanders, whose full-extension, 22-yard touchdown reception was overshadowed by Seymour's thuggery (see link above). It was a definite NFL catch, and it marked the second consecutive week that Sanders has caught a touchdown pass. Sanders isn't getting a ton of playing time, but he's making his limited snaps count. Fellow rookie Antonio Brown also contributed a nice 21-yard snag in traffic, his second career reception. Pittsburgh has missed the mark with some of their young receivers in the past - Willie Reed, Limas Sweed - but it's looking more and more like Sanders and Brown could grow into a couple of nice targets for Roethlisberger. Unfortunately, Hines Ward can't stay Hines Ward forever, but as I've said in the past, no team prepares for the future quite like the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It was such a relief to see the Steelers pass rush. In recent weeks, Pittsburgh has failed to get adequate pressure on opposing quarterbacks, leading to gaudy passing numbers from their adversaries, as the likes of Tom Brady, Carson Palmer, Drew Brees, and others shredded them through the air. This week, however, outside linebacker James Harrison put together a vintage stat line straight out of his amazing 2008 campaign: five tackles, two sacks, an interception, a forced fumble, and one defended pass. Harrison wasn't the only one to contribute splash plays, though. Veteran middle linebacker James Farrior had his best game of the season (seven tackles, one sack), terrorizing the Raiders offense up the middle. LaMarr Woodley, Bryant McFadden, and rookie Jason Worilds all chipped in with sacks, as well. If the Steelers want to make a deep playoff run, they're going to need that kind of production from their pass rush on a weekly basis.
Like the Seymour hit, this too will get discussed to death this week, so I'll keep it brief, but the officiating was truly, truly terrible in Sunday's contest. While I don't subscribe to Woodley's the-refs-are-out-to-get-us paranoia, I will say that all the awful penalties - and there were many of them - seemed to be called on the Steelers. Pittsburgh set a franchise record with 163 penalty yards. Just to put that into perspective, the Raiders had 182 total yards on the day. It's tough enough to put away an NFL team - when you have to beat the refs, too, that's quite a tall order.